The Fate Of Gay Marriage Could Rest With A 1972 Supreme Court Opinion

Gay RightsGay rights demonstration at the Democratic National Convention in 1976.

Photo: Wikipedia

The Supreme Court will decide Friday whether it’s going to take up a key gay marriage cases.But many people don’t realise the high court already kind of ruled against gay marriage in 1972.

That year, the nation’s highest court briefly weighed in on a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in Baker v. Nelson that same-sex unions were not a fundamental right under the federal Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the Minnesota decision, writing only: “Appeal from Sup. Ct. Minn. dismissed for want of substantial federal question.”

Opponents of gay marriage take this brief opinion as a sign the court has already endorsed state bans on gay marriage, like the one in California that was overturned by a federal appeals court.

But those in favour of gay rights say the 1972 decision shouldn’t influence the gay marriage debate today, SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston has reported.

The high court has issued opinions in favour of gays since 1972, like its 2003 opinion striking down Texas’ sodomy law, gay rights advocates argue.

Still, the language the Minnesota Supreme Court used 40 years ago is remarkably similar to the arguments gay-marriage opponents use today:

“The institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, uniquely involving the procreation of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis,” the opinion says.

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