Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie seemed to see the writing the wall when he withdrew his court challenge to reverse marriage equality in New Jersey. He, wisely, put the passion and prayers aside to face the reality that a series of changes to the law, both in his own state and the nation, had boxed him and his social conservatives into an impossible position.
Here are some of the key changes in the law, that made Gov. Christie’s decision inevitable (in Supreme Court unless otherwise noted)
1965, Griswold v. Conn.: This, of course, was landmark case that first established a constitutional right to privacy.
1967, Loving v. Virginia: Beyond just striking down anti-miscegenation laws, which it could have done on civil rights grounds, this case elevated that status of marriage, “a fundamental freedom,” to the level of constitutional protection.
1978, Zablocki v. Redhail: In striking down a Minn. law that withheld marriage licenses from anyone with child support in arrears, the Court reaffirmed the “fundamental importance” of the right to marry.
1987, Turner v. Safely: Significantly expanding marriage protection the High Court ruled, that “prisoners have a constitutionally protected right to marry…and although such a marriage is subject to substantial restrictions as a result of incarceration, sufficient important attributes of marriage remain to form a constitutionally protected relationship.”
1996, Romer v. Evans: This case concerned Colorado’s constitutional amendment which barred municipalities and counties from extended civil rights protection to gay people. In striking down the amendment, the court said that disqualifying “a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence.”
2003, Lawrence v. Texas: Basically, this case decriminalized being gay. Reversing Hardwick v Bowers, the majority now quoted Justice Brennen’s original dissent: “the State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making private sexual contact a crime.”
2003, Goodrich v. Dept of Public Health (in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts) The state’s highest court, now hearing the case in the context of constitutionally protected civil marriage, made history and ruled that limiting marriage to same-sex couples violated that state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.
2008, Kerrigan v. C.P.H. (in The Supreme Court of Conn.) and 2009, Varnum v Brien (in The Supreme Court of Iowa): Again, in the context of a class of persons no longer criminalized and constitutionally protect marriage, neither court found any justification for banning same-sex marriage.
2012, Hollingsworth v. Perry (in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals): The Court ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” In the absence of challenge from the state, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of standing, securing marriage equality in California.
2013, Windsor v. the United States: The Supreme Court upheld the First Circuit Court’s decision and ended several pending cases, ruling once and for all that the federal ban on same sex marriage (DOMA) violates the Due Process guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment of U.S. Constitution.