In his Sunday Strib column, righty radio talkster Jason Lewis argued that a ban on same-sex marriage doesn’t discriminate against gays or lesbians because they have an equal right to marry anyone they want, as long as the person they marry is of the opposite sex.
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
It wasn’t the main or the only point of the column, but the argument is definitely in there. Although Minnesota state statute already limits marriage to opposite sex couples, Lewis argues that the state needs to put its ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution (as the Republican legislative majority proposes) to guard against what happened in Iowa, where the state Supreme Court struck down a similar law on equal protection grounds. Wrote Lewis:
“The Iowa law, not unlike Minnesota’s, made no classification on the basis of race (the real intent of ‘equal protection’), gender or even sexual preference as long as civil marriage consists of two individuals of the opposite sex. That is, anyone may marry under the law.”
Sadly or hilariously (depending on your mood), Lewis is reverting to the basic logic of willful blindness used by the U.S. Supreme Court in one of its most infamous rulings, Plessy v. Ferguson, which created the now-discredited and repudiated doctrine of “separate but equal.”
Louisiana in the 1890s had separate railroad cars for white and “colored” people. Homer Plessy was a “colored” man (actually, seven-eighths white, by ancestry) who was kicked out of the white car and made to sit in the “colored” car. He sued, seeking to have the state law on separate railroad cars struck down under the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court, by 7-1, upheld the Louisiana law under the argument that it treated whites and blacks equally, even if it required that they be separated. After all, whites had no more right to sit in the “coloreds-only” car than “coloreds” had to sit in the whites-only car. What could be more equal than that?
De Jure segregation remained legal for more than 60 years under the Plessy doctrine before the Supremes figured out, in Brown vs. the School Board (1954), that separate was inherently unequal.
Now comes Lewis to argue, in 2011, that gays and lesbians already have equal marriage rights with straights. They are all equally entitled to marry an individual of the opposite sex.
And, by the way, since it turns out that everything is really about tax cuts for the wealthy, Lewis ends by arguing (he may be kidding here, not sure) that if equal protection means the law is required to treat everyone the same:
“what to make of all those taxpayers who by the dint of hard work and sacrifice find themselves in a higher tax bracket compared with their neighbors? Sounds like an equal protection claim to me — which, when you think of it, would be about the only good thing coming out of this judicial nonsense.”