Oklahoma? Utah? Who's next?

Written by Peter Smith on .

Just a few months ago, advocates for gay marriage were cautioning that their recent run of legal victories would likely be slowed once they got past the blue and maroon states, where popular opinion has been dramatically shifting in support of same-sex marriage and any legal barriers are likely to be statutory (such as in Pennsylvania) rather than baked into state constitutional amendments.

In other words, by the second decade of the century, gay marriage was routinely being approved in these states via the democratic process, rendering obsolete the claims of opponents that a handful of rogue judges were imposing a radical redefinition of marriage upon an unwilling electoral.

But now it feels like we're back in a first-decade debate over judges and the wills of the majority. Federal jurists have now overturned same-sex marriage bans in two of the most deeply conservative states in the country. In fact, the rest of the country can probably just watch this play out on appeal, because if gay marriage can make it in Utah and now Oklahoma, it'll make it everywhere. Well, everywhere in this country. As was famously remarked after last year's Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, the other shoe is now dropping. Some advocates of same-sex marriage might want to build public support in the red states before having the law changed. But even that option seems to have left the building. Assuming that Justice Anthony Kennedy has no problem with gay marriage, as it appears from his lead opinion in DOMA, it's a done deal. It's up to him. The other eight justices are mere furniture. 

Besides, there's no telling how public opinion is changing even in the states in question. If Willie Nelson, of all people, can join Merle Haggard in "Okie from Muskogee" -- a once-piercing broadside against pot-smoking, long-haired types, which time has mellowed into a feel-good chestnut -- then anything's possible.


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