In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of a baker to refuse to create a cake for a gay couple’s wedding because it violated his religious principles, talk has once again started about the need for a Constitutional amendment over the broader issue of gay rights.
And this comes just a few days after the Illinois Legislature became the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a move that came as a surprising bit of news for those who thought that the prospects for that enumeration of rights for women had expired in 1982.
Whoever actually first said “May you live in interesting times,” and there are many given credit, must have had something like this in mind.
The same court that decided that marriage did not necessarily have to be between a man and a woman has now ruled that such a right does not necessarily extend to all other parts of life for a gay couple, not even those directly related to the wedding.
Because the ruling was so narrow, we are likely to see many more
And the revived interest in the rights of women, which is the subject of the Equal Rights Amendment, comes at a time when the White House as well as other centers of political, economic and cultural importance are occupied by an increasing number of men credibly accused of sexual abuse.
What we have, and not for the first time, is a clash between and among rights and such clashes are difficult to resolve. In fact even a clear resolution with something as powerful as an amendment to the Constitution does not really end all debate or modify all behavior. Amendments protecting the rights of all people regardless of their race have been in effect for a century and a half. Laws clarifying and defining those rights have been in force for half a century yet nobody today would say that we have come to terms with race or prejudice related to it.
The same is true with the rights of women and, more recently, with the rights of gay people, rights that the nation only started to recognize in recent decades.
The idea of an amendment codifying the right of gay people might seem far-fetched right now, even to those who believe it is both necessary and correct. But if we live in interesting times, we also live in accelerated times and things happen so quickly that there is not much of a chance for everyone to catch up.
The idea of legal nationwide gay marriage was not one that many, perhaps most, supporters believed would come in their lifetime. Yet it is here and we are now dealing with the predictable reactions that come with dramatic change.
Talk of amendments regarding the rights of women or the rights of gay people will take place in an atmosphere increasingly hostile to a reasonable exchange of ideas and the prospect of compromise. Yet these clashes are not going to disappear so we have to find a way to keep the talk going with the volume at an acceptable level.