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Chester County Press

Editorial: It is so ordered.

06/30/2015 01:28PM ● By Richard Gaw
Last Friday, the possibilities of how beautiful the English language can be won a major victory.

In the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-to-4 that the United States Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The decision made same-sex marriage a reality in the 13 states that had continued to ban it.

After word of the decision reached the steps outside the Supreme Court, it was met with pure glee by hundreds of citizens, who held up rainbow-colored flags and shouted "Love has won!"

Beside them, those opposed to gay marriage openly questioned what this ruling would have on the direction the country will take.

But it was inside, in the chambers of our Supreme Court, where the opinions -- and words -- truly reverberated, both divisive and perfect.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in the decision.

"In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."

Using the most vile form of hyperbole, Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted against the ruling, chose to fan the flames of an already controversial issue by calling Kennedy's words, "Putsch," which is defined as "a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government." Scalia said that Kennedy's opinion "is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. Of course the opinion's showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent." Chief Justice John Roberts threw even more gasoline onto what Scalia began by writing, "The role of the Court envisioned by the majority today, however, is anything but humble or restrained." Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., another dissenter, envisioned an even larger threat. "It [the ruling] will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to a new orthodoxy."

In their collective vehemence, Scalia, Roberts and Alito did their best to choke the American Conversation. When accorded all of the opportunities available to them to connect those on both sides of the gay marriage issue closer together, they insulated the one-third of Americans who disapprove of gay marriage from ever having to leave their protective cocoon. In the language of bitter scorn, they accused the five justices who voted in favor of pure arrogance, and the ruling as a threat to democracy.

In the end, the truest measure of how we are judged is not what we believe, but how we express those beliefs. While the parting jabs of Scalia, Alito and Roberts will be relegated to the shelves of our greatest fears, Kennedy's words are sure to resonate for future generations.

"As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death," Kennedy wrote. "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves."

Last Friday, in the face of the damage that the English language has the capability to inflict upon us, a simple and beautiful paragraph, written with the eloquence of a poet, won.


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