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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Rights, Marriage: How New, How Popular?

With the Capitol in the background, supporters of gay marriage carry signs in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 2013. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

With the Capitol in the background, supporters of gay marriage carry signs in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 2013. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Justice Samuel Alito raised more than a few eyebrows in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday when he said gay marriage as a concept is newer than cellphones or the Internet.

As a political force, the gay rights movement in the U.S. dates back less than 50 years, and political opinion has often been slow to catch up with public opinion.

Take the Defense of Marriage Act before the high court on Wednesday.

It was quietly signed into law in the middle of the night 17 years ago by a triangulating President Bill Clinton who didn’t want to risk losing the White House over standing up for gay rights if he vetoed it.

Yet earlier this month, Clinton called it unconstitutional. And potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently came out in favor of same sex marriage.

John Harwood, political writer for The New York Times and CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent, gave us his analysis of Wednesday’s arguments.


  • John Harwood, CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent and political writer for The New York Times. He tweets @JohnJHarwood.

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  • J__o__h__n

    Why didn’t I get to vote on the internet and cellphones?  What would Jesus say about changing tradional communication technology? 

  • Sean Humphrey

    Before Loving v. Virginia in 1967, legal interracial marriage was a new idea too. We’ll see who ends up on the right side of history.

  • aknman49

    I am struck by two items in your lead-in text (above):
    1) “… political opinion has often been slow to catch up with public opinion.”
    Indeed, and Supreme Court opinion is exponentially slower still.  
    I, for one, am not expecting this court to do the right thing, but then the court has a long and storied record of getting it wrong (at least once, sometimes often) before they finally “catch up.”

    2) “It [DOMA] was quietly signed into law in the middle of the night 17 years ago…”
    Funny how often Presidents sign legislation in the dark, away from public scrutiny or with diabolical timing.  Obama signed the patently-illegal NDAA on New Year’s eve, while the country was busy partying and, presumably, not paying much attention.  
    George Bush signed into law thousands of “midnight rules” as he was waltzing out the White House door (a story that was nicely covered by the now-departed program Day to Day on 12 Nov 2008: )
           [[audio link failed]] Bush Aims To Solidify Legacy With Midnight Regulations

  • Hillary

    Alito’s mistaken. The institution of marriage between two consenting adults has been around for a few thousand years. Last I checked, this makes it much older than the internet or cellphones.

  • McMurtrey26

    I keep hearing from the opposing side to equal rights in marriage that they are afraid of defining the term marriage, who it includes, and who has the right to decide where lines are drawn. My question in response is, didn’t you define the terms already, one man one woman. Is that not a clear line printed, black and white, as to a definition of the term marriage. If it is a definition, then havn’t you already decided who’s voice gets to be heard in its now current single definition? What about the rest of our voices, what about my voice? I am marrying my partner this summer, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if by that time, the rest of us may be heard also.

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