Supreme Court Fears Spark Same-Sex Couples' Rush to the Altar

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday October 29, 2020

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With newest Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett having been confirmed in record time, same-sex couples are in a rush of their own: To get married while they still can, NBC News reports.

Barrett's membership in a tight-knit religious community that excludes LGBTQs and her record regarding LGBTQ rights - including having been a trustee at a school with anti-LBTQ policies and her signing on to a letter that declares marriage to be "founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman" - have been red flags to the LGBTQ community since her name first surfaced as a potential replacement for late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Pastor Tori Jameson didn't wait for Barrett's inevitable confirmation, which the Republican-led Senate delivered just over a week before the election, on Oct. 26. Jameson "organized a series of wedding ceremonies outside St. Louis City Hall" after the Senate Judiciary Committee moved Barrett's nomination forward, NBC News reported.

The ceremonies - described by local press as "pop up" marriage celebrations - took place between Oct. 11 - 15, with 14 couples tying the knot.

One couple - identified as Macklan King and Silas - had been engaged since 2018, but Barrett's nomination spurred them to take the plunge. King told NBC News that "Silas and I wanted to make sure to claim our legal rights before marriage equality is possibly overturned."

Other committed same-sex couples across the country have also felt a sense of urgency, including some high-profile members of the LGBTQ community. That was true in the case of comedian Fortune Feimster, who, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, pressed forward with wedding plans to marry her partner Jacquelyn Smith just days before Barrett's confirmation.

"Hopefully, marriage equality is here to stay," Feimster said. "But we wanted to be more proactive and get married while we know we can."

"Pivot" podcast host Kara Swisher married her partner this month also. Though Swisher said in a New York Times op-ed that Barrett's nomination was not the reason for the wedding's timing, she summed up what's on the minds of many when it comes to their rights and protections under the Constitution - and under the current Supreme Court: "It's very clear what the 14th Amendment says, but I don't assume any good faith from these people."

Another Barrett - the former editor in chief of The Advocate, Jon Barrett - and his partner, Sean Moran, felt they could no longer wait.

"It was never something we wanted to do this quickly, that's for sure," Barrett told NBC News. "Now I'm racing to do it before the election, so people will still be happy at the ceremony."

Even though New York, where Barrett and Moran live, will likely remain an oasis for LGBTQ people, Barrett noted that "I could never have imagined everything that's happened in the last four years, so I can't assume I know what the next four years will bring."

Though some - including Amy Coney Barrett herself - speculate that the Supreme Court is not likely to reverse marriage equality (despite indications from Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas that the court's conservative majority would welcome the chance to do so), such a wholesale reversal of existing rights for LGBTQ Americans is not unprecedented. NBC News recalled how the 2008 ballot initiative Proposition 8 yanked marriage from same-sex couples in California only six months after the state supreme court had found that LGBTQ families there had a right to enter into matrimony.

That restriction was only lifted in 2013 - by the U.S. Supreme Court, which, at the time, was markedly different than it is now.

Pastor Jameson spoke about counseling younger LGBTQ people, who expressed fears that a court willing to attack their right to marry would also "come for their job protections, gender-identity protections."

Equality advocates worry that just such a legal campaign to dismantle the hard-fought gains LGBTQ Americans have made in recent years could commence as early as next week. That's when the Supreme Court hears a case that pits a religiously-based child welfare organization against the city of Philadelphia, which discontinued working with the group because the group refused to consider same-sex parents when placing children into foster homes.

Because the legal fabric of rights and protections touches so many different aspects of LGBTQ people's lives, that single case could have wide-reaching consequences, including some that might contribute to the erosion of marriage equality.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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