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Marriage equality panel discusses court hearings

Judah Martin

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Alex Davenport and Meredith Bagley recently celebrated five years together.

Originally from Texas, the couple made the move to Tuscaloosa three years ago when Bagley accepted a job at The University of Alabama, where she now serves as an assistant professor of communication studies.

Last August, the two were married but, unlike most couples, they had to travel to Vermont, one of the only four states in the U.S. that would grant the same-sex couple a marriage certificate. The elation the two experienced after marrying was short-lived, though. Bagley and Davenport quickly realized their union would not be recognized in Alabama, or at least not on paper.

For instance, the two still file separate tax documents, both having to list themselves as single. Similarly, when the two purchased a house, the deed for the property listed them as two single women.

“It just kind of pops up every so often,” Bagley said. “If I really think about it and focus on that it makes me angry, frustrated and hurt, but I don’t think about it. It’s disappointing. Overall, I enjoy my life in Alabama, so it kind of stinks.”

The two are now closely following the ongoing Supreme Court oral debates over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and the California Marriage Protection Act, or Proposition 8, desperately hoping for change.

Monday, Bagley joined Brian Fair, the Thomas E. Skinner professor of law, Paul Horwitz, the Gordon Rosen professor of law and Ronald Krotoszynski, the John S. Stone chair holder of law and director of faculty research for a panel at the UA Law School, sponsored by Capstone Alliance, to analyze the Supreme Court’s proceedings.

The professors, each of who teach a constitutional law course, expressed a unanimous opinion that the current debates will not end in the favor of DOMA’s and Prop 8’s opponents.

Krotoszynski said he’s certain the justices will hold off on repealing DOMA to avoid a subsequent outpouring of anti-marriage equality sentiment, which he said would likely be enough to elect a conservative president in 2016 who would challenge civil rights legislation for the LGBTQA+ population.

“I think the justices have one eye on the law books and one eye on the ballot box,” Krotoszynski said. “The court is not always principled and consistent. They’re afraid people will not like them. They’re afraid of getting hate mail. They’d rather run, run away and live to fight another day.”

Krostoszysnki said he believes that like in Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case granting marriage rights to interracial couples, the courts wants to wait for society’s approval of gay marriages.

“I’m fairly confident that if Brown v. Board of Education hadn’t been passed we’d still have segregated schools, or it would at least be that way by law,” Fair said. “[Oppressed minorities] are constantly told to wait. Martin Luther King Jr., was told to wait. I’m sick of praising this court and expecting them to do anything that’s right.”

However, the panel agreed that, no matter the decision of the Supreme Court, the idea of same-sex marriages has won cultural acceptance, as indicated in a 2013 poll by CBS News which stated 53 percent of Americans believe it should now be legal.

“I don’t think [public opinion on same-sex marriage] is geographically dependent,” Horwitz said. “I think the [political] orientation of my students has been ever more libertarian. There are libertarians who, regardless of their views on same-sex marriage, feel very strongly about state interference with private, consensual behavior.”


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Marriage equality panel discusses court hearings