DOMA Ruling: As Violent Anti-Gay Marriage Protests Rock France, Will the Same Happen in the U.S.?


Over 10,000 protesters took to the street on Sunday in Paris to protest against the newly passed same-sex marriage law. A fierce clash between police and right-wing protesters staged the first challenge to the 1-week-old law. The right-wing opposition groups had been planning the protest for weeks and they decided to take it to the street when the topic was still fresh. The main goal was to confront President Francois Hollande, who made same-sex marriage legalization one of his central focuses during last year’s presidential election. 

According to the Associated Press, protesters marched toward Invalides esplanade across from Champs Elysees by early Sunday evening. Protesters started to clash with police and throw bottles at journalists as the night fell. Police claimed that an estimated 150,000 people participated in the demonstration on Sunday, and over 5,000 police forces were on duty due to the serious clash between protesters and the police in previous anti-gay marriage protests.

While the end of June is approaching, concerns about potential violence stemmed from the Supreme Court's ruling are understandable. Observers from both sides of the same-sex marriage issue agreed that Justice Anthony Kennedy plays the decisive role since he is often the swing vote on the high court. Although the justices have taken the first vote after hearing the two pending cases in late March, their assessments of the case can still shift either subtly or dramatically when they announce the result by the end of June. However, current events always find its way into opinions, and the 3 consecutive legalizations of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota may prove to be a crucial factor that can influence the Justices' assessment of the two pending cases. 

Supporters from both sides of the debate claimed that recent incidents reinforce the arguments they made back in March. Supporters of banning same-sex marriage argued that the justices should only focus on changes in marriage laws, which clearly show that there is no compelling reason to declare a federal rule in favor of same-sex marriage. 

Jim Campbell, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in an interview with the Associated Press that the Supreme Court should not abruptly intervene in a national debate.

"The vast majority of the states have decided to retain the traditional view of marriage that has existed throughout Western civilization," Campbell said. "This decision belongs to the people and should be decided by the people."

On the other end, supporters of same-sex marriage like Mary Bonauto, director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, argued that the court should not be misled by the political clout of gays and lesbians. The growing number of states legalizing same-sex marriage represent approximately 18% of the U.S. population. While the numbers are not enough for the LGBT community to win the freedom to marry, states that are moving in the direction symbolize a far cry for all other states.

Justice Stanley Reed suggested in March that the court should let the momentum around the issue develop naturally, rather than force a ruling that might upset either side of the debate. Justice Kennedy also expressed in the argument for the California case that he was not ready to give same-sex marriage supporters what they are waiting for, the right for same-sex couples to get married everywhere in the United States. 

While uncertainty is currently revolving around same-sex marriage debate in the United States, the careful consideration that is given to all parts of the issue can prevent violence like that in France from happening. Justices know the potential consequences for rushing out a decision well enough that they will do whatever they can to prevent any type of conflict from happening.