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Constitution in Question

Where did the phrases “constitutional right to marry” and “marriage is a fundamental liberty” come from, and where are they taking us?

MVNU welcomed Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Kyle C. Kopko of Elizabethtown College last Thursday to help answer these questions during the Constitution Day event “The Constitutional Right to Marry: What Just Happened and What Comes Next?”

The Jetter School of Business round room was packed full, with people sitting on the steps and in the aisles to hear what Kopko had to say. He began with a brief history of precedents and actions which led to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, in which the Supreme Court extended the “fundamental right to marriage” to include same-sex couples.

He went on to explain just a few of the many implications of the recent Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. The ruling, according to Kopko, may lead to laws addressing job and housing discrimination against homosexuals, particularly married same-sex couples.

For instance, do religious institutions and businesses have the right to refuse employment or service to homosexuals because of their religious beliefs? What about individuals who own a private business, or landlords? Several cases stemming from these questions are or have been in the courts throughout the past year, but according to Kopko many individuals and businesses cannot afford the court costs to defend their religious rights.

Kopko says there are currently no federal, all-encompassing laws to answer these questions, although some state and local laws are in place in certain regions. This lack of precedent also leaves similar unanswered questions for transgendered people.

The Supreme Court ruling also may open the door for legalizing polygamy and polyamorous relationships. Polygamous marriages are currently illegal, and some states also have laws prohibiting multiple cohabitation polyamorous relationships.

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) starting to creep its way out of science fiction and into reality, Kopko questioned whether 200 years ago the ruling could be used as precedent for “robot marriages,” to humans or each other. This calls into question how we may someday legally define “personhood.”

On a more serious note in the question and answer portion of the presentation, the audience brought up whether legal marriage may become more and more distinct from spiritual marriages. Questions came up as to whether churches and/or religious individuals will be compelled to marry same-sex couples. These and the topics above are just some of the questions asked.

The Supreme Court took an expansive view of constitutional interpretation in the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which Kopko called “bad for democracy” for several reasons. First, the Supreme Court is an unelected panel, over which citizens have very little direct control. The ruling also took the decision out of the natural democratic process.

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