When the National Organization for Marriage succeeded in banning gay marriage in California in 2008 through the ballot measure known as Proposition 8, it looked like the movement was on a roll. That same day, similar measures passed in Arizona and Florida. Anti-gay-marriage activists seized on these victories, bragging that they had delivered a crushing blow to nationwide efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
Those activists don't seem quite so smug these days. That's because they've been on a losing streak: In the past month alone, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and its allies have suffered a series of significant legal setbacks, culminating with last week's nearly unanimous Supreme Court ruling in a case arising from a Washington State ballot measure. Collectively, these defeats, in states from California to Maine, could make it much harder for these activists to wage war on gay marriage. For this, New Jersey-based NOM really has no one to blame but itself. That's largely because in its quest to fend off gay marriage, it has engaged in a host of potentially illegal stealth campaign tactics and waged legal battles to shield its supporters from public exposure.
The Supreme Court—where the case, Doe v. Reed, eventually landed—was unmoved. Last week, it ruled against the gay-marriage opponents in an unambiguous 8-to-1 decision holding that petition-signers don't have a constitutional right to privacy—a reasonable conclusion, given that the petitions were circulated in front of Wal-Mart, among other public venues.
As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion, the anti-gay-marriage forces need to grow some thicker skin:
"There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which…campaigns anonymously…and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave."