Advocate has made its choice for Person of the Year, and it turns out to be People: Anthony Kennedy and the Justices of the Supreme Court.
From its piece:
The ruling was 5–4, with a sharp, bitter split between the majority and the dissenters. But in a sense, every justice played a role in bringing constitutional marriage equality to a reality.
Start with Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the court’s quartet of gay rights opinions. Kennedy grew up in the shadow of the great liberal Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Kennedy family friend during his days as California governor. Kennedy may side more frequently with the court’s conservative bloc — but on issues of constitutional dignity, he swings to the left. In a sense, Kennedy has been writing his way toward Obergefell since 1996, when he held in Romer v. Evans that the Constitution bars legislation based on “animus” against gays. From that point on, constitutional marriage equality was inevitable. Kennedy just had to wait for the country to catch up to the court.
Kennedy’s colleagues in the majority may have been silent on decision day, but each contributed to Obergefell in vital ways. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan grilled Michigan’s solicitor general at oral arguments, leading him to assert, inanely, that marriage doesn’t bestow dignity. Justice Stephen Breyer joined in, demanding to know why Michigan refused to recognize same-sex unions when marriage itself is a constitutionally protected “fundamental right.” (The “equal dignity” of gay people and the “fundamental right” of marriage comprised the bulk of Kennedy’s opinion.) And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg set the stage for Obergefell in a 2010 case, writing that, in the context of sexual orientation, “our decisions have declined to distinguish between status and conduct.” Being gay, in other words, is more than just having gay sex: It is an identity, one which finds protection under the Constitution.
The court’s conservatives also contributed to Obergefell’s power, albeit inadvertently. The four dissenters were so outraged by Kennedy’s decision that they threw a temper tantrum, with each justice penning his own opinion. Their strategy may have been to drown out the majority opinion, weighing it down with objections until it seemed illegitimate. But this ploy backfired. The cacophony of complaints drowned each other out, making all four justices’ rambling counterarguments easy to ignore.