Redressing old grievances has become something of a pastime for Congress as it searches for problems to solve (or create, as the need presents itself). Last Thursday, Elizabeth Warren re-introduced the Refund Equality Act, a bill that would retroactively grant tax refunds to same-sex couples who were married in their states before the Obergefell decision in 2015. The federal government had denied those couples the deductions that it granted to married couples because, according to the federal government, they weren’t married.
If marriage has no eternal or even etymological foundation aside from the imprimatur of the government, then it’s not clear what standard Elizabeth Warren can use to claim that some actionable injustice has occurred. In the absence of federal sanction, to what or whom can she appeal? The premonitions of Anthony Kennedy? The arc of history and its curvature toward justice?
Warren was moved by the plight of the overtaxed masses, aghast that “the federal government forced legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts to file as individuals and pay more in taxes for almost a decade.” “We need to call out that discrimination and to make it right — Congress should pass the Refund Equality Act immediately,” she said in a statement.
Senator Warren’s campaign website decries “handing out giant tax giveaways to rich people.” Her fierce opposition to the practice seems to end when such giveaways are granted to taxpayers with LGBTQ sexual preferences.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past — in the lifetime of Taylor Swift, if you can believe it — when America’s federal government defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It has been remarkable to see how fast the prevailing cultural attitudes about marriage have changed. The view that most Americans held as recently as 2010 is now a position reserved for the nation’s verboten fringe. Adhering to what was once Barack Obama’s view on marriage – “marriage is between a man and a woman” — is now a judiciable act of discrimination. The movement for gay marriage succeeded by borrowing the rhetoric of civil-rights leaders: In the imagination of our cultural hegemons, Jack Phillips is Orval Faubus, and the youth pastor who crudely outlines traditional Christian sexual ethics is Bull Connor.
We’re talking about reparations now!
What was once a linguistic and religious discussion — an argument over what “marriage” meant and didn’t mean, and whether it was a civil right to be extended or a necessarily exclusive institution with an unchanging definition — has now been repackaged as a proxy war in which the side of the angels (and goodness, and truth, and light, and Elizabeth Warren) does battle against “hate.”
The legacy of racial segregation’s most “articulate” defenders withers when subjected to the distant and dispassionate moral scrutiny of hindsight — history, inasmuch as it casts moral judgments, is not particularly kind to Democratic segregationist James O. Eastland, as Joe Biden recently discovered. Similarly, the LGBTQ movement has sought to relegate traditional marriage’s hangers-on to the fate of antiheroes from the Jim Crow era. Warren and her fellow abortion-rights fanatics will, in due course, join the antiheroes. But they, unlike the people they currently condemn, will actually deserve it.
The historical knowledge of America’s public-school students is not, to put it mildly, a stunning tribute to the competence of our educational institutions. The decades-long experiment with teaching “broad trends” at the expense of “memorization and dates” has created a historically illiterate generation of teenagers. But one thing students know, without fail — it’s the only thing they learn! — is who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are. If Elizabeth Warren has her way, religious people around the country will be counted among the latter in perpetuity.