My mother is eighty-five years old. She has been living alone the past two months after my father, her husband of sixty-three years, passed away. She asked me to help refinish her dining room table – and what are you gonna’ do? So I sanded and polished while she sat and talked. I was surprised by her take on some of the contemporary political issues.
The scene has to be set a little further. We live in semi-rural Missouri. The family tradition is closer to hillbilly than redneck. Mom’s primary education is on-the-job training in the art of raising seven children. My ultra fundamentalist conservative brother was there, sitting by Mom. His semi-ultra conservative thirty year old son was standing around observing. Generally, when I am in this environment, I avoid political discussion – there is no point. My brother knows I am nuts and I know he is more nuts. So why go there?
Anyway, I was sanding along when Mom said, “Ohg, I don’t understand this gay marriage thing. The Constitution doesn’t say they can get married, but it doesn’t say they can’t. So why can’t they get married?” She was as sincere as I have ever witnessed.
“Well,” I was careful, “The constitution did not say you could or could not marry my Dad. Did it?”
My brother was squirming, waiting for an opening. I tried to lighten the atmosphere, “Mom,” I said, “Are you getting lonely? Maybe looking for companionship?”
My mother got a hoot out of that, practically cackling with laughter.
The thirty year old fundamentalist nephew began to pace, mumbling to himself, “I can’t believe he said that.” His dad sat quietly, wondering where this conversation could possibly go.
I went on, forging ahead into troubled water, “Mom, the Constitution does not specifically address every conceivable social possibility. So you are actually correct in your thought. There is an implication of the right to marry. There are many implications that have been deduced and codified by our Supreme Court.”
She looked surprised, “How can the Supreme Court add to the Constitution?”
I was quick out of necessity, “Mom, the Supreme Court settles disputes of law. Laws are passed and laws are challenged – then the Supreme Court decides whether the law is within the boundaries, specific or implied, of the Constitution. They do not add to or take away from the Constitution – they merely interpret challenged laws in the context of the Constitutional intent.” I was feeling pretty smart with that response.
But she did not let go, “So then why is there a problem? It is obvious that some things are implied. How come there is a problem with gay marriage?”
I was asking myself, how come she can’t just let this go for now? I was treading water, “Some States have passed laws banning gay marriage. This is the sort of thing the Supreme Court looks at. But only if someone challenges the law and takes the challenge to the Supreme Court.”
My mother finally realized that my brother was about to enter the fray. She knows where that leads, so she said, “Ohg, you missed a spot on that sanding.”
Whooee, that was a close call.