I spend a lot of time on Twitter—as do many young adults my age. Anybody familiar with social media has most likely seen their friends transform into amateur political analysts and editorialists as soon breaking news develops. During the Supreme Court’s recent Defense of Marriage Act decision, however, a tweet by an actual professional policy analyst caught my eye.
Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association, tweeted: “One man, Kennedy, has decided marriage policy for 315 million people. That is tyranny. All hail the king.” The Kennedy to whom he refers is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who operated as the swing vote in the 5-4 decision to strike down DOMA. You may remember Fischer for his revolting comments after the Newtown elementary school massacre, claiming that the children were killed because they did not embrace God. It is no surprise that his DOMA tweet makes as little sense as his tasteless Newtown claim.
Granted, Fischer is the professional analyst here, and I am the amateur. Yet, I do know enough in my years of education to notice that there are a few things that are lacking from his unfortunate professional analysis—among those things are common sense, compassion, and a basic appreciation for the American political system.
Let’s go through some of the glaring inaccuracies and sheer ignorance of this tweet together. In the first three words of this tweet, Fischer is already off to a bad start. He singles out Kennedy, the swing vote, as if Kennedy were the sole Justice taking on the case. Were there not four other Justices who concurred with Kennedy? Fischer draws in his followers and evokes their shared anger by painting the portrait of a 1-0 decision instead of a 5-4 majority decision.
Moreover, the most poignant and troubling part of his tweet is that he calls the Supreme Court’s decision “tyranny.” The Court was also the institution that decided in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” was not just; the Court also decided that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unjust in Loving v. Virginia. Both of those landmark cases expanded rights, not tyranny, to all Americans. The major difference between those older civil rights cases and the DOMA case is that DOMA was a 5-4 decision, and not unanimous like the others. So, does Fischer take issue with the fact that gay marriage is more accessible now? Or does he think that a close 5-4 decision is tyranny? If so, what is his threshold for a non-tyrannical majority vote?
More important and serious is Fischer’s genuine lack of realization that the DOMA case in particular represents America’s checks and balances system in full-effect. DOMA was passed by Congress in 1996, signed by President Clinton in the same year, and was defended by the legislative and executive branches for years. More than a decade later, the Supreme Court examined the law and determined that it was not just. The judiciary branch exercised its right to check an unjust law. The Supreme Court did not act tyrannically. In fact, the Court demonstrated its democratic purpose outlined by the founding fathers.
The decision to strike down DOMA was one that made me proud to be an American. It proved the democratic system of checks and balances to be stronger than ever. An unjust law that allowed for the discrimination of homosexual Americans was overturned. One branch checked another branch’s overreaching of power—literally the opposite of tyranny.
I usually overlook ignorant tweets. But it was difficult for me to silently watch the ignorance of a professional analyst obscure a landmark decision. Even more, it is a landmark decision that gave rights and hope not just for gay Americans, but for anybody who appreciates equality. Bryan Fischer did not care that millions of gay Americans were freed from the archaic discrimination of DOMA. Even if he does not have gay friends or family like most of us in the 21st century do, he decided to denigrate an historic day for the United States. Fischer, a representative of the American Family Association, should take some 21st century family advice: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t tweet it at all. And shame on the eighty-eight people who retweeted or favorited Fischer’s tweet.