The recent decision by the Supreme Court to declare gay marriage a right protected under the 14th amendment to the US Constitution (Obergefell v. Hodges) caused the expected celebrations and disappointment, and is not a surprise to me. It is a pattern I have seen for the last two decades, where activists use the court as a way to bypass inaction by Congress, or adversarial decisions to their cause. This is not healthy for the United States.

Back in college, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. It is directly related to what I am talking about here. In a management class of about 25 people, the professor split us into groups of 5, with one person in each group appointed as the leader. I was the leader for my group.  He gave each group the same problem to solve: you’re an imaginary corporation with a tight deadline, and tight resources, which involved people having to make sacrifices of resources to solve the problem. We had to decide what sacrifices were going to be made to solve the problem.

The problem itself was irrelevant, but how it was solved by all the groups was eye-opening. My group was the first to finish: it wasn’t planned, it just happened that way. I asked everyone what their thoughts were, taking notes on everything. Once that was complete, I spelled out my decision and the thinking behind it. I was not aware of it at the time, but I was using a directive approach to problem solving. It is not a right or wrong approach, it is simply one of several ways to approach problem solving. There was discussion about the problem, but in hindsight, it was very limited and not very interactive among the people in the group. And the one key thing that stood out: the members of the group were not very talkative, and were in fact resentful of my decision and each other. It’s not that it was a bad decision: the logic was there. But the group clearly resented how the decision was made.

As time progressed in the exercise, other groups began to finish and came back to the main class area with their chairs.  But one group took a long time: well over 20 minutes past our group finishing.  And it was a loud and very engaged group as well, often becoming loudly passionate.  The leader of their group was just mediating the conversation.  At the end of their session, people in the group were visually happy with the outcome as their returned their chairs, rejoining the rest of us.  Interestingly, when the professor asked for each group’s decision, the actual decisions were almost identical to each other with some very minor variations.

And the professor, of course, made the point that the exercise was to learn the pros and cons of various approaches to problem solving.  Well, it worked.  When he asked each group what they liked and disliked about the decision, there was a common opinion.  It was not so much what the decision was: it was whether the people involved in making the decision felt like they were not only fully heard, but also were given a fair stake in the decision.  To understand what I mean by a fair stake, an unfair stake is being forced to accept responsibility for a implementing a decision you feel is in conflict with information you know.   The last group, whose leader chose to only be a mediator, made sure everyone was being given a chance to voice their thoughts.  He also didn’t make any decision: he fully delegated the decision to the group, and accepted what they collectively agreed on.

I can not emphasize not only how satisfied the members of his group were, but also how united and supportive of the decision they were.

Not unlike my experience in the classroom that day for my group, the Supreme Court has effectively driven a wedge in America society by not only making this decision, but more importantly, even taking the case in the first place.  There has been an ongoing discussion in Congress about how to address the many political, social, economic and legal issues that are deeply interconnected and affected by the recognition of marriage outside of its current definition in law.  This process, which allows all interested parties to voice their concerns, objections, advocacy, etc was just usurped by the Supreme Court.

Using my classroom scenario, what the Supreme Court just did was the same as if I walked over to the group taking the longest time because of their open discussion and gave them my decision for their use. That’s not my right to do that, and the Supreme Court clearly overstepped its boundaries as well.

The Supreme Court judges who dissented did something in this case that is also unprecedented.  Rather than issuing a single dissenting opinion, they each chose to issue their own.  And some are rather scathing of the majority who voted in favor of the plaintiff.  It is worth reading John Roberts dissenting option: he covers what I have said and much more.

While gay marriage advocates are celebrating the decision, they are about to realize the damage they have done to their cause with this case.  Already, opinion polls are showing a downturn in public opinion for gay marriage.  Using tactics like this (bypassing a law making process with the court system) creates real resentment among Americans, and throws fuel on the accusations that gay marriage advocates are arrogant and elitist.

The real damage is not immediately apparent.  The ruling is another step to undo our nation’s motto: E Pluribus Unum (Out of many–One).