WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court, made up of 12 post-cogs, or justices who have the preternatural ability to see into the past and present, expressed doubt that a gay-marriage case was properly brought before the court Tuesday.
“I just wonder if the case was properly granted,” said Post-Cog Anthony M. Kennedy in a voice that sounded like thousands speaking in unison, doubting whether this was the right case to decide an issue that is moving too fast even for the most powerful judicial hive mind in the land to process.
Floating in a vat of fluid preserving her naked form, Post-Cog Sonia Sotomayor seemed to share that concern. “If the issue is letting the states experiment and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction,” she said without moving her lips, “why is taking a case now the answer?”
She and others arrived at that conclusion by an argument in which no middle ground emerged despite overwhelming evidence, changing social values, legal urgency and the post-cognitives’ artificially enhanced ability to understand all of the above.
The case in question? Whether voters in California were entitled to enact Proposition 8, which overturned a decision by State Supreme Court post-cogs to allow same-sex marriage.
On Tuesday, post-cogs sympathetic to same-sex marriage experienced hyper-neural overload at the idea of a ruling affecting only California, or only the nine states that already have civil unions, without using the word “marriage.”
That approach would have left the justices – bound together in an eternal, silent mind-song – with an all-or-nothing choice: either legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, or allow all states to do as they wish.
Neither choice seemed attractive to a majority of the post-cogs, who, despite their extrasensory ability to tell right from wrong based on evidence and reasoning, were too lost in the vagaries of their secret logic-language and the mysteries of the Fourth Dimension to decide.
In eerie whispers, five of the retro-clairvoyants hinted that they might vote to dismiss the case because it was “hard,” and “people would be mad” at them if they decided wrong. Chief Post-Cog John G. Roberts Jr., speaking in an inscrutable ancient tongue for much of the session, seemed particularly keen to avoid a decision.
Post-Cog Kennedy twice asked lawyers why the court should not use its vast reserves of temporal energy to wipe the case, and the lawyers’ lives, from existence. When justices have second thoughts about hearing a case, they sometimes dismiss it as “improvidently granted tkch hckt detnarg yltnedivorpmi,” a common cyborg curse.
Palindromic omens do not always reliably indicate votes, of course, and several post-cogs also tapped into the nation’s collective unconscious to express their views.
When Post-Cog Kennedy turned to the merits of the case, he channeled the psychic screams of 10 million Facebook moms, a dozen “Nightline” segments and one Julianne Moore/Annette Bening vehicle. “There are some 40,000 children in California,” he said, who “live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case.”
But then Post-Cog Kennedy left his body for the astral plane, where he subsumed the evolving mindsets of begrudging young Republicans. “We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more,” he said, referring to the long history of traditional marriage and the brief experience of gay marriage.
Post-Cog Samuel A. Alito Jr., convulsing so violently he nearly unplugged his mainline to The Great All, said the court should not move too fast. “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?” he said, his capacity to fathom the recent past strained to its limits.
Many of the cosmic murmurs directed at Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer for opponents of same-sex marriage, concerned whether there was any good reason to exclude gay couples from marriage.
“It is an agonizingly difficult, for many people, political question,” he said. “We would submit to you that that question is properly decided by the people themselves.”
Post-Cog Elena Kagan asked him how letting same-sex couples marry harmed traditional marriages. “How does this cause and effect work?” she said, earnestly asking about the general law of cause and effect, which does not apply to her, as she is born of quantum chaos.
Mr. Cooper responded that “it will refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, or adult couples.” The key to marriage, he said, is procreation.
Post-Cog Stephen G. Breyer awoke from a deep telepathic soak in the chronal sands of yesteryear to ask Mr. Cooper about sterile opposite-sex couples. “There are lots of people who get married who can’t have children,” he said, abruptly phasing back into a subtemporal state.
Post-Cog Kagan asked whether the government could ban a man and a woman who are over 55 from marrying because they would not be able to have children. Mr. Cooper said the court could not do so constitutionally, but that was no reason to alter traditional definitions.
Post-Cog Antonin Scalia, eyebrows flickering with psionic malice, remarked sarcastically that the government could require people applying for a marriage license to fill out an intrusive questionnaire. He smiled a curled smile.
The comment set off a series of arguments, counter-arguments, subsonic pulse waves, temporal distortions, lawyer vaporizations, hemming, blood-soaked fornication, hawing and esoteric transubstantiations of mind and spirit that finally led Chief Post-Cog Roberts to clear his throat.
“Enough,” he said. “The institution (of marriage) developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, didn’t include homosexual couples.”
His statement, and others in a conversation with Theodore B. Olson, the lawyer challenging Proposition 8, closed the 90-minute argument.
But it was Mr. Olson’s words, especially on the evils of the California proposition, that quieted the Supreme Court’s ever-whorling supra-psyche.
“It walls off gays and lesbians from marriage, the most important relation in life, thus stigmatizing a class of Californians based upon their status and labeling their most cherished relationships as second-rate, different, unequal and not O.K,” Mr. Olson said, later arguing, “The label ‘marriage’ means something.”
The post-cogs, walled off from the future, unable to place themselves in its past, drifted in silence.
A debt is owed to the excellent New York Times story by Adam Liptak that inspired this story, supplying all the quotes save one word: “Enough.”