Much Work Still Confronts Us, But There Is Light At The End Of The Tunnel
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on May 11th, 2016

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

July 5, 2013

Much Work Still Confronts Us, But There Is Light At The End Of The Tunnel


We learned a new word this week: mumpsimus. It means a view stubbornly held in spite of clear evidence that it is wrong. It also can refer to a person who holds such a view. Immediately, we thought how appropriate it would be to use that word for people who are still against same sex marriage despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Prop. 8. We wondered what the plural of mumpsimus is so we could use it on groups of people. But thinking about the great sentences we could write, we realized that we couldn’t use the word just yet. What exactly did the Supreme Court rule?

We are not lawyers, but it seems to us that the Supreme Court did not say anything about the constitutionality of same sex marriage. In the case of DOMA, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Federal government to refuse “to acknowledge a status [of a group of persons] the State finds to be dignified and proper.” In other words, if the State says two people are married, the Federal government cannot say they are not. Prop 8 is even less ambiguous: the people who were there to defend it, had no business defending it, leaving Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional as the final decision on the matter for now. If we understand all this correctly, marriage is the business of the state and not the federal government and Prop 8’s unconstitutionality, that is, the unconstitutionality of denying marriage to same sex couples, applies only in California.

The people who wish to preserve marriage as only between a man and woman are not going to give up. Like bamboo, they search for a crack in the concrete from which to send up shoots that eventually wrecks the structure. Thirty-seven states and limited court rulings are with them. Already we hear this argument: The Supreme Court ruled that marriage is the province of the state. The people of California have voted that marriage is only between a man and a woman, therefore there can be no same sex marriage in California. And this: The reversal of Prop 8 only applies to the two same sex couples who brought the suit, therefore only they can get married. Some of the arguments we hear and read about are incredulous, but not to those grasping at straws to preserve an outdated notion.

We are, of course, as tenacious as they are. And behind us are: two Supreme Court rulings that can be expanded upon, the only federal ruling declaring that the prohibition against same sex marriage in unconstitutional (Judge Walker’s) and that may be used as a precedent in other states, and a growing segment of America’s population that has already moved beyond he court’s ruling. The only question remaining is not if America as a country will allow same-sex marriage, but when.

The word mumpsimus originates with an illiterate priest who when celebrating mass said “quod in ore mumpsimus” instead of “quod in ore sumpsimus” (‘which we have taken into the mouth’). When a young priest tried to correct him, he retorted that he had been saying it that way for forty years and added, “I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus.” Its plural is mumpsimuses. We can’t wait to apply this glorious word.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride


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