2009-05-26

Same-Sex Marriage & the Rule of Law

Today the Supreme Court of California upheld Proposition 8, and many proponents and opponents of the measure have reacted strongly to the ruling without even bothering to attempt to understand it. I've already seen many bloggers condemn the members of court without even suggesting they've at all considered the actual issue under review. The court cannot simply overturn a free and fair vote without a very clear legal basis. If one reads the majority decision and honestly disagrees with the legal analysis, then I have no objection. If one simply laments the decision and its effects, I sympathize. But it's downright ignorant and irresponsible to condemn the six justices who supported the ruling as bigots without even knowing the rationale for the ruling.

I know I'm only a second-semester law student, but I've really come to appreciate how little the general populace understands the concept of the rule of law. My first instinct upon hearing the ruling was to find a copy of the decision and try to understand the issue and the reasons for the decision. I've gotten lots of experience examining this type of document, and while I don't expect everyone to be able to understand it themselves, they can all at least find basic summaries in news stories. It's not at all difficult to educate oneself in the age of the internet.

Let's be clear: I'm a strong supporter of same-sex marriage – I voted against Amendment 2 here in Florida, which was stronger than Prop 8 because it also constitutionally prohibited civil unions and anything which resembles civil unions – but I'm an equally strong supporter of the rule of law. If the court could overturn this vote, then they could just as easily also overturn a future vote which would legalize same-sex marriage. With current demographic trends, it's only a matter of time until same-sex marriage is legal in California and, eventually, the rest of the country. I hope to live to see the day when it's legal here in the Bible Belt!

The court did its constitutionally appointed job, so there's no shame on them. There is instead shame on the Californians who voted for it out of bigotry and those outside of the state who organized and financed support for it. Your days as a majority are numbered.

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3 comments:

Baconsbud said...

Yours is the second blog I have read taking this stand. I am glad to see not all people assume that because the ruling isn't what they want that it is wrong. I don't care one way or another about who can and can't get married. I feel that marriage is a sham and if I had my way it wouldn't even be a benefit to people in anyway. Yeah the marriage I had sucked so am a bit biased against marriage.

Dave Huntsman said...

I disagree.
The California Supreme Court is required to rule according to the U.S. Constitution. The people of California can't write a state Constitution that violates the U.S. Constitution (eg on Equal Equality); and the California Supreme Court has a duty to rule as such when the attempt is made. They didn't do their main job.

Prop 8 is one of the few things ever attempted that is 100% based on a religious view (unlike abortion, which is mostly - but not completely - based on a religious view). The California judiciary has acknowledged this in responding to previous amicus briefs. Thus, it is an attempt at establishment of religion, a violation of the U.S. Constitution that the California justices are sworn to protect, and they failed on that score as well.

On many points the issue vis a vis Prop 8 comes down to this: does the U.S. Constitution apply in California? By their ruling, the California Supreme Court says no.

They're wrong.

Secular Planet said...

@Dave Huntsman

You don't really disagree with me. You looked at their legal analysis and you think they're wrong. You didn't call them bigots simply because you didn't like the outcome. I never argued that their legal opinion was correct.