Editorial: Supreme Court Stymies Democratic Debate with Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

For many, June 26, 2015 will go down as an important date in American history, as it marks the day that, depending on with whom you side, the Supreme Court acknowledged a fundamental right, or the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent that challenges the democratic principles on which this nation was founded. I find myself in agreement with the latter.
File:Anthony Kennedy official SCOTUS portrait crop.jpg
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who
wrote the Court's majority opinion
Today, five Supreme Court justices – all either Catholic or Jewish, and all graduates of either Harvard or Yale Law School … in other words, not a body representative of the US populace by any means – usurped 320 million Americans by ruling that in 1868, Congress and the states passed an amendment that guarantees gay people can get married, and that for anyone to say otherwise is at odds with the Constitution. Heretofore, there is a constitutional right to marriage. This unfettered judicial activism is deeply concerning – five unelected lawyers -- admittedly qualified jurists, but a non-representative body nonetheless -- redirected the course of marriage in America, thus claiming the power to legislate from the bench.
Although I personally am not an advocate of gay marriage, I would have significantly less of a problem if this issue was decided democratically, by state legislatures across the country – a process that was in motion before federal courts decided they had the power to rule on the issue for everyone. Democracy was in action – passionate advocates on both sides of the issue engaged in reasoned debate … and then courts stepped in to end that debate by interpreting an amendment to the Constitution designed to protect newly freed slaves from discrimination by their oppressive former owners to mean that there is a constitutional right to marriage, and that states cannot decide for themselves who can get married. Make no mistake; that was the means that got to today’s end.
Headshot of Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote
a dissenting opinion

This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent. It says that if you want something to change in America, instead of assembling facts, statistics, and logic to engage in debate (i.e. the type of debate that made America), you misconstrue an amendment that is 150 years old, infuse emotional one-liners and talking points that disparage people who disagree with you (i.e. “love wins”, “rule for love”, etc.), and run to a judicial system that, although ostensibly insulated from public opinion, reads the writing on the wall and apparently wants to get ahead of democracy, so it goes along with your misconstruction to, as Antonin Scalia said in his dissenting opinion, validate “a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government.”

They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds— minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly— could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry.
– Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Dissenting Opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges
Today, Facebook has been lit up with people celebrating the ruling, haughtily disregarding anyone who has the audacity to disagree as a bigot, and saying, “It’s about time”. Some have lauded the closing paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, which states in part that gay couples are guaranteed “… equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution guarantees them that right.”
Instead, I would echo the closing paragraph of Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent: “If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

Read the full Court opinion

-- Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief

This is an editorial composed by the listed author(s). The opinions within it do not necessarily reflect the position of LSNews.org, its advisor, its editors, or the Lampeter-Strasburg School District. 

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