The Supreme Court will hear arguments for Hollingsworth v. Perry later this month. The case challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which states that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. A number of high-profile individuals, including the President, have urged the justices to strike down this law. Despite entreaties from various A-listers, it would be a grave mistake for the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8.
There are two important reasons for the Supreme Court to stay out of the case. The first is simple. Proposition 8 is a state law that was created by, voted on, and legally enacted in California. It is applicable only in California. The opinions of 9 justices shouldn’t trump a state with 38 million residents, especially when you consider the question in the light of our Constitution: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Californians decide to repeal the law someday, but the decision should not be made for them in a federal court.
The other critical reason the Supreme Court should not rule on the case is because federal intervention is inappropriate. Several months ago, President Barack Obama said, “This is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level.” Since making that statement, the President has changed course, but he was right. The people of the United States vary widely in their thoughts and reactions to the issues of the day. For instance, gay marriage is not generally favored in the United States. Voters in 39 states, including California, have passed laws specifically banning same-sex marriage. Some of the states, such as Alaska, do not recognize any same-sex unions. California has domestic partnerships that provide the same rights and responsibilities as a civil union. Yet Vermont and other states do recognize same-sex marriage. So who’s right? Depends on who you ask, and the truth is, each state is doing what works for them. So they’re all right, in a way.
A one-size-fits-all federal mandate would be disastrous, whether the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage throughout the United States or banned all same-sex unions. Either way, they would tamper with the states’ right to self-govern and attempt to impose, per force, laws that are at odds with the various cultures.
“This is really the latest civil-rights issue,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “It is the question of whether or not American citizens are going to be treated with equal protection of the laws.” This argument doesn’t stand up because the government can formalize legal contracts to convey the specific rights gay couples are seeking (e.g., emergency medical decision-making power). No one can be prevented from entering into a contract.
It would be better if the government got out of the marriage business altogether, and the dispute over gay marriage is a perfect illustration of why there needs to be a strong separation of church and state. If special rights and privileges are to be given to committed couples, then they should be provided based on a legal contract. Leave marriage to the churches.
The latest piece to be added to this complex jigsaw is the amicus “friend of the court” brief submitted by the Obama administration last week. Less than a month after his second inaugural, the president made the about-face everyone was anticipating, now saying the Supreme Court fight over gay marriage required his input. (What? Why?) The brief submitted by the administration urges the Supreme Court to overturn the country’s laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court has been deluged with legal briefs supporting and opposing the current law. However, the President’s attempts to sway the outcome of the case are highly questionable, and the situation becomes sticky with you consider that he has appointed two of the sitting justices. While Obama has been open that gay rights are part of his agenda, his decision to submit a brief to the Supreme Court is at odds with the concept of protecting the justices from politics so they make decisions based solely upon the Constitution.