Yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8 prompted a rush of reactions in me that were not necessarily coherent or connected. So in no particular order….
1) About that “other planet” that several of the Justices seem to occupy: I was astonished to read, in Roberts’ DOMA dissent, words to the effect that it would be “unfair to tar Congress with the brush of bigotry” when analyzing the motives for DOMA’s original passage. Earth to Roberts–it is unnecessary to speculate about the motives for DOMA. Read the frigging legislative history. No one was hiding those motives. And they weren’t pretty.
2) It is an axiom of genuinely conservative jurisprudence that judges should not strike down laws simply because they find those laws flawed or stupid. To put it another way, it is a central principle of constitutional review that the Court should not substitute its judgment for that of a legislative body absent a constitutional violation. Doing so is the definition of “activism.” Yet, just the day before yesterday, Roberts and the other “conservatives” were perfectly willing to do just that–to strike down Congressional reauthorization of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act because they didn’t agree with Congress’ analysis of the evidence about which states to include. Yesterday, presumably with straight faces, they wanted to defer to the Congressional decision to ban recognition of same-sex marriages in DOMA. There’s a Yiddish word for this sort of blatant hypocrisy: chutzpah. (I mean, shit, they could at least have waited a week before executing a jurisprudential U-turn….)
3) I see that Indiana’s embarrassing excuse for a Governor is urging the General Assembly to go forward with efforts to place a same-sex marriage ban in the state’s constitution, and Brian Bosma was quick to agree. I find two things in particular infuriating about their smarmy pronouncements: their assumption that other people’s fundamental rights should be subject to majority vote, and the absolute ignorance they display about the nature and purpose of constitutions. Who voted to recognize your marriage, Governor Pence? More to the point, it is totally inappropriate to insert extraneous provisions–be they property tax caps or rules affecting marriage–into a state constitution. It betrays a breathtaking ignorance about the very different legal functions of constitutions and statutes.
4) Speaking of ignorance, in the aftermath of the marriage decisions, we’ve been treated to hysterical rants from both Michelle Bachmann and Rand Paul. As Nancy Pelosi eloquently said when asked about Bachmann’s screed, “who cares?” Rand Paul–who actually expects his Presidential ambitions to be taken seriously–predicted that we’d soon see people marrying their dogs. Um–Rand, that “oldie but goodie” went out of fashion twenty years ago. Fortunately, the constituency that Bachmann, Rand and the Governor are pandering to is dwindling rapidly.
5) Today’s decisions were what I had expected. Marriage equality still has a way to go, and in Indiana, we still have to fight the dark side. That said, even the most conservative court in my lifetime was compelled by precedent and a huge shift in popular opinion to do the right thing. In the aftermath of today’s rulings, some 40% of the US population will live in marriage equality states. Businesses in non-equality states will have increasing difficulties recruiting talented workers, and in luring new employers. (If you were a business choosing a new location, why in the world would you pick Alabama or Mississippi? Or Indiana? You’d go where education was good, talent was available, and you could be competitive for the best workforce.)
6) What happens now? What does the legal landscape look like in the wake of these decisions? My friend Steve Sanders has a great post at Scotusblog.
So–a good week for gay rights. Not a good week for African-American or Hispanic voters. A draw for Affirmative Action.
At least they’re going home now.