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Policy: Law

Supreme Court reaches right outcome on gay marriage

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Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein,Gay Marriage,Judicial Branch,Supreme Court,Analysis,Law

It might be shocking to you, but I have not yet had a chance to read both of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decisions, so I’m not prepared to discuss the legal reasoning behind them. However, I do believe that the outcome of the court’s opinions, which was essentially the one I outlined after oral arguments, is the correct one.

In summary, the court struck down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act under which the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages in states that chose to make it legal, but dismissed on jurisdictional grounds a suit defending California’s Prop 8, a voter-approved ballot measure that had barred gay marriage in the state before getting struck down by lower courts.

Though I would have preferred for the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling and thus assert the right of voters in a state to define marriage, I’m glad that the Supreme Court didn’t go so far in the opposite direction as to affirm the lower court’s finding that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. The end result is that gay marriage will be legal in California, but not automatically legal in every state. The federal government will have to recognize gay marriages in states that have made it legal, but states that still oppose gay marriage will not have to recognize out of state gay marriages. (i.e., a gay couple from Alabama couldn’t get married in California and force their home state to recognize the marriage.) Thus, unlike Roe v. Wade, in which the Court imposed its view of abortion on all states, this will allow the gay marriage debate to play out on a state by state basis.

My limited government beliefs lead me to the conclusion that same-sex marriage should be legal everywhere. Somebody else’s same sex marriage harms neither me nor my heterosexual marriage. And it doesn’t seem right to me for a government to prevent two adults who are in love with one another from marrying simply because they are of the same sex. But I also believe that we live not simply in “America,” but in the United States of America. That is, a collection of individual states that joined together long ago to cede certain powers and responsibilities to the federal government (creating a military, coining a common currency, ensuring the free flow of commerce among the states, etc.) while leaving the rest of the authority with states and the people. Therefore, I believe it’s right that this battle should remain in the states, and I hope that a critical mass of people in each state eventually reach the same conclusion that I did.

Read the Defense of Marriage decision here, and the Prop 8 decision here.

 

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