After today’s rulings by the Supreme Court, every American has a larger stake in the outcome of the marriage debate. No one can afford to stay out of this issue because these decisions today constitute a huge threat to our democratic process.
The Proposition 8 ruling is the most disturbing. Though the Court chose not to rule on the merits, it did establish a terrible precedent, ruling that citizens who pass an initiative do not have the legal right or standing to defend that law when elected officials refuse to do their job and defend the duly enacted law in court.
This amounts to a pocket veto which politicians will abuse in the future, and not just on marriage. Within hours of the ruling, Governor Jerry Brown of California announced that California clerks would be forced to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses within 30 days, even though Prop 8 remains the law in California. The ruling invites abuse and will inevitably result in further bitter litigation.
The DOMA decision is also bad. The majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy implies that the members of Congress who passed DOMA overwhelmingly were motivated in part due to “improper animus” towards gay and lesbian people.
Can anything be more poisonous to our public discourse than saying that the law can treat individuals who stand for the truth of marriage as guilty of improper animus? How long will it be before enterprising activists cite Kennedy’s decision in court cases brought against people who disagree with same-sex marriage?
We all should care about preserving marriage. But everyone who cares about the broader principles of democracy and fair-minded public discourse should start speaking up now, and loudly, about what is at stake.
— Thomas Peters is communications director of the National Organization for Marriage.