The Corner

Gay-Marriage Decisions Read Like GLAAD Press Releases Now

A district judge in Pennsylvania ruled yesterday that the state is obligated to recognize same-sex marriages. Given the sensitivity of the issue, the judge must have taken extra caution to present a sober, impartial analysis of the relevant case law, right? Of course not. His decision reads like a press release from a gay-rights organization, replete with emotional appeals, loaded terminology, and rhetorical flourishes. While reading the first paragraph of the decision, keep in mind that the author is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of the law:

Today, certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not guaranteed the right to marry the person they love. Nor does Pennsylvania recognize the marriages of other couples who have wed elsewhere. Hoping to end this injustice, eleven courageous lesbian and gay couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the aforesaid couples have come together as plaintiffs and asked this Court to declare that all Pennsylvanians have the right to marry the person of their choice and consequently, that the Commonwealth’s laws to the contrary are unconstitutional. We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.

This is legal reasoning? It gets worse. One section has cutesy subheadings that mimic wedding vows — “in sickness and in health,” “until death do us part”, etc. — and includes emotional anecdotes from the plaintiffs’ lives. In his conclusion, the judge speculates that, “In future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.” And his last sentence is a moral exhortation: “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

No one could read this decision and think the judge is merely following the dictates of the law wherever that might lead. After seeing similar language in a recent Supreme Court case on religious freedom, I wondered why judges flout objectivity. One would think that they’d stick to dry, legalistic language as a way to assure the public that they are acting as referees rather than advocates.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern has an answer: “These judges know this is their shot at a very specific kind of immortality, and they seem to be in subtle competition with each other to write the one marriage equality opinion that history remembers.”

He’s probably right. But in what other discipline is inserting one’s personal politics into a technical analysis celebrated rather than discouraged? In five years of graduate school, I never had an economics professor tell me, “This data analysis needs to be dressed up with some philosophizing. And would it kill you to add a little moral preening?”

We need more judges who want history to remember them for their objectivity and professionalism, not for their philosophical bombast.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

Most Popular

Immigration

Angela Rye Knows You’re Racist

The political philosopher Michael Oakeshott said that the “rationalist” is hopelessly lost in ideology, captivated by the world of self-contained coherence he has woven from strands of human experience. He concocts a narrative about narratives, a story about stories, and adheres to the “large outline which ... Read More
Immigration

What the Viral Border-Patrol Video Leaves Out

In an attempt to justify Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s absurd comparison of American detention facilities to Holocaust-era concentration camps, many figures within the media have shared a viral video clip of a legal hearing in which a Department of Justice attorney debates a panel of judges as to what constitutes ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Pro-Abortion Nonsense from John Irving

The novelist has put up a lot of easy targets in his New York Times op-ed. I am going to take aim at six of his points, starting with his strongest one. First: Irving asserts that abortion was legal in our country from Puritan times until the 1840s, at least before “quickening.” That’s an overstatement. ... Read More
Film & TV

Murder Mystery: An Old Comedy Genre Gets Polished Up

I  like Adam Sandler, and yet you may share the sense of trepidation I get when I see that another of his movies is out. He made some very funny manboy comedies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy) followed by some not-so-funny manboy comedies, and when he went dark, in Reign over Me and Funny People, ... Read More