Hubris on Marriage Laws Not Limited to Unelected Judges
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 23, 2014 on The Washington Times website.
On May 19, it happened in Oregon. The next day, it was Pennsylvania’s turn.
In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane said the state’s marriage amendment, which the people of Oregon enacted via referendum in 2004, had no “rationally related government purpose.” Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced in February that she would not bother defending the law. Take that, voters.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III decided that he, too, was smarter than God, plus all previous generations and major religions that believe the defining essence of natural marriage is the union of male and female.
Listen to Judge Jones’ assessment of the ethos behind marriage laws: “We are a better people than what these laws represent.” The hubris here is truly stunning, but Judge Jones was not finished. “It is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”
The latter is an interesting turn of phrase. It is most often associated with Ronald Reagan’s defeat of communism and the Soviet empire —- an unalloyed victory of good over evil that lends itself to moral language. Does trashing a marriage law rise to that level?
By using that phrase, Judge Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, has signaled that Pennsylvania lawmakers who voted 177-16 in the House and 43 to 5 in the Senate to pass the measure in 1996 were deluded or perhaps even as evil as communists. So, too, are billions of people who now believe and have believed in marriage as the union of a man and a woman. If this is not so —- that all these people were and are morally deficient — why are we now a “better people” for radically redefining marriage?
More alarming is Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s refusal to appeal the ruling. He issued a statement saying that lawyers told him the appeal had little chance of success.
Earlier this month, the governor refused to appeal a ruling by a federal judge striking down Pennsylvania’s voter photo-ID law. According to the Associated Press, “state lawyers acknowledged they couldn’t produce examples of in-person voter fraud.”
Really? Maybe they should look harder. In Philadelphia, baton-wielding New Black Panthers members physically threatened voters at a polling place on Election Day in 2008, and dozens of precincts in 2012 reported not even a single vote for Mitt Romney.
When you’re paying lawyers to get results and they tell you something is impossible, perhaps it’s time to look for new legal talent. Governors, attorneys general and other lawmakers take an oath to uphold the law, not cower before judges.
Given the media’s numbingly jubilant coverage of left-wing activists and lawmakers “hailing” every new corrosive episode of judicial activism, plus the popular culture pouring out propaganda, most conservative lawmakers have stayed in the tall grass, hoping it will blow over.
It won’t. Lawlessness breeds more lawlessness, and a feckless response to bullying invites more of the same. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, federal judges have overturned marriage laws in 13 straight cases. Unlike millions of voters, they apparently think natural marriage is unworthy of legal protection.
How did we come to a place where judges think that marriage certificates don’t need a bride and groom, and that it’s racist to ask someone to prove who they say they are before they cast a ballot?
Beginning in the 1950s, America began changing rapidly from a Christian-based “ideational” culture —- one defined by pursuit of virtue informed by religious values —- into a “sensate” culture, in which individuals seek pleasure at the expense of family, community and, ultimately, country.
Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin saw the trend in America beginning even earlier, and wrote about it in his book The Crisis of Our Age, in 1941:
“Our culture simultaneously is a culture of man’s glorification and of man’s degradation. On the one hand, it boundlessly glorifies man and extols man-made culture and society. On the other, it utterly degrades the human being and all his cultural and social values.”
In such a culture, there is little respect for the words of Jesus, who quoted Genesis: “[F]rom the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'”
When man —- instead of God —- becomes the measure of all things, morality becomes muddled. The left casts unwanted, unborn children, timeless institutions such as natural marriage, and even election-integrity laws as impediments to personal happiness.
They have amply demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to shape the legal and political culture to fit their worldview and punish those who disagree.
Every day, we learn anew that elections have consequences.