In a stunning judgment which didn’t really stun anyone, a Federal Judge in Utah has decided that gay marriage is a “right” which trumps the democratic process. Despite the people of Utah voting overwhelmingly that a marriage is defined as “a union between one man and one woman,” Judge Robert J. Shelby decided that he alone, knew better. Utah’s Amendment 3, which made that definition clear, passed with an incredible 65.9 percent For, to 34.1 percent Against. Numbers like those carry the weight of a mandate. That is not the kind of hair’s breadth decision which might require a Federal Judge to intervene.
The state of Utah did NOT vote-in gay marriage. The people of the state have clearly defined marriage in their constitution, which Judge Shelby’s actions singlehandedly struck down. Shelby wrote a 53-page ruling saying that Utah’s current law denies gay citizens of their “fundamental right” to marriage. If gay marriage were a fundamental right, why would it only become an issue in the Twentieth Century? Aren’t fundamental things also called “the basics?” Ideas which everyone has already agreed upon as right and fitting, from the beginning? Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental. Marriage between two men or two women is a relatively novel concept.
Shelby feels that failing to recognize a union between same sex partners as a marriage, somehow demeans the dignity of these couples. So he, in the Person of the Court, deemed Utah’s established law to be somehow unconstitutional. Dignity comes from within, and is defined by one’s actions. Dignity cannot be conferred on someone by the Government.
In his reasoning, Shelby sited the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in particular the part which reads “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Until rather recently, the Law has only recognized marriage as a “one man, one woman” arrangement. The 97 percent of the American population who will never need to look at gay marriage as anything but a philosophical debate, might deserve a little equal protecting of their own.
In siting the 14th Amendment, Shelby seems to have completely overlooked the 10th. It reads “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nothing in there about “unless some judge feels otherwise.” The people of Utah were extraordinarily clear on the matter of gay marriage, as is their Constitutional Right. Why are their rights to define the laws and Constitution of Utah not worthy of Equal Protection? When democracy in Utah can be trumped so effortlessly, simply because three couples sue for gay marriage, why should anyone participate in a ballot measure, ever again?
It also raises the question of ‘why not everywhere?’ If a single Judge can fundamentally change what is the clearly defined will of one state’s population, what is stopping that same thing from happening to the entire nation? How is Utah’s Constitutional amendment defining marriage as only being possible for one man and one woman, any less unequal than the same rule in any other state? What makes Shelby’s ruling restricted to the borders of Utah, if it is based in a Federal amendment?
The answer to that question is State Autonomy. The people of individual states are afforded the right, Constitutionally, to define, develop and vote democratically what social rules they wish to live under. Establishing precedents where social engineering can be enacted by Judicial caveat, carries implications far beyond just redefining marriage.
While the LGBT community at large – and the political Left, in general – is loudly celebrating today, how might they feel when some 3.4 percent segment of the population manages to embolden a judge, who holds that same power? What if that judge redefines one of the most fundamental aspects of their entire culture? Rules perhaps that laws against “gay bashing” contradict the 1st Amendment, and unilaterally strikes them down? That is the kind of precedent being established, here.
Marriage is a fundamentally religious concept, which has been recognized by governments all through history as the most basic building block of Community. Something they have encouraged and promoted as the best way to foster peace and prosperity for every citizen. Publicly proclaiming that a man and a woman have pledged themselves to one another until one of them should die, is the binding cornerstone of the Nuclear Family. Which is in turn the binding cornerstone of the rest of humanity’s social contracts, like community and society.
Every state in the union has its own, unique personality and subculture. People live in – or move to – particular states, so they can enjoy the company of people with similar backgrounds, outlooks or values. Rural Wisconsin farmers do not live in Manhattan style high-rise condominiums, nor should they have to. Freedom of Association means Americans have the right to live in communities which best reflect their personal social norms.
It may be time now, to engage in discussions about the definition of marriage. Enough people with enough political pull and media attention have set the question on the national table. Offering individual states, as is their right, the opportunity to vote as a population on how they wish to define marriage, makes absolutely perfect sense.
Forcing states to accept the demands of a minority so slender that its numbers amount to a rounding error, is the classic definition of Tyranny. No matter how well crafted and “reasonable” sounding the arguments are. Dictators rule against the will and consent of their subjects. America is still a Democratic Republic. Allowing gay marriage to trump public will in Utah, is not a step towards equality, it is a blow against democracy. How is that good for anyone?
Editorial by Ben Gaul
Guardian Liberty Voice