Tag: Proposition 8

The Circuit Court Ruling on Proposition 8

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage – enacted in 2008 in a popular vote on Proposition 8 – violates the constitutional right to equal protection. The court’s decision upheld a 2010 decision by former Judge R. Vaughn Walker, a Reagan-Bush appointee, that found marriage to be a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, and that the proposition “fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.” Proponents of Proposition 8 will likely appeal the decision either to the full Ninth Circuit or directly to the Supreme Court.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the sponsor of the case, Perry v. Brown (originally Perry v. Schwarzenegger). Cato Institute chairman Robert A. Levy is co-chairman of AFER’s Advisory Board. He and co-chair John Podesta wrote in the Washington Post in 2010:

Nearly a century after the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man.’ ” That 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia, ended bans on interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had such laws.

Now, 43 years after Loving, the courts are once again grappling with denial of equal marriage rights — this time to gay couples. We believe that a society respectful of individual liberty must end this unequal treatment under the law…. The principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide and cuts to the core of our nation’s character. This is not about politics; it’s about an indispensable right vested in all Americans.

Levy and Podesta, along with AFER’s lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, spoke at this Cato Institute forum. And Levy also wrote about the case in this New York Daily News column.

In this 7-minute video Levy, Podesta, Olson, and Boies make the case for equality in marriage law:

How Judges Protect Liberty

In my Encyclopedia Britannica column this week, I take a look at “the responsibility of judges to strike down laws, regulations, and executive and legislative actions that exceed the authorized powers of government, violate individual rights, or fail to adhere to the rules of due process.”

Certainly they don’t always live up to those expectations, as Robert A. Levy and William Mellor wrote in The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom

The column might have been more timely last summer, when Judge Andrew Napolitano concluded one of his Freedom Watch programs on the Fox Business Channel by hailing four federal judges who had courageously and correctly struck down state and federal laws:

  • Judge Martin L. C. Feldman, who blocked President Obama’s moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico;
  • Judge Susan Bolton, who blocked Arizona’s restrictive immigration law;
  • Judge Henry Hudson, who refused to dismiss Virginia’s challenge to the health care mandate; and
  • Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.

That was a good summer for judicial protection of liberty. But as I note, there have been more examples this year, reminding us of James Madison’s predictions that independent judges would be “an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive.”

Gay Marriage in New York

In the Wall Street Journal today, Cato senior fellow Walter Olson praises the New York legislature both for passing a marriage equality bill and for including guarantees of religious freedom in the bill:

For those of us who support same-sex marriage and also consider ourselves to be right of center, there were special reasons to take satisfaction in last Friday’s vote in Albany. New York expanded its marriage law not under court order but after deliberation by elected lawmakers with the signature of an elected governor. Of the key group of affluent New Yorkers said to have pushed the campaign for the bill, many self-identify as conservative or libertarian. A GOP-run state Senate gave the measure its approval….

To their credit, New York lawmakers devoted much attention to the drafting of exemptions to protect churches and religious organizations from being charged with bias for declining to assist in same-sex marriages. Exemptions of this sort are sometimes dismissed as a mere sop to placate opponents. But in fact they’re worth supporting in their own right—and an important recognition that pluralism and liberty can and should advance together as allies….

Critics have charged that same-sex marriage will constrict the free workings of religious institutions and violate the conscience of individuals who act on religious scruples. Many of the examples they give are by now familiar….

Observe, however, that it isn’t the legal status of same-sex marriage that keeps generating these troublesome cases; it’s plain old discrimination law. Thus New York’s highest court ordered Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution, to let same-sex couples into its married-student housing. But that ruling happened a decade ago and had nothing to do with last week’s vote in Albany. In the case of the wedding photographer ordered not to act on her scruples, New Mexico didn’t then and doesn’t now recognize same-sex marriage. While some of these rulings are to be deplored as infringements on individual liberty, they’re not consequences of the state of marriage law itself.

Also: Cato’s forum on the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, featuring Ted Olson, David Boies, John Podesta, and Robert Levy. And an earlier forum on gays and conservatism featuring Andrew Sullivan, Maggie Gallagher, and British Cabinet minister Nick Herbert.

The Constitutional Case for Marriage Equality

On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage in more than a dozen states in the case of Loving v. Virginia. Today, the highest court in the United States may soon take on the issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian relationships. Attorneys David Boies and Theodore B. Olson are hoping the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger will further establish marriage as a fundamental right of citizenship. Also featured are John Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress, Cato Institute Chairman Robert A. Levy and Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz.

Watch the full event from which many clips were pulled here and Robert A. Levy’s presentation here.

Wednesday Links

  • Next up for marriage equality: Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Please join us at 12:00 p.m. Eastern today as co-counsels for the plaintiffs Theodore Olson and John Boies join Center for American Progress president John Podesta and Cato chairman Robert A. Levy for a panel discussion on marriage equality, exploring legal and moral questions dating back to the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision that ended state bans on interracial marriage. If you cannot join us here at Cato, please tune in to watch a live stream of the event.
  • “Republicans have an opportunity for a much more important debate, which will frame the election campaign next year.”
  • In President Obama’s next speech, Cato director of foreign policy studies Christopher Preble hopes “that the president reaffirms the importance of peaceful regime change from within, not American-sponsored regime change from without.”
  • What will former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s next position on health care be?
  • Like cleanliness next to godliness, so is democracy next to tyranny.
  • The U.S. hit the debt limit–what’s next?


Cal Thomas Fulminates against Freedom

Cal Thomas, who bills himself as “America’s #1 nationally syndicated columnist,” rose to fame as the vice president of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in its heyday, though you won’t find that fact in any of his official biographies. But you could figure it out by reading his columns. In his latest, on the California gay marriage decision, he ranges from factual inaccuracy to a revelation of just how reactionary and authoritarian he really is, to a really striking biblical citation.

He starts by denouncing the “decision by a single, openly gay federal judge.” Not true. Judge Vaughn Walker may be gay, but he has never said so. And Salon magazine demonstrates that any such “evidence” is extraordinarily thin. So this is an extraordinary statement by a man who calls himself a journalist of 40 years’ standing. Not to mention an offensive suggestion that gay people shouldn’t serve as judges. Thomas went so far as to call former attorney general Ed Meese, who recommended Walker to President Ronald Reagan, to ask how such a thing could have happened, and Meese assures him,  “There was absolutely no knowledge, rumor or suspicion” of Vaughn Walker being a homosexual at the time of his nomination by Ronald Reagan. Well, thank God. You’d hate to think that Ronald Reagan would have put an accomplished Republican lawyer on the federal bench if he’d been a homosexual.

Thomas goes on to complain that this (not) “openly gay federal judge” has struck down “the will of 7 million Californians.” Well, yes.  Of course, 6.4 million Californians voted the other way, so I guess on net he struck down the will of 600,000 Californians. And that’s what judges do when they strike down unconstitutional laws. The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board and Loving v. Virginia “struck down the will of tens of millions of Americans.” Libertarians and conservatives asked the Court in the Kelo case to strike down the duly enacted eminent-domain laws of Connecticut.

The sentence continues: The judge also struck down “tradition dating back millennia” – though for much of that time marriage involved one man and more than one woman. And of course traditions are not to be followed blindly. No doubt Cal Thomas thinks that millions, even billions, of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists should leave the faiths of their fathers and follow Christ.

And then the sentence moves to Thomas’s real concern: The judge also struck down “biblical commands, which the judge decided, in his capacity as a false god, to also invalidate.” Does Thomas really believe that the judges of the United States, operating under a Constitution that makes no mention of God, should obey “biblical commands”? It’s true that the Virginia trial judge who convicted the Lovings of miscegenation did rule that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He thought he was following biblical commands. But the Supreme Court overruled that judge.

Thomas is fulminating against gay marriage and against “judicial vigilantism.” But his real objections to American law and life go much deeper:

We have been spiraling downward for some time, beginning in the ’50s with the Playboy philosophy that gave men permission to avoid the bonds of marriage if they wanted to have sex. In rapid succession came the birth control pill (sex without biological consequences), “no-fault divorce” (nullifying “until death us do part”), cohabitation, easily available pornography, and a tolerance for just about anything except those who deem something intolerable.

Cal Thomas would like to take American life back somewhere before the 1950s, before adults could make their own decisions about sex, before birth control and cohabitation and tolerance. The American people may still be split 50-50 on gay marriage, but they would overwhelmingly reject Thomas’s reactionary vision for society.

How reactionary? Well, consider this:

Muslim fanatics who wish to destroy us are correct in their diagnosis of our moral rot: loss of a fear of God, immodesty, especially among women, materialism and much more.

Which sort of follows from his earlier point:

No less a theological thinker than Abraham Lincoln concluded that our Civil War might have been God’s judgment for America’s toleration of slavery. If that were so, why should “the Almighty,” as Lincoln frequently referred to God, stay His hand in the face of our celebration of same-sex marriage?

A more loving Christian might think that God would punish a nation that practiced slavery, but not a nation that allowed everyone to make a commitment to the person they loved. But surely Katrina, the financial crisis, 9/11, and the BP oil spill are enough punishment, even for a nation that displays a “tolerance for just about anything.” Anything that’s peaceful, anyway, as Leonard Read put it.

Toleration really is the thing that Thomas doesn’t like:

What we tolerate, we get more of, and we have been tolerating a lot since the Age of Aquarius generation began the systematic destruction of what past generations believed they had sacrificed, fought and died to protect.

I wonder how many American soldiers really believed that they went into battle to prevent gay people from marrying the person they love. I’ll bet more of them said they were fighting to protect our freedom, our Constitution, and indeed our religious freedom – for everyone.

Thomas ends his column with a biblical citation for those who want to “understand what happens to people and nations that disregard God”:

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

Two books later in the Old Testament, in I Samuel 8, the story of Israel and its lack of a king is continued. This is actually one of the most famous passages in the history of liberty and of Western civilization. As we’ll see in a moment, the rest of the story served as a constant reminder that the origins of the State were by no means divinely inspired:

    1: And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

3: And his sons walked not in his ways, but took bribes, and perverted judgment.
4: Then all the elders of Israel came to Samuel,
5: And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6: But the thing displeased Samuel, And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

7: And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people

9: yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
10: And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
11: And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, and some shall run before his chariots.
12: And he will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and his chariots.
13: And he will take your daughters to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14: And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15: And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16: And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17: He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18: And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

19: Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
20: That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

21: And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
22: And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.

God’s warning to the people of Israel – you will be sorry if you choose a king to rule over you – resonated not just in ancient Israel but on down to modern times.  Thomas Paine cited it in Common Sense to remind Americans that “the few good kings” in the 3000 years since Samuel could not “blot out the sinfulness of the origin” of monarchy.  The great historian of liberty, Lord Acton, assuming that all 19th-century British readers were familiar with it, referred casually to Samuel’s “momentous protestation.” And now Cal Thomas thinks this seminal warning against tyranny is a capstone to his tirade against freedom, tolerance, and equality under the law. How sad.