Even America’s bitterest enemies understand why we mark July 4th with parades, speeches and fireworks: to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We’re proud of our nation, and justifiably so.
So why do we virtually ignore September 17th? That’s the date, in 1787, when our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution. And if any one factor can explain why our republic has endured -- indeed, thrived -- for 223 years, it is this unique charter, which outlines the form of government best designed to safeguard “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” as the Declaration puts it.
Yet today, on many issues, this vital document is frequently ignored, even undermined, by some of the very people who have taken a public oath to uphold it.
Consider the debate over Arizona’s immigration law. Here we have a state understandably frustrated by the federal government’s failure to control the flow of illegal immigrants. So it passed a law to enforce immigration laws already on the books. Hysteria ensues. The Justice Department demands that the law be struck down.
Susan Bolton, the federal judge who subsequently ruled on the law, didn’t go that far, fortunately. But she did suspend certain parts of it, such as a provision authorizing the arrest of an individual “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.”
Why? Because that might go against the Obama administration’s practice of not enforcing immigration law in many of these cases. But what she could not say is that the Arizona law was somehow inconsistent with the actual federal immigration law. She simply relied on judicial fiat to produce a conclusion that flouts precedent and tradition. Is she unaware that it’s her job to interpret the law, not rewrite it?
We see this same destructive impulse in the fight over California’s referendum on same-sex marriage. The state followed the law to the letter, allowing its citizens to make their voices heard on this important issue. Then along comes U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who strikes down Proposition 8.
Did he refute the substantial evidence in favor of Proposition 8? No, he didn’t even mention it. Did he cite binding Supreme Court precedent to justify his action? No, he ignored it. In 1972’s Baker v. Nelson, Minnesota was accused of violating the Constitution by issuing marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples. The Supreme Court unanimously threw out the case, finding that no substantial federal question existed. In short, it was a state matter.