California and Marriage: Tarnished Days in the Golden State

Rebecca Hagelin

5/29/2008 12:01:00 AM - Rebecca Hagelin

If you’ve ever wondered why liberals fight tooth and nail whenever it comes to confirming judges, just look to California.

There, in another outrageous example of judicial over-reach and leftist social experimentation, the state Supreme Court ruled on May 15 in favor of homosexual “marriages.” Specifically, it overturned a 2000 referendum on Proposition 22, in which California voters -- i.e., the people --affirmed, nearly 2-to-1, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Sorry, voters: You only think you know best. Your judicial overlords know better. Now run along, like good subjects.

Whatever happened to government, “for the people, by the people”? Seems the judicial elite reign supreme in California.

It’s fairly obvious what is at work here -- a desire on the part of liberals to level the basic building block of society: the family. California already has a domestic-partner law on the books that grants same-sex couples all the benefits and privileges accorded to opposite-sex couples. The real agenda behind the decision to redefine the word “marriage,” as I point out in my book, “Home Invasion,” is to destroy the very institution itself.

Sound too strong? Then explain why a domestic-partner law wasn’t enough. No couple was being discriminated against. No one was hiding from the law. Homosexuals could set up house wherever they liked, and the law treated their relationship as if it were normal. But that wasn’t enough. All of us heterosexual yahoos had to go all the way -- and call their unions marriage. That’s what they really wanted. And it signifies nothing less than a societal sea change.

In a compelling analysis of the Court’s decision, The Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall, Daniel Moloney and Matthew Spalding, spell it out:

What is happening now is no minor adjustment, nor a slight change in degree that just extends benefits or rights to a larger class, but a substantive change in the essence of the institution. The court's decision does not expand marriage; it alters its core meaning. To redefine marriage so that it is not intrinsically related to the relationship between fathers, mothers, and children formally severs the institution from its nature and purpose, remaking the institution into a mere contract between any two individuals.

This helps explain why it’s wrong to assume this ruling centers on discrimination. It doesn’t. We’re doing more here than just renaming an already existing arrangement. What we call -- or don’t call -- marriage actually matters. And there has to be some objective criteria. It can’t be left to each individual to decide what marriage is; the state has a crucial role to play. Otherwise, why can’t a man marry his sister? Or his daughter? Or his dog, for that matter? Why can’t he have multiple wives?

The fact is, the California Supreme Court has indulged here in the purest form of judicial activism -- operating not from a desire to interpret the law as written, but to force the result it wanted from the beginning, regardless of whether it was correct (or whether it violated the will of the people).

According to the Heritage experts:

As with Roe v. Wade, this decision is troubling from three angles: on the process, on the reasoning, and on the substance.

*         It was an instance of the judiciary usurping the political process.

*         It was poorly reasoned, abandoning the original meaning of California's constitution in order to invent a right to same-sex “marriage.”

*         It was wrong on the substance, comparing support for traditional marriage to racism, disregarding the nature and purpose of marriage, and ignoring the reasons for which the state has always set marriage apart from other household forms.

There’s a good reason marriage has always been set apart like this. It is, quite simply, the cornerstone of civilization. It is deeply rooted in nearly every society, blessed by all the world’s major religions, and proven over centuries to work best when it’s limited to one man and one woman. Study after study, many of which you can find on familyfacts.org, show marriage’s unique value. Raised in its loving embrace, children thrive.

That apparently means nothing to the judges who handed down this decision. But then again, they haven’t even shown respect for their own profession. They’ve abused their authority to do what they want -- never mind what the law actually says.

But their tactics may well backfire, says Heritage Senior Legal Fellow Robert Alt. “By removing the issue from the political branches and constitutionalizing the policy question, the court's decision makes compromise less likely and leaves a state constitutional amendment as the only possible response -- one in which same-sex marriage advocates are not likely to prevail,” he writes in a recent commentary.

In short, it’s up to the people. Let’s hope they rise to the challenge.