California’s Same Sex Marriage Ruling Flawed
by P.A. Madison on August 5th, 2010
Yesterday in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker enjoined California’s Proposition 8 from being enforced on the grounds California has a “constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis.” Judge Walker finds California’s anti-SSM law violates both the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses under the Fourteenth Amendment. Here are some of my quick preliminary thoughts on the ruling.
One difficulty with the Due Process route is that it requires treating marriage as a fundamental right is that proceedings before some court of law has never been a requirement for entering into marriage. Walker writes, “[t]o determine whether a right is fundamental under the Due Process Clause, the court inquiries into whether the right is rooted ‘in our Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.'”
And here lies a problem: Being able to freely choose one’s marriage partner has never been viewed as rooted in the Nation’s history or “legal traditions, and practices.” Marriage laws have long restricted who can marry who, when and under what conditions. Elena Kagan in a letter to Senator Specter in March of 2009 said she could find no constitutional right to same-sex-marriage in the Constitution:
Constitutional rights are a product of constitutional text as interpreted by courts and understood by the nation’s citizenry and its elected representatives. By this measure, which is the best measure I know for determining whether a constitutional right exists, there is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
Judge Walker’s Equal Protection argument didn’t make any sense in light of the historical evidence behind the meaning of the words that says it never had anything to do with gender equality in public law. If it had meant equality in such things as sex or gender in all laws then there would never have been any purpose for, say, the Nineteenth Amendment (woman suffrage).
Neither the chairman of the Reconstruction Committee, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens or Senator Jacob M. Howard introduced the Equal Protection Clause to their respective chambers as having anything to do with social equality, but everything to do with equality in laws and proceedings for security of person before tribunals of justice. Hence, why the Equal Protection of the Laws were presented to both the House and Senate as limited to “offenders” of law.
This explains why the Fourteenth Amendments chief sponsor, Rep. John Bingham, generally used the word “tribunal” and laws of Due Process when discussing the concept of Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and not general civil laws. In 1870 he made this very clear when he said no State may deny the Equal Protection “not of its laws, but of the laws,” i.e., law of the land (Due Process).
Additionally, he also explained that the Equal Protection of the laws had always been part of the Constitution under the Fifth’s “no person” and not the Magna Charta’s “freemen” shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without Due Process.
Constitutions and statutes of former rebel States were required to conform to the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment before being readmitted into the union under reconstruction. To accomplish this, former rebel States were required to repeal their “black codes” (black codes were criminal codes that singled out blacks for special punishments), however, laws of miscegenation and segregation remained and were never objected to by framers of the Fourteenth Amendment. The reason is easy to understand in light of the fact restricting marriage to opposite gender or race has absolutely nothing to do with creating “class legislation” that unequally applies or denies laws of proceedings for security of person.
Judge Walker’s attempt to invalidate Prop 8 under Due Process and Equal Protection clauses is weak, and no amount of testimonial evidence offered will gloss over this fact. The fact is Due Process or Equal Protection has never been required for the qualifications of marriage or the issuance of a license or ever viewed as anything to with security of person before the law.
I’ll leave the final word to Justice Powell from his concurrence in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978):
The State, representing the collective expression of moral aspirations, has an undeniable interest in ensuring that its rules of domestic relations reflect the widely held values of its people … State regulation has included bans on incest, bigamy, and homosexuality, as well as various preconditions to marriage, such as blood tests. Likewise, a showing of fault on the part of one of the partners traditionally has been a prerequisite to the dissolution of an unsuccessful union. A “compelling state purpose” inquiry would cast doubt on the network of restrictions that the States have fashioned to govern marriage and divorce.