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How Marriage Equality Could Win In The Worst Possible Way In The Supreme Court

One way or another, marriage equality is coming to the United States. A recent poll shows support for equality at 58 percent, up 21 points from just a decade ago, and a massive 81 percent of adults under 30 support treating same-sex couples just like any other. The Supreme Court should strike down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s equally anti-gay Proposition 8 because they are unconstitutional, but one way or another, marriage equality is happening. And it is happening soon. Perhaps for this reason, two leading conservatives published columns last week advocating a way the Supreme Court could strike down DOMA while doing maximal damage to the social safety net. Five days after anti-science columnist George Will published a piece seeking to discredit the social science supporting marriage equality, Will endorsed a radical misreading of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment that would lead to DOMA being struck down. One day later, Michael McConnell, a former federal judge and leading socially conservative law professor, made the same argument in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s McConnell’s version: [quote][T]he court need not base its decision in Windsor on the merits of the same-sex marriage question. The leading argument against DOMA all along has been that the federal government lacks authority under the Constitution to create and enforce a definition of marriage different from that of the state in which a couple resides. It is hard to think of an issue more clearly reserved to state law under constitutional tradition than the definition of marriage. The court has held that “regulation of domestic relations” has “long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States” (Sosna v. Iowa, 1975). In the past, the court has recognized a “domestic relations exception” to federal judicial power. Although the legal question is close, the court could take the same path in Windsor—holding that DOMA improperly intrudes on the reserved powers of the states. [quote][T]he court need not base its decision in Windsor on the merits of the same-sex marriage question. The leading argument against DOMA all along has been that the federal government lacks authority under the Constitution to create and enforce a definition of marriage different from that of the state in which a couple resides. It is hard to think of an issue more clearly reserved to state law under constitutional tradition than the definition of marriage. The court has held that “regulation of domestic relations” has “long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States” (Sosna v. Iowa, 1975). In the past, the court has recognized a “domestic relations exception” to federal judicial power. Although the legal question is close, the court could take the same path in Windsor—holding that DOMA improperly intrudes on the reserved powers of the states. This is constitutional gobbledygook. McConnell and Will are both arguing that, because the Constitution does not give the federal government power over “domestic relations” it follows that DOMA exceeds Congress’ lawful powers. This is similar to the argument conservatives raised against the Affordable Care Act, and it is also compete nonsense. ... Now, let’s be completely clear. DOMA is unconstitutional. But it is unconstitutional because the Constitution guarantees all people “the equal protection of the laws,” not because of some unworkable limit on Congress’ ability to decide who is entitled to federal benefits. The danger of Will and McConnell’s theory is that it would allow the conservative justices to accomplish Paul Ryan’s wildest dreams in a single judicial opinion, and to do so under the cover of a decision that most progressives would cheer. (complete article at link)

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/03/25/1763211/how-marriage-equality-could-win-in-the-worst-possible-way-in-the-supreme-court/


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