Court Makes a Sutton Impact on Marriage
By Tony Perkins
What was already a great week for conservatives turned into an incredible one on Thursday — thanks to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Good news hasn’t been easy to come by on marriage, but after big wins in the election, voters can finally celebrate one in the courts. After a couple of bright spots for states’ rights in an otherwise gloomy year, two judges may have just turned the same-sex “marriage” debate on its head.
For liberals, who had gotten pretty accustomed to the courts doing their bidding, the Sixth Circuit’s ruling came as quite a shock. Unfortunately, that’s the situation America is in right now — it’s actually surprising when a court does its own job and not the legislature’s! Most judges have been too busy moving their ideology forward at the expense of the Constitution to bother themselves with the rule of law. Fortunately, two George W. Bush appointees bucked that trend and issued a common sense opinion that keeps the marriage amendments of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee intact — for now.
Unlike the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, Judges Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook recognized that the government has a reason, a “rational basis,” for preserving marriage. And that reason isn’t rooted in animus, but a civilizations’-old understanding of marriage’s benefits and place in society. “A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world,” wrote the duo, “shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.”
And the demonization of the majority who embraces that view, Sutton points out, has gone on long enough. “It is no less unfair to paint the proponents of the measures as a monolithic group of hate-mongers than it is to paint the opponents as a monolithic group trying to undo American families.”
The judges also turn the tables on the Left for its hypocrisy. “No one here claims that the states’ original definition of marriage was unconstitutional when enacted. The plaintiffs’ claim is that the states have acted irrationally in standing by the traditional definition in the face of changing social mores,” he continued. “But how can we say that the voters acted irrationally for sticking with the seen benefits of thousands of years of adherence to the traditional definition of marriage in the face of one year of experience with a new definition of marriage?”
And, perhaps most importantly, the Sixth Circuit sees what all too few courts have: “The right to marry in general, and the right to gay marriage in particular, nowhere appear in the Constitution.” For once, the court is using the Constitution as a litmus test — not their own “progressive” ideologies. And like us, Judges Sutton and Cook recognize what FRC has long warned — that redefining marriage is just the beginning. “If it is constitutionally irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be constitutionally irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage,” Sutton asserted. “But the predicament does not end there. No state is free of marriage policies that go too far in some directions and not far enough in others, making all of them vulnerable…”
While the debate is far from over, Thursday’s ruling does tee up a long-awaited showdown on — not just marriage, but the rights of states to govern themselves. And for the Left to be successful, it knows that it needs the courts to force same-sex “marriage” on America before more people see more fallout for Christians like Aaron and Melissa Klein. Or sportscasters like Craig James. Or CEOs like Brandon Eich. Already, the polls are starting to reflect a growing unease about a movement that has cost people their businesses, livelihoods, safety, and freedom.
If anything, the Sixth Circuit just brought last Tuesday’s election results into even greater focus. The importance of conservatives retaking the Senate cannot be overstated — not when as many as 90 judges are expected to be confirmed over the President’s final two years. With Republicans in firm control, let’s hope they help steer the courts back toward balanced constitutionalists — not liberal legislators in disguise. Read more of our analysis on the 6th Circuit’s decision over at the FRC Blog.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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