This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled California’s Proposition 8 — which defined marriage in the state as between one man and one woman — was unconstitutional.
Quite frankly, I am not even going to bother with the whole “Is gay marriage right or wrong?” debate. This court case was not even about that. So let us set aside the moral versus immoral mess, be civil with each other and discuss what actually matters: the constitutionality within the decision.
Here is a little history on the same-sex marriage debate in California. In 2000, 61 percent of California voters voted in favor of Proposition 22, which prohibited same-sex marriage within the state.
In 2004, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom chose to ignore the state law, and he opened San Francisco City Hall to same-sex marriages. The state Supreme Court later ordered Newsom to stop and invalidated all the marriage licenses he issued.
In 2008, the California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled marriage is a fundamental right for all. That same year, 52 percent of California voters passed the well-known Proposition 8 at the ballot box. Prop. 8 was an amendment to California’s Constitution, defining marriage between one man and one woman.
The next year, the state Supreme Court upheld not only Prop. 8, but also supported the right for Californians to write their own state Constitution, since the document did not address same-sex marriage.
A federal court in 2010 struck down Prop. 8. This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision to strike down Prop. 8, declaring it unconstitutional.
The real question here is if Prop. 8 is in fact unconstitutional. I would argue it is not.
Under the California Constitution, the people have the right to bring such ballot initiatives forward. They also have the right to write their own constitution and constitutional amendments.
Since the state constitution does not specifically define marriage, the people have the right to define it and not the courts. People are considered sovereign.
There are also two major issues with the 9th Circuit ruling.
First, the decision said “marriage” is merely a subjective term society gives to certain relationships, and anyone has a “right” to use the term to define their own relationship.
This creates a very slippery slope. Our government generally follows the notion that if something is a “right,” then it is also an entitlement (see Obamacare). So what if somebody can’t find a spouse? They have a “right” to marry, so should the government find a spouse for that person?
Of course not. I hate to belittle such a complex issue like this, but we have to remember how our government likes to operate. The wording is very important.
Second, the judges did not base their decision on solid grounds. Two of the 9th Circuit judges made their decisions believing Prop. 8 took away a right that already existed.
Let us be clear on this: the people of California cannot take away, say, the right to speak freely, which is already guaranteed by the state’s Constitution in Article 1, Section 2.
There was no guaranteed right of same-sex marriage that Prop. 8 had taken away. The only right that existed was to get a marriage license from Mayor Newsom in the San Francisco City Hall, which went against state law, so it wasn’t valid anyway.
The lone dissenter on the 9th Circuit pointed out that the federal courts should defer to state law if they are given no other option. There was no other option, because the only “option” was Mayor Newsom. Therefore, the judges saying that Prop. 8 “took away” something isn’t really true.
So, like I said, this decision is not about same-sex marriage being right or wrong. Instead, it is about whether the people voting for Prop. 8 is constitutional.
I believe same-sex marriage is a state issue, not a national one. I also believe it is not the courts, but the people, as a sovereign entity, who have the authority to make that decision.
I will respect any decision the voters of a particular state make on this issue. Just do not tell me the voters do not have the right choose because they do not sit on a bench and hold a gavel.