Michael Hagan ’15
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section three of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) drew a disturbingly revealing response from the Heritage Foundation this afternoon:
“Marriage policy should be worked out through the democratic process, not dictated by unelected judges.”
The shortsighted reactionaries responsible for this language cleave their argument with a double-edged sword of irony and allusion. It is ironic to the point of farcical that the very voices that insist that marriage equality is not a civil rights struggle so strongly (however unintentionally) allude to arguments once clung to by the most powerful and vocal opponents of racial integration, equality, and interracial marriage. In 1956, Southern Democrats (you know, the ones that Richard Nixon and Pat Buchanan made into the cornerstone of the GOP) formally denounced the Supreme Court’s ‘54 ruling in the case of Brown vs. BOE of Topeka, and pledged to defend the right of states to legislate and enforce de jure racial segregation:
“We decry the Supreme Court’s encroachments on rights reserved to the States and to the people, contrary to established law and to the Constitution.” –Southern Manifesto, 1956
But much to the dismay of the Dixiecrat caucus, those unelected tyrants on the bench continued to interfere with democratically sanctioned Southern race laws. The Court ruled in the landmark 1967 Loving vs. Virginia case that “anti-miscegenation” laws violated both the Due Process Clause(s) and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Heritage Foundation missed its opportunity to apply its paradigm to the Loving decision by seven years (it was formed in ’73), but its self-damning point stands in clear dissent with the ruling. Marriage policy should be worked out through the democratic process, not dictated by unelected judges.
Today the Court ruled that there is no constitutional basis by which the federal government can turn a blind eye to a state-licensed marriage, and that to deny such wedded people the federal benefits of marriage transgresses the Fifth Amendment. It overturns the lion’s share of the democratically adopted Defense of Marriage Act. Unelected judges have overruled the people for justice’s sake just as they did in 1967 when they told the people of Virginia and 15 other states that they could no longer use the democratic process to criminalize Mr. and Mrs. Richard Loving’s marriage. You may argue that same-sex marriage somehow violates God’s design or some natural order of things, but do not embrace the dangerous notion that marriage policy should only be what the people ordain through statutory law. If you hold such a view, consider the company you stand in.