Do Supreme Court marriage decisions make voting pointless?

Do Supreme Court marriage decisions make voting pointless?

350px-Supreme_Court_US_2010June 26, 2013

By John Seiler

Several readers I never heard from before called me today about the Supreme Court decisions on marriage. They all were wondering if their votes on Proposition 8 in 2008 were pointless, along with voting in general.

Passed in 2008, Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage in California. People on both sides worked hard and spent money on the campaign. It was hard fought, and narrowly decided, 52-48. It would have been repealed in 2014 by another initiative.

But today, the U.S. Supreme Court made every vote on Prop. 8 in 2008, and every vote that might have been cast in 2014, utterly pointless. Worse than pointless. I spent time and gas money to go to the polling station in 2008. I took an hour off work. Wasted.

The court decided that the case didn’t have standing because Gov. Jerry Brown, the supposed top officer in the state (actually, it’s the people of California), didn’t appeal the case, only some people who backed Prop. 8. That means any initiative now passed in the state is operative only if the sitting governor agrees with it.

As constitutional scholar Hadley Arkes writes:

“if the state has a Democratic governor … he may declare now that he will not enforce the constitutional amendment, for he thinks it runs counter to the federal Constitution. And by the holding today in the case on Proposition 8 in California (Hollingsworth v. Perry), the backers of the constitutional amendment will have no standing in court to contest the judgment. Constitutional amendments are meant to secure provisions that will not be undone by the shift in season from one election to another. But with the combination of these two cases today, any liberal governor can virtually undo a constitutional amendment on marriage in his state.”

And a Republican governor, for that matter, could undo constitutional amendments in other states, such as those passed in Democratic states advancing gun control.

Strangely, the decision has turned governors into virtual dictators.

Reagan elections

But there’s more. As Ryan W. McMaken points out on, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the deciding vote and wrote the majority decision in the case overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, a conservative.

A lot of conservatives voted for Reagan for president six times, in the 1968, 1976, 1980 and 1984 primaries; and in the 1980 and 1984 general elections. But would they have supported him in any of those elections if they had been told his election would, decades later, lead to legal recognition for same-sex marriage? As late as 1984, it wasn’t even on the radar screen of issues anywhere.

As Time magazine noted today, “Seventeen years after a Democratic president signed a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman [in 1996], the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down Wednesday, capping one of the fastest civil rights shifts in the nation’s history.”

So, go back again … to 1968, 1976, 1980, 1984. This just wasn’t part of the political landscape at all. But Reagan advertised himself as a “traditional conservative,” and won the critical and strong support of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.

But it was all meaningless. Voting meant nothing. Bill Murray had it right in the 1979 movie “Meatballs”: It just doesn’t matter!


Write a comment
  1. mary
    mary 26 June, 2013, 16:48

    my comments or voting rights don’t mean crap, so why bother?

    Reply this comment
  2. Donkey
    Donkey 26 June, 2013, 18:38

    Your vote is in the same realm as the Constitution, meaningless!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  3. Beto Gomez
    Beto Gomez 26 June, 2013, 20:20

    Sad, sad day, sad comments. people is beginning to resign themselves t what they now see as inevitable. Jesus come soon!

    Reply this comment
  4. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 26 June, 2013, 20:34

    I have believed for some time now that voting is meaningless for the following reasons:

    No one vote ever decides any election, so an individual vote has no ultimate effect on the outcome anyway.

    In a one party state like Kalifornia if you dissent from the opinion of the ruling party you have no chance to make a change by voting for a feckless and moribund opposition which has no power.

    On the national level we really have a one party system also. The partisan Kabuki Theater that runs nightly on the TV news is really just a distraction from the real political process, which goes on behind closed doors and is unknown to the average Doofus Americanus. I can’t be the only person who has noticed that the fix is in on immigration amnesty and open borders. The Repulsivecan vs. Demoncrat circus is just entertainment for the complacent and gullible masses.

    So this all begs the real question – What do we do about it? At what point do we become so angry, desperate and determined that we will stick our necks out and take drastic measures to secure liberty for ourselves and our posterity, as did our forefathers.

    Dear President Obama, please don’t drone strike me for writing this, I really am just a harmless little fuzz ball. Also, I really don’t need to deal with a vindictive IRS audit either. Oh, and one other thing, your wife has man legs.

    Reply this comment
  5. Bruce Ross
    Bruce Ross 26 June, 2013, 21:52

    This is not a republic but a democracy, I’m often reminded. We are governed by laws and not the latest whim of public opinion.

    When the Supreme Court overturned democratically enacted gun bans a few years back, were your correspondents gnashing their teeth over the loss of the people’s authority? Or does that only happen when their team loses one?

    Reply this comment
  6. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 26 June, 2013, 22:53

    Bruce nailed it, the majority cannot take away constitutionally protected rights. I, like probably the vast majority of Americans, was initially opposed to gay marriage, but changed my tune 5 years ago- gay people getting married does NOTHING to me, so good luck to them, welcome to marriage and the brain damage that comes with it.

    Reply this comment
  7. Teddy S
    Teddy S 27 June, 2013, 08:06

    Funny how conservatives pretend to like the Constitution and just don’t like article 3 so much. Lmao!

    Reply this comment
  8. Eric
    Eric 27 June, 2013, 08:51

    I’m also troubled by the non-defense tactic that Brown used (and that the Obama administration practiced to a lesser degree for DOMA), but I really don’t think it’s as bleak as you paint it. The reason that no other party could claim standing was also driven by the key fact that nobody was ever able to make a convincing argument to the court about who would be tangibly harmed if gays were allowed to marry. That gap, which was true for DOMA as well, was fundamental to the outcome. Sure, there was “harm to the institution of marriage”, etc, but it’s much harder to put a face on that than on the other side, where (in the DOMA case) they could actually put a dollar value on harm.

    Same-sex couples will now marry in CA, and the US government will now recognize this as such, but the world will not end, and little of substance will change. This was a symbolic issue, sure, but did anyone think that there was a real question that prop 8 would be overturned anyway?

    Reply this comment
  9. Mark Landsbaum
    Mark Landsbaum 27 June, 2013, 09:22

    Excellent John: “That means any initiative now passed in the state is operative only if the sitting governor agrees with it.”

    Reason #3,054 to leave California.

    By the way, things are just peachy here in Texas. 🙂

    At your service in Christ . . .


    Reply this comment
  10. Matt Munson
    Matt Munson 27 June, 2013, 12:53

    So just because the voters of California supported housing discrimination in 1964 it should of been the law in the land?

    Reply this comment
  11. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 27 June, 2013, 13:22

    Matt: To what case are you referring?

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  12. Rug burn
    Rug burn 27 June, 2013, 14:21

    All we need now is a prizm/Svenguard/Eavedrop secret IT database to track voting records so we can send IRS agents to take out the dissenters. Karl would be proud.

    Reply this comment
  13. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 27 June, 2013, 14:59

    Matt was referring to Proposition 14, which was passed by a majority of voters in 1964 to overturn the Rumford Fair Housing Act passed into law by our legislature the year before.

    It’s surprising that you would be unfamiliar with it, John, since it was supported by your old newspaper and groups like the John Birch Society.

    Fortunately, it was quickly reversed by the California Supreme Court as a violation of the 14th Amendment, and that holding was later confirmed by the USSC for the same reason.

    So, John, do you support housing discrimination on the basis of race?

    Reply this comment
  14. Bruce Ross
    Bruce Ross 27 June, 2013, 16:51

    “This is not a republic but a democracy.”

    Did I write that? Meant the contrary, of course.

    Reply this comment
  15. Teddy S
    Teddy S 28 June, 2013, 13:05

    Skipping dog u rock

    Reply this comment

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