I thought that today I would be writing about how SCOTUS scuttled federalism by striking down California Proposition 8, an initiative that amended the state’s constitution to define marriage between one man and one woman. But that is not the case.
In an interesting twist, those crafty Justices found a way to affect a desired outcome by walking a very thin line between recognizing a lack of authority to rule on the case and amending the US Constitution via judicial fiat. Instead, it chose to disenfranchise voters in states where legislation can be enacted through the referendum process by denying private organizations the ability to defend resulting legislation in Federal courts. The basic outcome then was to passively strike down the referendum process by allowing state officials to defend legislation enacted by referendum at their leisure.
At first glance, this Supreme Court decision appears counterproductive considering that referendum and recall were major political accomplishments of the progressive movement in 20th century. Perhaps it was a good idea while it served a purpose and appears worth the tradeoff when it blocks the immediate object of affection; but I believe this tradeoff to be entirely unwise in the long run.
The purpose of referendum was to provide voters with recourse when entrenched political powers failed to heed their wishes. At times, ‘voting the bums out’ does not work, and average people got tired of having to cope with a dysfunctional political system. And if the idea is not to have overbearing political machines forcing society in a direction it does not wish to go, regardless of topic, removing that check on the political system is not the thing we should be doing.
There will be broad and far reaching consequences from this decision that will be very difficult to undo because voter groups have now been removed from access to the courts and politicians can force on us whatever they wish, from whichever backers have the most cash. It’s a terrible way to have backed into legalizing gay marriage. While my sympathies are with people who wish to marry the person of their choosing, regardless of gender, I think this decision ought to be hazily reversed because taking the short cut through courts instead of convincing voters to change their minds will result in lost ground on many other topics that we can’t even possibly imagine which ones they might be at this point in time.
A bunch of idiots these people are; win one small battle only to end up losing the war.