Hollingsworth v. Perry

Lasting Effects of the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 Decision

Stephanie Rugolo is the editor of The Rugolo Report and holds an M.A. from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

A strange thing happened in the Supreme Court’s recentHollingsworth v. Perry decision. Even though this case focused on California’s Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage, the court was split, with both liberals and conservatives comprising the majority and dissenting parties. It turns out that the rationale by which the Court’s majority decided the Hollingsworth case led to the justices’ scrambled ideological divisions. The Court’s reason for striking down Prop 8 limits civilians’ ability to legally defend initiatives, a disturbing limit to democratic liberties.

Proposition 8 was a citizens’ initiative passed in 2008 elections. A citizens’ initiative is unlike most laws passed by elected legislatures. Instead, these laws are initiatives of the citizens—that is, they are the result of independent citizens gaining enough signatures to get a proposed law on the ballot.

When gay couples brought a suit against Prop 8 that found the law unconstitutional, the State of California had no intention of appealing the decision. After all, neither the former nor current Californian administrations passed it in the first place, as it was a citizens’ initiative. Consequently, individual proponents of Prop 8 volunteered to appeal the decision in court. That raised questions of standing—whether Prop 8 supporters had a tangible stake in the case and thus a right to appeal. The Ninth Court found they did have standing before finding Prop 8 unconstitutional.

Romney Data Scientist: Americans View Marriage, Abortion Differently


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United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who may or may not have been separated at birth from Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character from Saturday Night Live, may have signaled how she’ll decide Hollingsworth v. Perry (covered here by Travis) when she recently characterized the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade as somewhat reactionary and hurried.

Americans would be broadly disappointed, argues former Romney 2012 chief data scientist and Target Point Consulting vice president and research director Alex Lundry, if the Court bases its Hollingsworth ruling on Ginsburg’s feelings about the Roe decision. It’s not that Lundry believes the Court shouldn’t be insulated from popular opinion. But when you set aside the substantive and legal differences between the two cases and the policy issues which they embody respectively, Americans fundamentally view gay marriage and abortion in different ways.

He writes in The Daily Caller, looking at opinion polling and demographic data from a number of sources:

A clear majority of the country favors providing same-sex couples with the ability to marry, while opinion on abortion has remained closely divided for almost 40 years. A March poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 58% of Americans support gay and lesbian Americans’ legal right to wed — a record high. That majority will likely grow into a broad-based consensus in the not-too-distant future, as polls reveal that more than four out of five voters under 30 support legalizing same-sex marriage.


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