same-sex marriage

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.

The Constitutional Case for Same-Sex Marriage

As the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week on both Hollingsworth v. Perry - the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state - and U.S. v. Windsor - the challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognized marriage at the federal level as between a man and a woman – state and federal laws effecting marriage equality face their first legal confrontation with the Judicial Branch. Herein I make the constitutional case for marriage equality that respects both individual and religious liberties.

Last week, Senator Rand Paul proposed removing federal recognition of marriage - for everyone – telling Bob Costa at the National Review:

Religious doctrine is NOT a basis for law

Despite having no faith of my own, I am fine with those who do.  If you want to live your life according to the teachings of a holy book or religious leader, I’m fine as long as you cause me no harm. I honestly could not care less if you believe in no god or twenty, given none of those gods are telling you to hurt people. But it is a different issue entirely when you try to suggest that our laws should reflect the doctrines of your particular church.

The conservative argument against marriage equality has long been couched in talk about “harm to children” and “destroying traditional marriage”, but in reality it has always been based on a simple idea - my religion doesn’t approve of homosexuality, therefore our laws cannot condone it.  As it has become more and more apparent that same-sex marriage causes no harm whatsoever, anti-equality forces have gotten more desperate.

Take this post at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog.  Ostensibly about a new marriage equality law in Illinois, the author mentions the actual law only in passing before launching in a defense of marriage buttressed only by the words of a Catholic priest (who, incidentally, had some interesting things to say when a gay pride parade was moved to pass by his church).  Does this priest have any special knowledge on the subject of marriage?  It doesn’t appear so.  His expertise clearly lies in one thing - the teachings and doctrine of his church.

Can the GOP ignore social conservatives?

For years it has been conventional wisdom that the GOP needs the votes of social conservatives to win elections.  Defined loosely, a “social conservative” is someone who has very traditional, restrictionist views on so-called “social issues” like abortion and same-sex marriage.  These voters are mostly white and evangelical Christians.  They support strong restrictions on abortion and oppose any recognition of gay couples.  In short, they are basically anti-libertarians.  As such, the moderate wing of the party has always them as a necessary but disliked coalition partner.

In recent years, though, the tide has started to turn against this strategy.  The portion of the electorate that votes strictly on social issues is shrinking.  Attitudes are changing on gay rights and, while the country tends to lean pro-life, it’s fairly clear that most voters are repulsed by the extreme views held by some pro-life polticians.  It’s clear, then, that the GOP can’t rely on anti-gay rhetoric and severe positions on abortion to win.

The call, then, naturally is coming from those who never even liked social conservatives to push this portion of the voting population to the wayside.  Some, like my colleague Jeremy Kolassa, argue that the GOP should entirely ignore social conservatives.  The thinking goes that moderating on abortion and gay rights will gather enough new votes to make it possible to live without hardline social cons.

Despite economic struggles, Democrats place emphasis on social issues

DNC debt cartoon

Over the last couple of years, libertarians have complained about the emphasis conservatives, particularly the Rick Santorums and Mike Huckabees their movement, have placed on social issues. We’ve noted that conservatives should focus their message on issues where they can attract agreement — such as repealing ObamaCare, lessening regulation on businesses, cutting spending, and reducing taxes.

While I support same-sex marriage and have grown increasingly pro-choice within reason, the Republican National Convention was a largely a breath of fresh air from this perspective . That’s not to say that I agree with everything said on the budget, economy or foreign policy, but the discussion of social issues was relatively mild with Republicans choosing instead to place a heavy focus on the economic record of President Barack Obama.

But watching the Democratic National Convention off-and-on for a couple of days, one can’t help but notice the heavy emphasis on social issues. There is certainly a discussion and defense of President Obama’s economic record, but abortion, same-sex marriage, and labor unions been featured heavily.

Of course, this is really isn’t surprising. Democrats have tried to change the narrative at several points since the beginning of the year; usually by complaining that there is some supposed “war” being waged against a segment of the American public.

Chick-Fil-A comes under fire for anti-gay marriage position

Chick-Fil-A

On Sunday, my wife and I went to see Refused, a Swedish hardcore band that just recently got back together after 14 years. I’m not going to be a hipster about it, so I’ll admit that I didn’t get into them until around 2000, a couple of years after the split up, after seeing the video for “New Noise.” After listening to their last record, The Shape of Punk to Come (1998, Burning Heart Records), I realized that they were very anti-capitalist, going so far as to call it a “crime.”

So while I was at the show, I wasn’t surprised to hear Dennis Lyxzén, the band’s frontman, mention their views, even though it was incredibly brief. We paid around $70 for our two tickets, another $50 for two t-shirts, and walked into the show with a full awareness of what to expect. In fact, these viewpoints are common in the style of music to which I listen. Bands like Propaghandi, NOFX, and a slew of others all express an anti-capitalist point of view, whether it’s in their lyrics or activism. As a believer in free markets, I just happen to strongly disagree.

The same could be said of Chick-Fil-A. The Atlanta-based restaurant chain has once again come under fire over its stance on a hotly debated social issue. In an interview for the Baptist Press, Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, expressed his company’s opposition to same-sex marriage:

In a departure from previous comments, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a Baptist website that the Atlanta-based company is “guilty as charged” in its support of traditional marriage.

Marriage and Limited Government

Fifteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. Since the topic of marriage is at the front of my mind, I thought I’d write about an issue of double standards that surrounds the whole marriage argument. The issue of marriage is, to say the least, a very sensitive topic, and this post might end up being one of my posts that steps on some toes. You’ve been warned.

My wife and I were married in a small church in Warner Robins, Georgia. Our wedding was a ceremony committing our lives to each other before God and our friends. We had a state-issued marriage license, but Georgia’s stance on our marital stance was (and is) inconsequential. If Georgia were to revoke our marriage license and declare us single, we would still be married in the eyes of our church because our union is a religious union.

As with most things, the problem with marriage comes when government gets too involved. Since marriage is a religious partnership, the government has no place defining – or redefining – what marriage is. That is the role of the religious institution that administers the wedding; it is not the role of government.

To take it a step further, government has no right to dictate to a church who it will or will not allow to be married. It’s very similar to the issue of a church’s qualifications for pastors or priests. Some churches forbid women pastors while some allow women to serve in that capacity. Some require celibacy, while that’s not an issue for other churches. Each church enforces the qualifications according to its own doctrine, and the government – state or federal – has absolutely no business dictating behavior to a church.

Libertarianism and The Center

Libertarians constantly face the preeminent struggle to form and implement strategies to gain political relevance. The party has never achieved a result better than 1% on a Presidential Election. Adding to our frustration is the failure of the Libertarian Party to capitalize on the opportunity Ron Paul’s groundbreaking Republican Primary campaign, which gained new ground for the libertarian philosophy in terms of visibility. Bob Barr’s campaign failed to crack 500,000 votes in an election cycle in which Ron Paul earned more than 1 million votes in Republican primaries and caucuses.

Mike Huckabee’s cultural reactionarism isn’t the solution for America, liberty is

Mike Huckabee has joined a group called World Congress of Families (are they Workers too?) in opposing “sexual radicals” who previously opposed their upcoming conference in Australia. Unclear if the group also opposes long-haired hippie music, flowers, and Woodstock.

The letter signed by Huckabee and dozens of other theocrats and social reactionaries, including former Texas Congressman and terrible dancer Tom DeLay, claims to support the “international pro-family movement”. They of course specifically define the “natural family” as “a man and women united by faith and tradition, raising their children in a loving environment.” They don’t say if the combination of singular “man” and plural “women” is an intentional endorsement of polygamy or an unintentional one, nor if non-religious or childless couples count as families. They would probably grudgingly admit they are, as long as the genders were of the approved variety.

The end of the letter illuminates the real problem with Huckabee & Co’s worldview (and subsequent politics):

To the Political Left, Dissent Equals Hatred

A recent Twitter exchange between the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson and New York Times reporter Josh Barro perfectly captures the growing political polarization in America today.

Anderson, rapidly becoming the go-to voice in defense of traditional marriage (his book was cited twice by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in last year’s same-sex marriage cases), is about as unassuming a character as one can imagine for a defender of such a suddenly controversial issue. He is, by his own estimation, “bookish,” and your never hear him raise his voice during debate, nor hurl a personal insult at someone who disagrees with him, even when he is being attacked.

While defending the position of traditional marriage, Anderson has also made it perfectly clear that he believes that ALL human beings have intrinsic worth, and should be treated with kindness, respect, and civility. The NYT’s Josh Barro, on the other hand, disagrees mightily. In that recent Twitter exchange, Barro accused Anderson of being “anti-LGBT,” and declared “some people are deserving of incivility.”

Think about that. To the liberal left, people who disagree with them on certain topics are worthy of condemnation, disrespect, and incivility. No longer can reasonable people approach the same issue from different perspectives, with different worldviews, philosophies, and political or religious viewpoints, and still be friends. No, for the left, to disagree with someone is to attack them personally, to discredit their intrinsic worth, to demonize them. Barro, exposing a deep sense of insecurity, claims that Anderson’s differing view on the topic means that he thinks “you’re better than me.”


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