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An emotional Supreme Court decision

You’ve heard these admonitions before: Don’t make a career decision after a bad day at the office. Don’t make estate decisions a week after a death. Don’t get married after just a handful of dates.

While feelings can spark thoughts about a big change, logic should be the bedrock of big decisions.

This summer, the United States Supreme Court committed the judiciary equivalent of getting hitched in Vegas. Its 5-4 decision on same-sex marriage is as emotion-packed as any court opinion I’ve read.

The majority begins its written opinion by recounting the dramatic stories of the people who filed the lawsuits being adjudicated. While I am empathetic to all people’s journeys, rational argumentation, not emotion, should begin and end a decision that drastically changes an age-old institution.

Extreme and sensational language permeates the opinion. According to the majority justices, existing marriage laws “demean”, “disparage”, “stigmatize”, “injure”, “lock out”, “disrespect”, “subordinate”, “deprive”, are “hurtful for the rest of time” and cause “pain and humiliation” and “the most perplexing and distressing complications.”

Their language is just as emotional in the affirmative. Flowery paragraphs espouse the loveliness and value of marriage and intimacy. These sections read like a brochure from Focus on the Family.

When the justices finally get to some logic, it is weak at best. They reference a variety of “right to marry” cases, noting that laws preventing interracial couples, prisoners and deadbeat dads from marrying have been overturned over time.

But, as Chief Justice John Roberts observes in his dissent, these cases never attempted to change the definition of marriage.

“Removing racial barriers to marriage did not change what a marriage was any more than integrating schools changed what a school was,” he states.

In another attempt at logic, the majority opinion references various “right to privacy” cases. For example, laws forbidding the use of contraceptives and acts of sodomy were struck in the name of bedroom autonomy.

Again, Roberts questions the validity of this line of reasoning since the petitioners seek not privacy but public recognition:

“Our cases have consistently refused to allow litigants to convert the shield provided by constitutional liberties into a sword to demand positive entitlements from the State.”

Finally, some thoughts on the judiciary principle of precedence. No precedent reaches back longer or stronger than marriage defined as the union of a man and a woman. Every recorded human civilization has held this view.

During oral arguments, even the petitioners acknowledged that no culture prior to 2001 defined marriage as between members of the same gender. Historically speaking, polygamy would be a shorter leap.

The audacity of both the petitioners and his robed colleagues compels Chief Justice Roberts to ask rhetorically and gravely, “Just who do we think we are?”

Who we are, Chief Justice, is a people doing whatever we want. The motto of our time is: What you believe is right because you believe it, and what you do is right because you do it.

This court decision came from five lawyers doing what they want with minimal rational thought to back it up. They went beyond their constitutional purview and legislated from the bench the worst kind of policy: emotionally-charged but logic-starved.

Kevin Thompson is a weekly columnist for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.


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