In a pair of rulings that elicited outrage and deep anguish among members of the Jewish community, as well as other supporters of tradition and moral values throughout the country, the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
Agudath Israel of America condemned the rulings.
“Society’s mores may shift and crumble, but eternal verities exist. One is marriage,” it said in a terse statement. “Its sanctity may have been grievously insulted by the High Court today, but that sanctity remains untouched.” House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio), said he was disappointed in the outcome of the federal marriage case, while President Barack Obama and, in particular, New York Senator Charles Schumer, along with a long list of other liberal politicians, praised the decisions.
In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s liberal justices.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia dissented.
In the California case, the ruling was decided on technical grounds. It did not address the constitutionality of the proposition that was passed in a state-wide referendum. Instead, the ruling, which was not along ideological lines, found that the defenders of the proposition, who are private citizens, did not have the legal standing to appeal the decision of a trial court that invalidated the proposition.
“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.
“We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit,” he added.
Ironically, Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in the DOMA case, dissented in this case, saying that the court’s majority ignored the process that led to the passage of Proposition 8.
“What the court fails to grasp or accept is the basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this: The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around. Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from government,” Kennedy said. “In California and the 26 other states that permit initiatives and popular referendums, the people have exercised their own inherent sovereign right to govern themselves. The court today frustrates that choice.”