In recent weeks, many have asked me if it is legally, constitutionally, and historically appropriate to resist the Supreme Court’s same-sex “marriage” ruling. The clear answer is “yes,” and here is at least one answer that meets all three of those criteria—legal, constitutional, and historical.
The appropriateness of Americans resisting the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is based, in part, on what Abraham Lincoln said after the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision. He said that when a Supreme Court decision (1) does not “accord both with common sense, and the customary understanding of the legal profession,” (2) has not “been made by the unanimous concurrence of the judges, (3) does not have “any apparent partisan bias, (4) is not “in accordance with legal public expectation,”(5) is not “in accordance . . . with the steady practice of the departments throughout our history,” and (6) is not “based on assumed historical facts which are not really true,” then that decision may be considered settled and resistance to it “factious” only if it has “been affirmed and re-affirmed through a course of years.”
Application of that test to Obergefell leads to only one conclusion, namely, that Obergefell is not “settled,” should be given little to no precedential value, and can be constitutionally resisted.
Lincoln’s test may first be applied to the Obergefell decision as follows:
- Same-sex “marriage” is not in accord with common sense and not in accord with the “customary understanding” of marriage in the legal profession.
- It was not only not unanimous, but it provoked four of the most strongly worded dissents in the history of the Court.
- Justice Ginsburg showed bias prior to oral arguments in Obergefell. She reflected in her statement that the public seemed ready to accept same-sex “marriage” and referred to constitutional rights in connection with a same-sex “marriage” she officiated.
- It was not in accordance with the legal expectation of the states but, to the contrary, the expectation of people of the states was that marriage should remain a relationship between a man and woman as evidenced by the passage of thirty-one state constitutional marriage amendments.
- The recognition of same-sex “marriage” has not been the “steady practice . . . throughout our history,” since the first legal same-sex “marriage” in America wasn’t “authorized” by a state court until 2004.
- It was based on a wrong understanding of the historical facts regarding the nature of marriage, extrapolating from matters like the abolition of coverture that the fundamental nature of marriage as a man and a woman had somehow also evolved.
Since Obergefell fails the first part of Lincoln’s test, it can be considered “settled” law deserving of deference only if the Court’s authority over the states to define marriage has been “affirmed and reaffirmed through a course of years.” This has not been done in regard to a number of issues, including the constitutionality of the Court’s authority to affirmatively dictate to states a law that they must enact.
If Lincoln’s statement reflects an appropriate, historical test for evaluating whether the exercise of authority by the Supreme Court is to be accepted by other branches of civil government or by the states, which a number of constitutional experts believe it does, then Obergefell v. Hodges is not “settled law.”
Thus, it is certainly more than appropriate for citizens and the states to resist the Court’s ruling by appropriate means. Stay tuned for more on what that looks like.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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