The Real Significance of the Popular Vote in Ireland: Making Gay Marriage Legal

The Spanish Wedding, Mariano Fortuny, 1838-1874

While headlines celebrate the significance of Ireland voting to become the first nation in the world to make gay marriage legal, the real significance of the vote may be found in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a case before the Supreme Court right now, from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, Judge Jeffrey Sutton said that such a profound change in the institution of marriage should be decided not by “an intermediate court” like his, but by “the less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes.”

[RELATED on OCR: “Four Same-Sex Marriage Questions Americans Must Answer”]

In reading the 2-1 verdict handed down in November, readers will find that Judge Sutton made the strong case that there is no constitutional right for the Federal Court to interfere with what is clearly a states rights issue, particularly since the gay marriage movement has been so successful in persuading citizens to vote to give them the rights they seek. In three states they have won a popular vote legalizing gay marriage, while also being successful in eight other states by convincing state legislators to enact state laws granting them the rights they seek. In fact, the democratic process has been reliable.

[RELATED on OCR: “SCOTUS: Supreme Inconsistency”]

Judge Sutton clearly saw that these successes undermined the case of the gay marriage advocates, in which they claim that the courts must intercede on their behalf because they have been unfairly denied their rights through the traditional processes. This simply is not true. They want the courts to do their work for them in pursuit of “rights” they claim they deserve, regardless of how court action would trample the actual, well-established constitutional rights of millions of their fellow citizens. That is not how the democratic process works.

[RELATED on OCR: “The Fight for Marriage, Part 1”]

The election last weekend in Ireland further demonstrates that the goals of the gay-marriage advocates are within their grasp, if they are willing to do the work to make their case to their fellow citizens. As many of the quotes in the media after the Irish election suggested, “it is just a matter of time.” They are right, but not how they mean it. The factor of time is in fact the key to the Court’s decision. Our Supreme Court Justices should clearly see the evidence that Judge Sutton saw and not move to exceed the Court’s powers. A ruling by the Supreme Court imposing gay marriage on citizens in all 50 states, throwing out the legal votes of tens of millions of citizens and undermining the rights of states to determine their own laws, is now clearly not only unnecessary but legally indefensible.

[RELATED on OCR: “The Fight for Marriage, Part 2”]

The ruling to declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) illegal was the right ruling because the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA infringed on states rights. The Supreme Court must follow its own precedent and uphold the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and overturn the lower court rulings in other districts which deny citizens and states their constitutional rights. We look forward to a legally and factually sound ruling by the Court this June and to continuing the “the less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes.”

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Tom Zawistowsi is president of the We the People Convention.

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