Chastity Brewer

The Picture: Marriage Equality Mix

Contemplation of Justice

“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”

David A. Strauss

There is a lot going on. Or maybe not. Where once the idea was that courts should stay out of things and let “democracy” pick and choose who gets what human and constitutional rights in the United States, many of those advocates are looking to the Supreme Court of the United States to cram the gays back into the closet. With Justice Ginsburg suggesting last month that the Supreme Court might get involved if the lower courts make a sufficient mess of things, and the Fifteenth Judicial District Court of Louisiana holding the line in terms of state courts, one might wonder about the fervor Robert Barnes noted last week for the Washington Post:

The 10th edition of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. begins work Monday with the prospect of a monumental ruling for gay rights that could serve as a surprising legacy of an otherwise increasingly conservative court.

Whether the justices will decide that the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry dominates expectations of the coming term; such a ruling would impart landmark status on a docket that so far lacks a blockbuster case.

And some say it would be a defining moment for a closely divided court that bears the chief justice’s name but is most heavily influenced by the justice in the middle: Anthony M. Kennedy, who has written the court’s most important decisions affording protection to gay Americans.

“If the court establishes a right to same-sex marriage . . . [it] will go down in history as one that was on the frontiers of establishing rights for gays and lesbians,” said David A. Strauss, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Chicago.

“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”

Something about blockbusters, to be certain; one would hope we have enough worked out about our society that we should not necessarily be rushing for a marquée show every year. That is to say, there is plenty wrong with society, but do we really have so many fundamental civil rights questions coming to the fore? And if so, well, what the hell is wrong with Americans that we have not yet figured out how some of these very basic concepts work?

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One of the Most Fascinating Political Questions of the Year

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Despite my deep respect and admiration for Ginsburg and her inspiring career, I find her approach extraordinarily reckless. For all of our sakes, here’s hoping her gamble pays off.”

Steve Benen

And as much as we all at This Is adore Mr. Benen’s insightful analyses, we do indeed disagree on occasion. And in the matter of whether or not Justice Ginsburg should retire, a simple question asserts itself: Do we trust Justice Ginsburg?

Benen’s overview is sufficient, let there be no doubt. And, to be certain, it is fair to point out that Ginsburg’s political calculations are not without risk. Furthermore, of course we all, as such, hope the gamble pays off. But in a time so uncertain as to cloud the prognostications of conventional wisdom, it also pays well to remember that not all things are equal. On paper, sure, the analysis suggesting Ginsburg is taking too big a risk by her political calculation is at least arguable. But what of the human terms? The variables resolve with diverse values, and in that, quite frankly, it is not a matter of who does one trust, Mr. Benen or Justice Ginsburg. The question to consider is whether or not one trusts Justice Ginsburg.

Fear the FrillIf her calculation is so dangerously awry, she ought not be on the Court in the first place. Those of us who not only appreciate her presence on the Court but also recognize the magnitude of what kindness history will speak of her tenure have every reason to trust Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In a way, it does help to point out: Remember, she’s the one throwing down. And before anyone stutters about Scalia or Alito or whoever, that is beside the point. Ginsburg recently let the lower courts know what was on the minds of the Supremes and while Justice Scalia was in Texas explaining why the perspectives of self-centered supremacist bigots from the eighteenth century should describe the twenty-first, Ginsburg explained to law students in Minnesota that the nation’s ranking court would not get involved in the growing noise and bluster over same-sex marriage unless lower courts botch it all up.

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