@SCOTUSBlog = #Awesome

We should hope for more controversial decisions in the future.  Here’s why…

@SCOTUSblog for the win.

What the Court Decisions Mean

First, I’m calling bull**** on the press conference outside the Supreme Court building.  If you’re trying to rhetorically justify your position by saying this is about “the children,” then you’re a moron.  Bone up and admit this is about you and what you want for your own life.  Nonetheless, that’s not the issue here.

Undoubtedly, religious conservatives will find fault with these decisions.  They’re wrong to do so.  Those that should be celebrating are the individuals who value the concept of federalism espoused in our Constitution (many of whom are the self-described social conservatives).  In both cases, the Supreme Court upheld essential part of that very concept.  In United States v. Windsor, the federal court correctly recognized that the federal government cannot deny benefits to certain classes of people properly recognized under State law.  In other words, if New York decides to recognize gay marriage and issue the benefits thereof, the federal government cannot discriminate against those couples in terms of how it applies its benefits given to married couples.  Social Security benefits are the first that come to mind here.

Again, should New York make that legal recognition for their own peoples’ relationships, the federal government is not entitled to deny benefits available to all other folks simply because it doesn’t agree with the State’s legal application of rights and liberties.  The concept essentially says that such legal classifications emanate from the States, not the Federal government.  That is the proper application if the Court is not entirely willing to remove the state (small “s”) from marriage altogether.

Here’s an important statement from the end of that decision:

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. [Emphasis Added]

Look, the end goal here should be to remove the state (small “s”) from marriage and affirm its responsibility to provide a proper venue to adjudicate disputes between parties to contracts.  That is a radical position, admittedly, and one that will take years to build support for in the population.  That said, I’m okay with today’s decision for what it is – a removal of the Federal government from the definition of marriage and remittance back to the States to where it belongs.

Now, onto Hollingsworth v. Perry.  The decision here is the absolutely correct one.  Standing is an important legal concept that defines who a proper party is to a lawsuit, and is important in helping the courts define whether or not they are the proper venue for adjudication of disputes.  An entire body of law is dedicated to defining this concept, both in terms of statute and case law, that guides our American jurisprudence.  That five justices on the Supreme Court who we would generally not look to as being agreeable in political persuasion came to this decision speaks volumes about its correctness.  From Chief Justice Roberts speaking for the majority:

Petitioners argue that the California Constitution and its election laws give them a “‘unique,’ ‘special,’ and ‘distinct’ role in the initiative process—one ‘involving both authority and responsibilities that differ from other supporters of the measure.’” True enough—but only when it comes to the process of enacting the law. Upon submitting the proposed initiative to the attorney general, petitioners became the official “proponents” of Proposition 8. As such, they were responsible for collecting the signatures required to qualify the measure for the ballot. §§9607–9609. After those signatures were collected, the proponents alone had the right to file the measure with election officials to put it on the ballot. Petitioners also possessed control over the arguments in favor of the initiative that would appear in California’s ballot pamphlets.

But once Proposition 8 was approved by the voters, the measure became “a duly enacted constitutional amendment or statute.”  Petitioners have no role—special or otherwise—in the enforcement of Proposition 8. They therefore have no “personal stake” in defending its enforcement that is distinguishable from the general interest of every citizen of California.

This is important.  Citizens do have a right to see their laws enforced equally and fairly.  However, we also empower our elected officials and bureaucracy to defend those laws in court viewed as important and letting die those that are not.  Simply put, our right to see laws enforced in a certain fashion manifests itself through our elections.  The federal government correctly recognized it does not have the authority and jurisdiction to force states to enforce State laws that its citizens demand it enforce, and properly failed to grant standing to those citizens.  That is an important limit on Federal powers and a recognition of State powers.

Two good decisions today from a legal standpoint.

…and the Supreme Court says?

I didn’t intend to blog the decisions of the Court, but waddya know, I did anyway.  Read below the fold for all the updates as the decisions were released.  An article will come out later today with some analysis.

10:03a:  Windsor v. U.S. – 5-4 decision.  DOMA is unconstitutional under the 5th Amendment.

10:05a:  Here is the opinion.

10:07a:  Here’s some of the text decision, highlighting the reasoning:

DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect. By doing so it violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government.

10:09a:  By the way, good coverage at SCOTUSblog.

Read more ...

SCOTUS strikes down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act

From Fox News:

In a major ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday voided a provision of the Voting Rights Act that determines which state and local governments have to seek federal permission to change their voting laws.  [Chief Justice Roberts] clarified that the provision requiring advance approval of voting law changes — known as Section 5 — was not being struck down. Rather, the court found that the provision pertaining to the formula, known as Section 4, was unconstitutional.

My Facebook and Twitter have been blowing up with conservative friends hailing the decision.  I’ve not seen too much from my more liberal minded friends, but it may be because they resigned themselves to this fate a while ago knowing the makeup of the Court.  As it stands, there is an important distinction to make between these two provisions of the law and how that may come to make conservatives not-too-happy in the future.

Section 5 – the enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act – allows for the Department of Justice to give “pre-clearance” to any change in a state’s election provisions.  Section 4(b) is what creates the test determines if the enforcement provision apply to the various jurisdictions on which it is enforced.  It reads:

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1964, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 percentum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1, 1964, or that less than 50 percentum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November 1964.

In striking down that part of the law, as opposed to Section 5, the law is not permanently dead and finding ways to truly fight racism in voting.  With a liberal enough Congress and President, a conceivably more expansive and arbitrary formula can be devised and be wholly permissible under CJ Roberts’s decision.

Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions stillexist justifying such an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.” Presley, 502 U. S., at 500–501. Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks tocurrent conditions.

That frightens me.  To give Congress that authority now or in the future fails to reasonably address what creates the conditions for racism today, and it isn’t de jure discrimination on the part of a governing body.  It’s a philosophical problem when racism exist, and it is something that can only be remedied by better educating our public and recognizing the value of individual people in our society.  Frankly, our government does a horrible at that aspect.  Conservatives can rejoice today, but I fear there is the possibility of a short lived victory.  The enforcement provision lives, and that’s a scary thought indeed.