How Republicans Should Respond to a Supreme Court Marriage Ruling

Five justices seem to be signaling that they will once again legislate from the bench

“The Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and a future Republican President should regard and treat the decision just as the Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and the Republican President—Abraham Lincoln—regarded and treated the Dred Scott decision. They should, in other words, treat it as an anti-constitutional and illegitimate ruling.”

 

Dred Scott v. Sandford was the infamous case in which the Supreme Court of the United States, usurping the constitutional authority of the people acting through their elected representatives in Congress, purported to deny the power of the United States to prohibit slavery in the federal territories. It is very much worth recalling that Dred Scott was not just a case about slavery. It was a case about the scope and limits of judicial power. It was a case in which judges, lacking any warrant in the text, structure, logic, or historical understanding of the Constitution, attempted to impose their own favored resolution of a morally charged debate about public policy on the entire nation.

The Supreme Court did it again in 1905 in the case of Lochner v. New York (invalidating a worker protection statute enacted by the state legislature), and then several more times in the Warren Court era, culminating in Roe v. Wade—the Dred Scott decision of our own time. Now we face the prospect of yet another Dred Scott-type decision—this time on the question of marriage. I say that, not because same-sex relationships are the moral equivalent of slavery—they are not—but because five justices seem to be signaling that they will once again legislate from the bench by imposing, without constitutional warrant, their own beliefs about the nature and proper definition of marriage on the entire country.

If that happens, the Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and a future Republican President should regard and treat the decision just as the Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and the Republican President—Abraham Lincoln—regarded and treated the Dred Scott decision. They should, in other words, treat it as an anti-constitutional and illegitimate ruling in which the judiciary has attempted to usurp the authority of the people and their elected representatives.

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