Fifteen congressman have signed on to a resolution by Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.) condemning a California judge’s overturning of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative passed in 2008 which defined marriage in the state constitution as between a man and a woman.
“This debate, I want to emphasize, is not about the worth of gay individuals,” said Smith at a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “It really goes to the core of democracy and the right of the American people to determine for themselves what the laws…ought to be.”
Smith pointed out that 45 states have reaffirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Smith’s resolution affirms that people in any state have the right to define marriage as such.
“It is absolutely inconceivable to me that authors of the Constitution ever intend to create a right to same-sex marriage,” Smith said. “I do not understand how any judge could find that it was contrary to the Constitution to have a majority of voters of the state weigh in on their opinion.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) addressed a report in the Los Angeles Times that Judge Vaughn Walker cited a rational-basis test to the decision, saying there was no rational basis to exclude gays and lesbians from marriage.
“Are we now in the position of giving a judge the decision to decide whether or not the American people are rational when they go to the voting booth and make their wishes known?” Bachmann asked.
Rep. John Fleming (R.-La.) refuted the idea that the resolution was crafted to ignite the Republicans’ voting base coming up to the midterm elections in November.
“We would be up here today if this were unpopular to have this resolution—we’ve run no polls,” Fleming said. “This has to do with a belief in our commitments, and it also has to do with the Constitution of the United States.”
Apart from the marriage issue, the representatives voiced their concern that the ruling demonstrates judicial activism.
“You have a biased judge imposing his personal views contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people of the state,” Smith said. “That is judicial activism at its worst.”
“Which judge do we follow—do we follow a judge who decided that it is rational to define marriage as one man, one woman?” Bachmann asked. “Or do we take another judge’s pronouncement? So will it be the battle of morals between various judges?”
Bachmann pointed to the Kelo v. City of New London decision in 2004 as an example of how judicial activism is angering people nationwide.
“The Kelo decision sent off a firestorm across the country,” Bachmann said. “That decision wasn’t based on a social issue—it was based on a private property rights issue and an issue of eminent domain for public localities.”
“When a judge takes the law into their hands and seeks to establish a social policy that is their preference without respect for the Constitution, without respect for the rule of law, then that decision needs to be rejected, and, frankly, I think this resolution is a good step in the right direction.” said Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa).
King predicted the case will go to the Supreme Court and that newly confirmed Justice Elena Kagan would vote in what he termed the “activist” route—to uphold Prop 8.
“That would have been a reason to vote no on her confirmation,” King said.