“In Windsor v United States, a narrow majority of the US Supreme Court ruled that a federal law defining marriage violated the federal constitution because that law conflicted with the right of states to define marriage. In the particular case, the state of New York had acted to redefine marriage, making it genderless, putting the definition of marriage chosen by New York lawmakers at odds with the federal definition of marriage. This pro states-rights ruling in Windsor has since been twisted by many federal judges, using it to falsely claim that traditional marriage provisions adopted by states are unconstitutional.”
Mr. Brown has grossly misinterpreted what the Justices intended and spun the words used in the majority opinion to his own advantage. I suppose that is to be expected in such a polarized political arena as Brown’s God vs. Everyone Else. But let’s look at this more closely.
Brian Brown’s Opinion of the Opinion
Obviously, based on the quoted excerpt from his most recent blog, Mr. Brown believes that the Supreme Court Justices have ruled that each state can make their own decisions about what defines marriage. He believes this based on the fact that the Supremes stated that the Defense of Marriage Act (at least part of it) was unconstitutional based on the fact that New York had defined marriage not by Mr. Brown’s traditional standard, but to include same-sex couples. Therefore, all states have the sovereign right to define marriage and the federal government needs to stay on their own side of the church pew, thank you very much.
The Truth is A Little Bit Different
The Justices were not asked to decide whether same-sex marriage was constitutional in New York, or in any other state. As of this writing, they have not made a decision whether to hear any case that poses this particular question. (The most recent cases for which any decision has been made includes my home state of Utah, when the Justices declined to hear the state’s appeal and same-sex marriage became the law of the land.)
On the contrary, the question that the Windsor case posed to the SCOTUS was whether the United States Government could or should hold American citizens to a different standard based on gender when it came to marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act was on trial here, not same-sex marriage.
When rendering their decision on Windsor vs. The United States, the Supremes stated that New York (in fact, all states) had the right to define marriage, and as of this writing, they still do; although those rights are being challenged in courts all over the country right now. Because New York had the right to define marriage, and they defined marriage as including same-sex couples through legislation in 2011, the United States government did not have the right to disparage or make unequal any legal marriage in that state. One of the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act did this very thing by not recognizing for federal benefits any same-sex marriage.
In no way does the Windsor decision make a decision regarding or ratify in any way the veracity of equal marriage bans in any state, including Florida. The Supremes did not decide whether marriage bans were constitutional or not, and nothing they said in the Windsor decision indicates that they did. They simply stated that, as of that decision and for the purposes of the question posed to them, states have the right to define marriage.
As for Florida, and any other state where a lawsuit has risen to the federal appeals court level, their laws can and should be challenged and reviewed by the judicial branch of our government, which was set up as a checks and balances system to prevent one branch from stomping the rights of any citizen. Can "activist judges" make decisions that change the "will of the people" in any given state? Why, yes. Yes, they can. That is their job; it is their duty. That's what they are supposed to do when weighing the constitutionality of laws enacted that might harm citizens.
We shall wait and see whether the Supremes will hear a case that answers the question Mr. Brown anticipates. Perhaps they will. Perhaps they will let the current tide carry the country to full equality. Because of at least one federal judge’s decision to side with Mr. Brown’s definition of marriage, one can harbor some hope that the Justices will agree to hear a case on the matter. In the meantime, equality is the law of the land in Florida, whether Mr. Brown and his followers like it or not.