Roe and Gay Marriage: Will the Court Repeat Itself?

Pro life march

“You should be very hesitant about shutting down a political debate.”

This statement is directed at the United States Supreme Court. It echoes something I’ve written about repeatedly here on Public Catholic: I think that it would be a mistake that would harm the country for the Supreme Court to issue a sweeping ruling about gay marriage.

My reason is not based on the fact that I support traditional marriage. It is based on the tragedy of Roe v Wade. The states were debating the issue of abortion at the time Roe v Wade was issued. Some states were beginning to allow abortion in a broad range of circumstances, others were not. Some, such as New York, had passed laws allowing a broader availability of abortion and were considering narrowing what they had done. 

Komen planned parenthood story body

All this was part of the natural process of the way our Republic works. It was contentious, but it was also healthy. When the Supreme Court stepped in and took the question out of the states’ hands, it created a culture war that has gone on for 40 years and that shows no signs of abating. It also created a social situation which gave rise to direct attacks on our freedoms under the Constitution such as the HHS Mandate. 

Gay marriage is in a similar situation as abortion was before Roe. It is gaining public acceptance. Laws in several states are beginning to reflect this public acceptance. 

However, I think that if the Court steps in with a broad ruling, it will create a situation similar to the one Roe did. The country is already greatly damaged by the culture war Roe created. This damage is on-going and, in many ways, getting worse. If the Court adds gay marriage to this situation it will create God only knows what kind of tragedy for this country. 

I’ve read that Supeme Court Justice Ruth Bader Gingsberg feels the Court should have overturned the Texas law that was being challenged in Roe and left the other laws intact. I think she sees the problem, but not the solution. The Court should have remanded the issue of abortion back to the states. Period. Which is what they should do with gay marriage.

Notice I do not say that I think they should rule that marriage is between one man and one woman. They should refer the issue to the states, and let the system work. 

Let the people speak. 

It’s that simple. 

Here is a discussion of what I’ve been talking about from — of all places — the New York Times. It says in part:

 

WASHINGTON — When the Supreme Court hears a pair of cases on same-sex marriage on Tuesday and Wednesday, the justices will be working in the shadow of a 40-year-old decision on another subject entirely: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Judges, lawyers and scholars have drawn varying lessons from that decision, with some saying that it was needlessly rash and created a culture war.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal and a champion of women’s rights, has long harbored doubts about the ruling.

“It’s not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far, too fast,” she said last year at Columbia Law School.

Briefs from opponents of same-sex marriage, including one from 17 states, are studded with references to the aftermath of the abortion decision and to Justice Ginsburg’s critiques of it. They say the lesson from the Roe decision is that states should be allowed to work out delicate matters like abortion and same-sex marriage for themselves.

“They thought they were resolving a contentious issue by taking it out of the political process but ended up perpetuating it,” John C. Eastman, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage and a law professor at Chapman University, said of the justices who decided the abortion case. “The lesson they should draw is that when you are moving beyond the clear command of the Constitution, you should be very hesitant about shutting down a political debate.” (Read the rest here.) 


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