Dan Walters

Dan Walters

More Information

Dan Walters: Supreme Court unlikely to be bold in Prop. 8 case

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 - 4:04 pm

Morally and logically, there's no reason that same-sex couples should be denied the right to marry and thus hold the same privileges and responsibilities of other married couples.

Even though an increasing number of other Californians now share that opinion – likely a majority, in fact – the state's voters approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that declares that only marriages between men and women are legal, five years ago.

Those who fervently favor "marriage equality," as they call it, and those who just as adamantly believe in the legal and moral sanctity of traditional man-woman marriages, both want the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Proposition 8's legality to be decisive.

However, it appears from justices' questions and observations Tuesday that the court may not issue a sweeping ruling that would settle the issue once and for all for the entire nation.

As it has on other issues, the court may resolve its own internal discord with a narrow ruling that would apply only to California and not affect other states.

It could dismiss the case, as swing vote Anthony Kennedy (a Californian) seems to suggest, thereby indirectly upholding the lower federal rulings that the measure, as drafted, is an unconstitutional abrogation of Californians' rights. It could directly uphold the lower court rejection of Proposition 8. Or it could affirm the right of California voters to legislate on the definition of marriage as they see fit.

Any of those approaches would leave intact the laws of other states, either favoring or disfavoring same-sex marriage. That possibility arises because Proposition 8 is not only an issue of same-sex marriage, as true believers on both sides contend, but one of states' rights to decide such matters according to their own cultural values, either through the legislative process or via ballot measure.

When the Supreme Court issued its decree on abortion rights four decades ago, it usurped state-by-state determinations on that equally explosive and divisive matter and, it's now conceded even by some supporters of "choice," it engendered decades of political turmoil by leapfrogging ahead of public sentiment on the issue.

Mindful of that, the current court appears to be more cautious on the marriage-equality issue and may be more inclined to let public opinion evolve before engraving a pro-equality position into national law, as it did on abortion.

California's long-term cohesion might be better served were Proposition 8 to be upheld as an exercise of states' rights and then repealed and marriage equality be ratified via another ballot measure, as it probably would be today.

Such an outcome would avoid the specter of having a court 3,000 miles away overturn voters' decision, even one that now appears to be wrongheaded.

Call The Bee's Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/walters. Follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Dan Walters

Dan Walters, political columnist

Dan Walters

Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than a half-century, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. At one point in his career, at age 22, he was the nation's youngest daily newspaper editor.

He joined The Sacramento Union's Capitol bureau in 1975, just as Jerry Brown began his first governorship, and later became the Union's Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, Walters began writing the state's only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic and social events and, in 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee. He has written more than 7,500 columns about California and its politics and his column now appears in dozens of California newspapers.

Email: dwalters@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1195
Twitter: @WaltersBee

Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads


Price Range:
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older