Did anyone else notice that the Supreme Court just knocked down a goodly-sized portion of Bill Clinton’s legal legacy?
The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.
The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation’s most populous state in about a month.
The high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.
The only part I have any real trouble with is covered in that first graf — marriage shouldn’t come with any tax, health, or government pension benefits. It simply isn’t the government’s business to lavish things on people for being married.
What’s interesting is the non-ideological split of the 5-4 vote. There aren’t many issues where the winning team consists of Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia. It’s disappointing (but not entirely surprising) not to see Clarence Thomas in there making it 6-3.
The best part is Roberts’ ringing defense of federalism regarding California’s Prop 8. He wrote, “We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit.” Exactly right. Although I suspect Ginsburg and Kagan found themselves siding with Roberts out of a conviction favoring gay marriage, rather than a conviction that there are any real limits to what Washington may tell the states to do. It’s a good guess that’s one reason Roberts wrote the decision himself.
A SCOTUS win is a SCOTUS win, but a well-reasoned SCOTUS win is a thing of beauty and healthful to the Republic. But I’ll give my Twitter self the last word on this one.
CORRECTION: I’ll give the last word to the President instead.
image courtesy shutterstock / Syda Productions