6 Quotes from Judge Feldman’s Ruling on Marriage

Here are six excerpts from Judge Martin L. C. Feldman‘s landmark ruling against same-sex civil marriage in Robicheaux, et al. v. Caldwell.

“The Court first takes up the most hefty constitutional issue: Equal Protection. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution commands that no state shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ … ‘The Equal Protection Clause…essentially directs that all persons similarly situated be treated alike.’ [Stoneburner v. Sec’y of the Army] However, ‘if a law neither burdens a fundamental right nor targets a suspect class,’ the Supreme Court has held, ‘the legislative classification [will survive] so long as it bears a rational relation to some legitimate end.’ [Romer v. Evans] When conducting rational basis review, the Supreme Court has instructed that ‘we will not overturn such [government action] unless the varying treatment of different groups or persons is so unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legitimate purposes that we can only conclude that the [government’s] actions were irrational.’ [Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents] ‘In the ordinary case, a law will be sustained if it can be said to advance a legitimate government interest, even if the law seems unwise or works to the disadvantage of a particular group, or if the rationale seems tenuous.’ [Romer] If, however, heightened scrutiny, the most unforgiving, is warranted, then a law must be ‘necessary to the accomplishment’ of ‘a compelling governmental interest.’ [Palmore v. Sidoti]” [p. 6-7]

“No authority dictates, and plaintiffs do not contend, that same-sex marriage is anchored to history or tradition. The concept of same-sex marriage is ‘a new perspective, a new insight,’ nonexistent and even inconceivable until very recently. [United States v. Windsor] Many states have democratically chosen to recognize same-sex marriage. But until recent years, it had no place at all in this nation’s history and tradition. Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. [Malagon de Fuentes v. Gonzales] There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.” [p. 21-22]

“Although plaintiffs would fashion a modern constitutional construct and place side by side this case to Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), in which the Supreme Court held that Texas’ antisodomy statute violated substantive due process, the Court in Lawrence specifically found that the Texas law furthered no legitimate state interest sufficient to justify its intrusion on the right to privacy. [Id. at 578.] This Court is persuaded that Louisiana has a legitimate interest…whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others…in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents, as specifically underscored by Justice Kennedy in Windsor.” [p. 23]

“This Court has arduously studied the volley of nationally orchestrated court rulings against states whose voters chose in free and open elections, whose legislatures, after a robust, even fractious debate and exchange of competing, vigorously differing views, listened to their citizens regarding the harshly divisive and passionate issue on same-sex marriage. The federal court decisions thus far exemplify a pageant of empathy; decisions impelled by a response of innate pathos. Courts that, in the words of Justice Scalia in a different context…appear to have assumed the mantle of a legislative body.” [p. 26]

“Perhaps in a new established point of view, marriage will be reduced to contract law, and, by contract, anyone will be able to claim marriage. Perhaps that is the next frontier, the next phase of some ‘evolving understanding of equality,’ where what is marriage will be explored. … But that is an incomplete answer to today’s social issue. When a federal court is obliged to confront a constitutional struggle over what is marriage, a singularly pivotal issue, the consequence of outcomes, intended or otherwise, seems an equally compelling part of the equation. It seems unjust to ignore. And so, inconvenient questions persist. For example, must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.” [p. 28]

“This case shares striking similarities with [Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action]. Just as in Schuette, this case involves ‘[d]eliberative debate on sensitive issues [that] all too often may shade into rancor.’ [Id.] And so just like the Supreme Court very recently held, this Court agrees ‘that does not justify removing certain court-determined issues from the voters’ reach. Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate.'” [footnote, on p. 30-31]

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Matthew Olson is a student in the Diocese of Little Rock.

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Posted in Current, Politics

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