The Supreme Court just hit the pause button on homosexual marriages in Utah. A federal district judge had overruled Utah’s state constitutional ban on homosexual marriage, stating that Utah’s citizens had a federally-protected constitutional right to homosexual marriage if they wanted it. The Supreme Court, in so many words, said “Nuh-uh.”
This decision has left many people puzzled. It had seemed that the Supreme Court was positive about homosexual marriage. Just last year, the Supreme Court decided (in a 5-4 decision) that homosexual marriages sanctioned by states could receive federal tax benefits. So what’s going on here?
What’s going on is that the Supreme Court doesn’t want to make a federal constitutional ruling that would bear down on all the states. At least not until the members of the Supreme Court feel like all the states want it. This is a states’ rights issue. Notice that when the states make decisions, the Supreme Court wants the federal government to uphold those decisions at the federal level. But they aren’t willing to do the reverse on this issue—they aren’t willing to force a federal mandate onto the states. At least, not yet.
I think they’re doing the right thing, and not just because I don’t think homosexual marriage is possible. I think that there is no reason to create more over-arching federal laws for issues that are best left to local governments to sort out.
If a state allows homosexual marriages, homosexuals will move there. Just like potheads will probably flock to Colorado. I don’t have a problem with that really. States’ rights were designed to allow citizens in a particular region to enjoy the broader protections of the central government while largely governing themselves in the more everyday operations of their lives.
Why does anyone have a problem with that? Why is everyone so obsessed with creating laws that apply to everyone’s private lives equally and without any recourse or escape? As John Stuart Mill said of his native England in 1861:
It is but a small portion of the public business of a country which can be well done, or safely attempted, by the central authorities; and even in our own government, the least centralised in Europe, the legislative portion at least of the governing body busies itself far too much with local affairs, employing the supreme power of the State in cutting small knots which there ought to be other and better means of untying. The enormous amount of private business which takes up the time of Parliament, and the thoughts of its individual members, distracting them from the proper occupations of the great council of the nation, is felt by all thinkers and observers as a serious evil, and what is worse, an increasing one.
No doubt. As the United States edges ever closer to an economic, social, political, international abyss, perhaps the Supreme Court has more important things to decide than whether or not to overturn a states’ already established local laws on marriage.