At a recent town hall event. SCOTUS justice Kennedy (supreme marriage potentate to whom we owe absolute allegiance) makes some interesting comments while trying to answer a student’s questions about officials who object to laws.
You can watch it here.
A student asked:
“You claim new insights into the nature of marriage require states to issue marriage licenses in accord with this alternative version of marriage. And I can understand a similar case, probably more attractive to those of us who think that rational norms guide the exercise of sexual autonomy like they do economic autonomy, that would be that new insights into the nature of human life require states to take steps to stop abortions. My question would be, in either of these cases, would you say that there are any state or federal officials with authority to act according to her own judgment of the truth of new insights or of the soundness of the court’s constitutional interpretation, or would it be illegal for any federal official or state official to act according to the old understanding of life and the Constitution that she still judges to be the truth of the matter?”
I applaud the student for asking the question. I’d love to have had the opportunity to help him phrase it more directly. Here’s what I think he was really asking worded in a more direct way:
“Justice Kennedy, your supreme court opinions on the marriage issue overturned state constitutions, laws and broadly supported referendums. In essence, your own judgment, based on new insights into marriage defied the old rule of law. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, many new insights into the development of human life have been gained. Can new insights into issues be used by other officials to defy laws those officials find outdated and actually, dangerous?”
And maybe it would be nice to be able to have a follow up question that directly addressed the Kim Davis situation, like: “Is there any right, under the 10th amendment or the principles applied at Nuremburg, that permit other officials to use their insights to defy laws – or – Are you and the other justices the only ones who can decide that a law is harmful and should not be applied in a given situation?”
Another related question I’d love to have the opportunity to ask Mr. Kennedy is: “In your opinion striking down the defense of marriage act, you stated that the only reason for denying equal benefits to homosexual marriages was to harm a politically unpopular group. Historical, orthodox Christianity holds that homosexual behavior is harmful to the persons who engage in it and, until recently, medical and psychology journals held the same view. Therefore, many groups have held and do hold views that contradict that statement. Are you aware that those positions were or are held by their adherents for the purpose of helping, and not harming a group that is the most dis-proportionally popular group ever?
But, I’ve digressed.
Kennedy’s answer to the actual question is fascinating: