Chief Justice John Roberts stressed his view that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide lacked a constitutional basis, writing one of the court’s four dissents Friday.
“The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent,” Roberts writes in his dissent. “Just who do we think we are?”
However, the chief justice also seemed to recognise that this was a landmark decision, which would likely be viewed positively in the future. Writing that he has “no choice but to dissent,” Roberts made it clear that his decision was based in the “restrained conception of the judicial role,” rather than a personal view of the definition of marriage. As he writes:
Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.
Not only is the Constition clear on the matter, Roberts argues, but “This Court’s precedents have repeatedly described marriage in ways that are consistent only with its traditional meaning.”
Additionally, Roberts invokes the founders of the United States, writing, “Those who founded our country would not recognise the majority’s conception of the judicial role … They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges.”
Notably, though, when seeming to address people who would celebrate Friday’s decision, Roberts is clear that he does not have a personal problem with the outcome, just the process of getting there:
Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration …
If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favour expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
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