Tuesday, May 16

Georgia on My Mind

When I read about people like Fulton County (Georgia) Superior Court judge Constance Russell, I never fail to be impressed. Today Judge Russell threw out the amendment banning same-sex marriage approved by Georgia voters in November 2004. Last November, Georgia was one of eleven states to amend its constitution to define marriage as consisting solely of the union between a man and a woman.

The problem was that the ballot question put to Georgia voters sought not only to put a protective fence around traditional marriage, but also to prohibit civil unions and domestic partnerships (i.e. unions that approximate marriage or confer the benefits of marriage). Judge Russell ruled that this violated the “single-subject rule” in the Georgia Constitution, which prohibits multiple questions from being presented to voters in a single proposition or ballot question.

Although 76% of Georgia voters supported the same-sex marriage ban, Judge Russell point out in her ruling that “the test of a law is not its popularity.”

Amen, sister.

9 Comments:

Blogger Will said...

And in the Deep South, too! This Justice would be a strong candidate in my book for the annual John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

6:55 AM  
Blogger The Persian said...

Do you think he is just being incredibly anal or possibly in secret opposes the huge majority of Georgia voters, using whatever tactic at his disposal to undermine the law amendment.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

makes me proud 2 b from georiga! hey u c the new blog that we r doing would u like 2 b apart of it?

8:44 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

will-
agreed!

ryan-
you should be proud. all georgians should be. i'll check out the new blog...

jim-
the judge is a woman.

that's an interesting question you ask. i don't think the judge is being anal. georgia's single subject rule is pretty specific in what it prohibits, and the ballot question put to georgia voters last november clearly violated that rule in that it put two issues before the voters in the same initiative: 1) defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman and 2) ruling out any other non-marriage types of unions.

many legal experts have argued that it's not fair to lump these two questions together because many people want to protect traditional marriage but still offer some kind of protection/benefits to same-sex couples. georgia's ballot question made this impossible and it was done that way on purpose, because its main proponents don't want either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

the question is, do judges have to be "anal"? what's the difference between being anal and being faithful to the law, which often addresses very subtle, fine points? should judge russell have simply ignored the single subject rule? i think it would have constituted negligence on her part had she done so.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Flying Boy said...

well. at least gay marriage has another chance fo being voted (from what I understood). Despite all of this, I believe the judge is not against gay marriage or else show would never have thrown it out.

10:42 AM  
Blogger epicurist said...

“the test of a law is not its popularity.” I like that quote. I must remember to consider myself lucky that I live in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal..well for now. We shall wait and see what Stephen Harper (Conservative PM is going to do).

1:46 PM  
Anonymous L said...

On the subject of things anal:

First of all I applaud the ruling, as I believe it was correctly decided. However, being anal also cuts both ways (no pun intended). Presumably strict constructionists (like Antonin Scalia) believe that they are being “faithful to the law” when they seek to interpret the Constitution literally.

2:00 PM  
Blogger The Persian said...

What I meant by anal, was playing it completely by the book, caring little for popular opinion. I did not mean to say she was suffering from some sort of perfection complex, as the word perhaps has come to be defined.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

L-
that is indeed true about scalia and the strict constructionists.
"faithful to the law" means different things to different people. while i don't think scalia is being faithful to the law, clearly he believes he is. presumably, he would argue that judge russell wasn't being faithful to the law. the majority justices who ruled in 1857 that dred scott lacked standing because he wasn't a citizen of the united states believed that they were being faithful to the law. indeed they were, in that the constitution defined african-american slaves as 3/5 of a person, which wasn't really a ringing endorsement of their rights as citizens. perhaps the difficulty in being faithful to the law is that the law itself does not speak with a unified voice.

the point is, although a concept like being "faithful to the law" is likely to be abused and misinterpreted--indeed whether or not that has occurred in itself is a subjective judgement--we should not abandon it as a virtue to be pursued.

7:08 PM  

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