IN THE COURT’S WORDS

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the Defense of Marriage Act case:

“The power the Constitution grants it also restrains. And though Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. What has been explained to this point should more than suffice to establish that the principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage. This requires the court to hold, as it now does, that DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. … The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.”

Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent:

“This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this court to pronounce the law. Today’s opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in the California gay marriage case:

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here. … Because petitioners have not satisfied their burden to demonstrate standing to appeal the judgment of the District Court, the Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.”

Kennedy in his dissent:

“The Court’s reasoning does not take into account the fundamental principles or the practical dynamics of the initiative system in California, which uses this mechanism to control and to bypass public officials — the same officials who would not defend the initiative, an injury the Court now leaves unremedied. The Court’s decision also has implications for the 26 other States that use an initiative or popular referendum system and which, like California, may choose to have initiative proponents stand in for the state when public officials decline to defend an initiative in litigation. … In my submission, the … requirement for a justiciable case or controversy does not prevent proponents from having their day in court.”

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