Of all the critics of the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, none have been as blistering and outspoken as the dissenting judges themselves. The court’s conservatives were not able to keep their liberal counterparts from redefining marriage, but one of them believes that issue is the least of the problems created by the ruling.
In an interview with the Weekly Standard, Justice Samuel Alito says that the culmination of Obergefell v. Hodges could prove to have disastrous effects. “The Court’s conception [of liberty] is a very postmodern idea,” said Alito. “It’s the freedom to define your understanding of the meaning of life. It’s the right to self-expression. So if all of this is on the table now, where are the legal limits on it?”
Many conservatives have openly fretted about the slippery slope. That the gay marriage ruling could lead to legalized polygamy, Christian persecution, and god knows what other perversions. But Alito’s concerns go a step further. By interpreting the 14th Amendment so liberally, he argues, the court has redefined the very notion of liberty itself.
“If a socialist is appointed to the Supreme Court, can the socialist say, ‘I think that liberty and the 14th Amendment means that everyone should have a guaranteed annual income or that all education through college should be absolutely free’ or whatever? There’s no limit,” said Alito.
His argument is on point. The Supreme Court has stretched the idea of a living Constitution well past the breaking point. It seems that this document can be read to say almost anything depending on the ideological bent of the reader. Parts of the Constitution are vague, but not that vague. Some interpretation is required for an evolving society, but there is a vast gulf between interpretation and a rewrite. What the liberal judges did on gay marriage was much closer to the latter.
Critics who oppose this decision on the basis of what it might do to “marriage” are missing the big picture. The fact that gays are now able to legally wed is almost inconsequential compared to the fact that we are now living in an era of moral relativism. Now that relativism has gone beyond philosophical thought to become entrenched in the law. The Supreme Court has declared itself the final word on whatever trend happens to be coming down the pike. The court has never been free from political influence, but it was at least beholden to the Constitution. Now it is simply adrift, relying more on the latest liberal treatises than on the Bill of Rights.
For too long, conservatives have argued that the key is to elect Republican presidents who will populate the court with like-minded judges. Maybe, though, it’s time to stop playing this back-and-forth game with the nation’s highest court and instead demand a return to constitutional adherence.