Just a few scant years ago, who would have thought that marriage equality could be coming even to Mississippi? Not that the fight there is over. As The Clarion Ledger reports:
Same-sex marriages won’t be allowed in Mississippi while the state defends its gay-marriage ban, a federal appeals court said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 overturned Mississippi’s definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, but he put his own decision on hold for two weeks to give the state time to appeal his ruling.
On Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Mississippi cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples during the appeals process. But the New Orleans-based court agreed to a quick process for considering the dispute over Mississippi’s definition of who can marry.
The paper also reports that:
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he voted for Mississippi’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and he “absolutely” still supports it.
“This is a constitutional issue with me,” Bryant told reporters Tuesday in Jackson. “You know, the people of the state of Mississippi vote to change a law, and then one federal judge can say, ‘Well, I’m going to overrule that.’ Then what good is the rule of law? What would be next? What if a judge said, ‘We think you ought to legalize marijuana.’ Then does that mean the laws of the state don’t exist anymore?
“So, this is a constitutional battle that I think you’re seeing waged all across the United States, is whether or not the people of a particular state, or the lawmakers that represent it, have the right to make certain laws,” Bryant said.
Recent months have seen a surprising number of conservative GOP governors and other officials acquiesce to the inevitable and accept, if not support, rulings favoring the freedom to marry (including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, among others). But the hard core of the social conservative base, exemplified in Congress by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and by governors such as Bryant and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, will man the guns of the last redoubt.
It matters not the Gov. Bryant’s argument is, well, specious, given that a key role of the judiciary is to overturn “democratically” passed laws that violate the fundamental protections of the federal Constitution. Ours is a republic of separate and distinct branches, some with the power to overrule others, and not a majoritarian dictatorship or mobocracy. Conservatives used to understand and defend that point, to the chagrin of progressives.
That the left often supports government overreach of dubious legality, and that these expansions of federal executive power do not involve the protection of fundamental liberties but far more often violate individual rights, confuses things. Fair enough, a pox on both partisan houses, as both left and right, conservatives and progressives, Democrats and Republicans are too often power-grubbing hypocrites, if not downright cesspools of corruption.
Nevertheless, recognition of the right to marry is coming, even in Mississippi, if not with a 5th Circuit ruling, then when the Supreme Court inevitably weighs in. And this expansion of liberty, despite the opposition of local majorities, is fundamentally and constitutionally sound.