Thursday, October 05, 2006

California's First District Court of Appeal upholds California's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman

For those of you who do not know, California's First Appellate District is located in San Francisco. Fortunately, California has had mostly Republican governors for the past 20+ years (I know, hard to believe) and even though those governors are not generally appointing Scalia-types to the bench (with the notable exception of Janice Rogers Brown), we generally don't have a totally deranged moonbat appellate judiciary.

So the First District's opinion today upholding California's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman does not come as a complete shock. More important than the outcome in this specific case, though, is the powerful common sense opinion delivered by the majority (though I've only read the introduction, quoted in full below, which is all you really need to read). The following words echo exactly what we conservative jurists and Federalist Society types have been arguing for years. It is a tribute to our success in the market place of ideas that the First District's opinion so thoroughly adopts our take on the proper role of the judiciary.

Without further ado, here is the opinion's compelling introduction:


"The legal issue presented in these appeals is straightforward: Did the trial court err when it concluded Family Code statutes defining civil marriage as the union between a man and a woman are unconstitutional? (Fam. Code, §§ 300, 301, 302, 308.5.) Appellants assert legal error; respondents reiterate their arguments that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates due process and equal protection and is not supported by a compelling state interest. Our dissenting colleague advances theories and arguments not made by the parties or relied on by the trial court and concludes a constitutionally protected privacy interest compels expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

"California has long sought to eliminate discrimination against gays and lesbians. Our Legislature has passed landmark legislation providing substantially all the rights, responsibilities, benefits and protections of marriage to same-sex couples who register as domestic partners. (Fam. Code, § 297 et seq.) We must now decide whether the state’s definition of marriage, which historically has precluded same-sex partners from marrying, is constitutional. Obviously, the question is one of great significance, and it requires us to venture into the storm of a fierce national debate. Both sides believe passionately in their positions. One side argues the time has come for lesbian and gay relationships to enjoy full social equality, and it is fundamentally unfair for the state to continue to reserve marriage as an institution for heterosexual couples only. The other side stresses the need for judicial restraint and the importance of preserving the traditional understanding of marriage—which is very important to many Californians, who fear such a fundamental change will destroy or seriously weaken the institution at the heart of family life.

"While we have considered all arguments raised on both sides of the issue, our task as an appellate court is not to decide who has the most compelling vision of what marriage is, or what it should be. “[T]he judiciary is not in the business of preferring, much less anointing, one value as more valid than another. . . .” (Lewis v. Harris (2005) 378 N.J. Super. 168, 200 [875 A.2d 259] (conc. opn. of Parrillo, J.A.D.).) We are called upon to decide only whether the statutory definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman—which has existed, explicitly or implicitly, since the founding of our state—is unconstitutional because it does not permit gays and lesbians to marry persons of their choice.

"All can agree that California has not deprived its gay and lesbian citizens of a right they previously enjoyed; same-sex couples have never before had the right to enter a civil marriage. It is also beyond dispute that our society has historically understood “marriage” to refer to the union of a man and a woman. These facts do not mean the opposite-sex nature of marriage can never change, or should never change, but they do limit our ability as a court to effect such change. The respondents in these appeals are asking this court to recognize a new right. Courts simply do not have the authority to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage. “The role of the judiciary is not to rewrite legislation to satisfy the court’s, rather than the Legislature’s, sense of balance and order. Judges are not ‘ “knight[s]-errant, roaming at will in pursuit of [their] own ideal of beauty or of goodness.” ’ [Citation.]” (People v. Carter (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 128, 134.) In other words, judges are not free to rewrite statutes to say what they would like, or what they believe to be better social policy.

"Because we have a fundamentally different view of the appellate judicial function, at least in relation to these cases, we part ways with our dissenting colleague. The dissent delivers what is essentially an impassioned policy lecture on why marriage should be extended to same-sex couples. Lacking controlling precedent, it misconstrues case law and mischaracterizes the parties’ claims and our analysis to reach this result. But the court’s role is not to define social policy; it is only to decide legal issues based on precedent and the appellate record. The six cases before us ultimately distill to the question of who gets to define marriage in our democratic society. We believe this power rests in the people and their elected representatives, and courts may not appropriate to themselves the power to change the definition of such a basic social institution. Our dissenting colleague’s views, while well intentioned, disregard this delicate balance. Moreover, his unfortunate rhetoric suggesting our opinion is an exercise in discrimination rather than a legitimate attempt to follow the law (dis. opn., post, at pp. 50-51) does nothing to advance the serious subject matter of these appeals.

"We conclude California’s historical definition of marriage does not deprive individuals of a vested fundamental right or discriminate against a suspect class, and thus we analyze the marriage statutes to determine whether the opposite-sex requirement is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. According the Legislature the extreme deference that rational basis review requires, we conclude the marriage statutes are constitutional. The time may come when California chooses to expand the definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions. That change must come from democratic processes, however, not by judicial fiat."


I couldn't have said it better myself.

1 Comments:

Blogger JimKouri said...

That's really surprising since California is such a liberal state.

I think in 2008, abortion will be a major issue again. Mainly because court decisions are sounding more and more based on the political beliefs of black-robed lawyers and less and less on the constitution.

One guy who already announced his candidacy for 2008 GOP presidential nomination is John Cox. Check out his TV spots being aired in Iowa and New Hampshire at:
www.cox2008.com/video.

6:53 AM  

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