The U.S. Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage:

I've long (and publicly) opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, because it unnecessarily interferes with states' decisions about same-sex marriage.

Moreover, though I don't think that the U.S. Supreme Court ought to interpret the U.S. Constitution as mandating recognition of same-sex marriages, I don't see a need even for a narrow constitutional amendment that would preclude such an outcome -- it just seems to me highly unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court will reach such a decision, at least any time in the next few decades. (I support recognition of same-sex marriages for policy reasons, but I think it should be done through the political process, for many of the reasons that others have discussed at great length elsewhere.)

Likewise, unless I'm mistaken, this was a common argument of many defenders of Lawrence v. Texas and critics of the FMA: (1) There's no real likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court would mandate recognition of same-sex marriage any time soon. (2) People who are skeptical about the recognition of same-sex marriage thus need not be worried about the implications of Lawrence or eager to enact the FMA. (3) The same-sex marriage debate ought to just percolate at the state level, with no need for federal intervention through the amendment process and no real risk of federal intervention through a U.S. Supreme Court Goodridge-like decision.

Yet now Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean says this:

Statement by Howard Dean on the New York Court of Appeals Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage ...

WASHINGTON, July 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean today issued the following statement in response to the decision by the New York Court of Appeals that the state constitution does not guarantee the right to marriage for same-sex couples, but that the state legislature could provide this:

"As Democrats, we believe that every American has a right to equal protection under the law and to live in dignity. And we must respect the right of every family to live in dignity with equal rights, responsibilities and protections under the law. Today's decision by the New York Court of Appeals, which relies on outdated and bigoted notions about families, is deeply disappointing, but it does not end the effort to achieve this goal.

"As that essential process moves forward, it is up to the State legislature to act to protect the equal rights of every New Yorker and for the debate on how to ensure those rights to proceed without the rancor and divisiveness that too often surrounds this issue."

Does this mean that a Democratic President is likely to appoint Justices who would reject "outdated and bigoted" decisions such as the New York Court of Appeals', and who would therefore interpret the U.S. Constitution the way Dean thinks the New York Constitution should have been interpreted -- as "guarantee[ing] the right to marriage for same-sex couples"? Does it mean that the sitting Justices would be acting in an "outdated and bigoted" way by not interpreting the U.S. Constitution as mandating the recognition of same-sex marriage? Does Dean merely condemn the particular reasoning of the New York Court of Appeals, but accept the result? Or does Dean believe that the New York court's interpretation of the New York Constitution was wrong, but the U.S. Supreme Court's similar interpretation of the U.S. Constitution would be proper? (Such a theory is certainly possible, but I just wonder whether this is indeed Dean's view.)

I realize that many people might welcome a Supreme Court decision mandating recognition of same-sex marriage. It justs seems to me contrary to the predictions that I'd heard from many sources about the unlikelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court would take such a view.