I used to referee professional soccer, and before every game the referees were supposed to check the player’s passcards. You looked at the card, looked at the player, and made sure they matched. There was one game I refereed involving a minor league team when I caught an illegal player. He handed me the card, and the picture didn’t’ look right. I asked him for his place of birth (on the card), and he got it wrong. I asked him his birth date, which he also botched. I asked him when he signed for the team, and he missed that one too.
I reported it to the league, who said…they didn’t have the power to do anything. Now, I imagine the other team felt cheated. But more than that, I looked at how much time I had spent checking passcards. Players at every level used them, and I had been checking them for thousands of games (15 min a game, times bazillions of matches…)—all for naught. It was one big charade.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Proposition 8 has me feeling like that about our legal system. I wrote yesterday about the history of Proposition 8 (and today’s post really should be read after reading that).. To summarize, Californians passed a law in 2000 saying that marriage was between a man and a woman, but authorizing same sex domestic partnerships with all the benefits of marriage except the word marriage. Four years later an unelected county clerk in San Francisco started giving out marriage licenses to same sex couples, and this lasted for five months until the State Supreme Court stopped it. Then four years later (2008), the court reversed itself, saying the 2000 law was unconstitutional. Christians were essentially told if they wanted to define marriage, they needed a constitutional amendment to do that. Which is what Proposition 8 was, and it passed only a few months later (an unprecedented turn around in California).
Having had their bluff called, the State Supreme Court could do nothing. They had said that if gay marriage was going to be banned, it took a constitutional amendment, and then they had that handed to them. But opponents of Prop 8 went venue shopping, and took their case to federal court. At the time, legal pundits said their case was slim, and unlikely to succeed. All that changed when the case was assigned (randomly?) to an openly homosexual judge; all bets were off.
Then the governor and attorney general (the attorney general who won by a smaller margin of victory than Prop 8 passed, I might add) declined to defend it in court. Then the judge refused to let counties defend it, leaving no one with the legal authority to do so.
We should be impressed at the legal finesse of such a maneuver. By constructing a trial on the definition of marriage, but banning anyone who had an interest in putting on a legitimate defense, the resulting case was obviously one-sided. Eventually the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a group that gathered funding for Prop 8 could defend it in court, which they did unsuccessfully (the truth is–it seems like they barely tried).
Yesterday the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit, and said that the Pro-Prop 8 group did not, in fact, have the legal standing necessary to defend the Proposition. So who does that leave to defend it? That’s right: nobody.
Christians had been told that if they wanted to defend the definition of marriage, they needed to pass an amendment—which they did.
And then they were told that none of that mattered. It was defeated before it started.
If you were not in California during the Prop 8 election, it is hard to imagine the effort that went into its passage. The LA Times ran lists of those who were working to pass it, and they had their businesses protested. College Professors called out students who were in favor of Prop 8. Campuses revoked religious group’s ability to meet or form if they advocated for Prop 8. Fraternities and Sororities removed students if they were in favor of it. Yet the measure still passed. And yesterday the Supreme Court said that none of that mattered to begin with.
It is worth realizing where that leaves us. An unelected county clerk issued marriage licenses with no legal standing (and in fact it was later declared illegal), but that one action was maneuvered into a legal victory. Once she issued the licenses, the horse left the barn, so to speak, and there was no legal way of reversing. Pass an amendment, and the government will just ignore it. Sue them to enforce it, and you have no standing.
The whole legal process in California revealed itself to be nothing more than a charade.
What is left? How does one define marriage?
Well, the biblical definition is obviously a non-starter. The dictionary definition is clearly out too. Yesterday the supreme court showed that the legal definition is likewise invalid, simply because Christians participated in forming it. As it stands, it appears that the definition is whatever was determined by that lone county clerk in San Francisco.