Views & Voices

Dear Texas: You can’t obey the U.S. Supreme Court only when its rulings please you

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

Texas state capitol in Austin.

You can’t obey the U.S. Supreme Court only when its constitutional rulings please you

For those who marvel at the pathetic depths to which the 84th Texas Legislature has regularly descended, prepare to marvel again: Many Texas House members, likely including state Reps. Charles “Doc” Anderson and Kyle Kacal, who took an oath in January to uphold the U.S. Constitution, will violate that oath by supporting anti-gay legislation that negates the Constitution.

House members will vote on HB 4105, which basically dares the U.S. Supreme Court to issue any ruling on same-sex marriage with which the religious right disagrees. State Rep. Cecil Bell’s bill forbids state and local officials from issuing or recognizing marriage licenses involving same-sex couples – even if the nation’s highest court rules same-same marriages are constitutional. That’s called anarchy.

This newspaper, believing that most people already have their minds made up on the issue of same-sex marriage, has offered no opinion on the subject. However, given the likelihood that lawmakers such as Anderson, Kacal and state Sen. Brian Birdwell don’t really understand the Constitution (except when it’s convenient to their political prospects), here are the basics of how our system works under the U.S. Constitution:

Congress and state legislatures pass legislation, which is then approved by the president or governors, thus making our laws. State and federal agencies then issue rules based on those laws. Presidents sometimes issue decrees and executive orders. When concern for constitutionality of these laws, rules and directives arises, the Supreme Court is sometimes tapped to render a studied decision.

Right-wing zealots have lately insisted that the high court is not final arbiter in such matters. But it is the final arbiter in the sense the specific questions raised about the law, ruling or directive are settled by the court on constitutional grounds, without concern for Christian, Muslim or Jewish dogma. In another sense, lawmakers are free to try to address the topic again, but this time the idea is they do so with regard to settled constitutional law.

Oh, yes – another thing. If you don’t like how our Constitution operates, you’re free to try to amend it. Otherwise, politicians should abide by their oaths and their allegiance to our flag – or quit taking oaths they won’t honor.

Depending on what the high court decides on same-sex marriage in June, this bill also guarantees lots of expensive lawsuits, which conservative lawmakers are supposed to oppose. Beyond that, we note the idiocy of state leaders not paying close attention to what befell Indiana when the business community rose up and condemned its new anti-gay law.

It’s too bad smarter minds couldn’t have crafted a real solution in Texas – possibly granting civil union licenses to couples, whatever their sexual orientation, and leaving churches, mosques and temples their religious freedom to decide whether to marry someone. Alas, state lawmakers have chosen grandstanding to wisdom and are painting themselves into a corner. Let this costly circus begin.

Distributed via the Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
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