Several right-wing politicos, some of them presidential hopefuls, have upped the ante on their rants against “activist judges” who rule for marriage equality — now they want to throw the judges out, or to just ignore their rulings altogether.
The former isn’t an entirely new idea — in 2010, voters recalled three of the Iowa Supreme Court judges who had brought marriage equality to that state the previous year, after a campaign by religious conservatives. And some far-right types have floated the idea of impeaching pro-equality judges from time to time. But now the chorus is getting louder.
Ben Carson, the retired surgeon and right-wing activist considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, said this week that that Congress should “reprimand or remove” federal judges who strike down state laws banning same-sex marriage. Such actions are unconstitutional because they thwart the will of the people, he told conservative radio host Steve Deace.
“What the president and what the Supreme Court need to reiterate is that the states have a mechanism whereby they can determine the will of the people, it’s called ballot referendum,” Carson said on Deace’s show Tuesday. “It has been done multiple times already, 32 states have indicated that marriage is between a man and a woman, and a few judges have come and overturned that. That, as far as I’m concerned, is unconstitutional, and Congress actually has oversight of all what they call the inferior courts, everything below the Supreme Court, and that’s where those overturns have come. And when judges do not carry out their duties in an appropriate way, our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.”
Of course, most legal experts would say the judiciary’s role under the U.S. Constitution is to balance the will of the people against other public interests, such as the preventing discrimination — a point reiterated recently by Ted Olson, the conservative lawyer who helped bring down California’s anti–marriage equality Proposition 8.
Meanwhile, Mat Staver, head of the right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel, said at least one federal judge involved in marriage equality cases in Florida should be impeached. A stay of federal judge John Hinkle’s his pro-equality ruling expired at 12:01 a.m. January 6, allowing marriages to begin in Florida even though the case is still on appeal. But Staver’s greatest wrath is against another judge, Sarah Zabel, a state-level jurist who ruled against the ban last summer in a separate case and lifted her stay of the ruling January 5, a few hours ahead of the expiration of Hinkle’s stay, then presided over same-sex weddings in Miami.
Zabel’s action shows she is “not objective but should be impeached,” Staver told a publication called the Christian Examiner. In the same interview, he denounced other pro-equality judges in the state. “In Florida they have gone too far,” he said. “They have overreached. The logical thing is that the judges should have stayed their decisions. The fact that they didn’t reveals their judicial activism and shows they wanted to rush their decision on same-sex marriage.”
In the marriage case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, involving bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Staver’s group has filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the American Family Association of Michigan, which coauthored that state’s ban. “Marriage is not merely a creation of any one civilization or its statutes, but is an institution older than the Constitution and, indeed, older than any laws of any nation,” Staver said in a press release announcing the brief. “Marriage is a natural bond that society or religion can only ‘solemnize.’”
And Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who’s also looking at a run for the GOP presidential nomination, has taken a similar stand. He won’t change his stance against same-sex marriage “because I haven’t been given permission from God to change what he said,” Huckabee said last week on Family Research Council president Tony Perkins’s Washington Watch radio program.
“I’m watching attorneys general, governors and judges pretend that the court can just make law. I don’t know where we came up with this,” Huckabee added. “I’ve heard several governors when their state Supreme Court says that they’re going to allow same-sex marriage and the governor just folds and surrenders and says, ‘Well, it’s the law of the land.’ No, it isn’t.” The states, he said, should just ignore such rulings.
Huckabee has been making the rounds of right-wing media lately. He made similar arguments about marriage on conservative activist Hugh Hewitt’s radio program Tuesday, then today was on James Robison’s TV show asserting that there’s a “secular theocracy” in the U.S.
In a less friendly venue, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, the host Monday night ripped Huckabee as a hypocrite over his criticism of Barack and Michelle Obama for letting their daughters listen to Beyoncé, given that Huckabee once shared the stage with Ted Nugent as Nugent belted out the risqué song “Cat Scratch Fever.”
Elsewhere in the realm of opposition to marriage equality, Sen. Ted Cruz, another potential presidential candidate, is trying to revive the idea of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions; read all about it here.