This week and the Constitution: Gay marriage, relevance and killer whales
News headlines, politicians, and hot-button issues come and go, but one 225-year-old document continues to emerge in our conversations about our nation’s most important questions and challenges: the Constitution. The Constitution is a big buzzword for Election 2012, and more than ever, citizens, pundits, and politicians are turning to the Constitution for answers–and sometimes ammunition, as they try to prove the Constitution is on their side.
Here’s a brief look at the top constitutional news stories and commentaries from this week.
1. The Constitution and… Gay Marriage
On Feb. 7, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Prop 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling said that the measure violated the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause. It’s uncertain if the proponents of Prop 8 will request the full court of 11 judges (only three ruled in this case) to review the case again or if they will appeal to the Supreme Court. Whatever the outcome, it’s likely to be a closely watched case. State constitutions and legislation regarding gay marriage varies throughout the states, and what happens in California could have repercussions for other states, possibly the entire nation. The ruling on Wednesday revived the debate about gay marriage and joined a string of other social issues that have received attention in the past few weeks, a change from the focus on the economy that has characterized election chatter so far.
2. The Constitution and… Relevance
In comments on a trip to Egypt last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Her comments raised some eyebrows, to say the least, but they were also echoed in an article in the Sunday New York Times, in which columnist Adam Liptak argued that the Constitution’s influence on other countries’ government charters is declining, relying primarily on the conclusions of a recent study. There are some interesting responses to this claim in The New Yorker, Foreign Policy, and Constitution Daily.
3. The Constitution and… Killer Whales
On Feb. 8 a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against SeaWorld. PETA argued that the amusement park’s treatment of several whales amounted to slavery and was in violation of the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery. The judge stated in the ruling, “…There is simply no basis to construe the Thirteenth Amendment as applying to non-humans.”
Holly Munson is Assistant Editor of Constitution Daily, the blog of the National Constitution Center.