BAKER and HARRIGAN
Vermont State Supreme Court
This case may well prove to be a watershed case in the history of both Vermont and national jurisprudence. At issue is the definition of marriage, as well as the authority of the people to express their moral views through the laws that govern them. If the court should decide that the people are no longer soveriegn, if they may no longer define what is and is not moral--right and wrong--such a precedent will have far reaching consequences; far beyond the issue of same-sex marriage.
Consequently, the National Legal Foundation has urged the Vermont Court to rule on the basis of legal principle only, and avoid the missteps of other courts that have considered this and similar issues, who have ruled not based on legal principle so much as emotive appeals, questionable science, and anecdotal evidence. The Vermont Supreme Court was inundated with an abundance of argument in this case, by various amici that consisted less of legal argument and more of anecdotal evidence that, while enough to induce sympathy from the Court, is a distraction from what should be the Courts focus, that is, the legal issues.
Appellants and their amici provided the court with a great quantity of scientific information regarding homosexuality, but much of this science is more open to question and debate than it might appear. The NLF therefore urged the Vermont court to review all of the scientific data carefully, including that submitted by amici in support of the State of Vermont, so as to have a complete understanding of those issues.
The overwhelming majority of courts that have considered the issues presented in this case over the past few decades have ruled that there is a rational basis for laws that proscribe same-sex marriage, that there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage, and that homosexuals are not a "suspect class" for purposes of equal protection analysis. The NLF further urged Vermont to rule in accordance with the weight of authority, and not be swayed by aberrant decisions recently handed down in the trial courts of Hawaii and Alaska.
Finally, the people also have a legitimate interest in expressing their moral views through the mechanism of the law. This case obviously has a moral dimension to it, and courts must be careful not to thwart the will of the people by rendering decisions that comport with the courts particular philosophy, but which have no support in history and traditions of the people, or in the text of the law.
The National Legal Foundation hopes that a respect for the democratic process, judicial restraint, and a recognition that the weight of authority favors the State in this case, will lead the Vermont Supreme Court to the conclusion that the laws governing marriage in Vermont are constitutionally sound, and that they must be allowed to stand.
We will keep you posted.
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© 2006 by the National Legal Foundation & Minuteman Institute