Dafydd at Patterico's Pontifications actually has some legitimate beefs with what the legislature did. Essentially, he makes two claims. The first is that under the California Constitution, referendums passed by the people need the people's approval to be overturned. As this bill conflicts with the 2000 Proposition 22, it should therefore get voter approval before it becomes law. I don't know if the authors are planning to do just that--but if they aren't (and assuming there isn't something more to it that I don't know about), then that's bad. However, assuming that Prop. 22 is overturned by the Courts, then he moves to problem number two, which is regarding the opinion of a California Superior Court Judge who struck it down. In California, this is rather meaningless--the law won't be officially struck down until it is heard by an Appellate Court either this year or next. But Dafydd thinks the Court completely overstepped its bounds by ruling the ban on same-sex marriages fails the "rational basis" test.
First, I've noted before my confusion as to why homosexual rights cases are adjudicated under the "rational basis" test. It seems somewhat clear that laws discriminating against homosexuals, at the very least, meet the guidelines for applying "heightened scrutiny." Heightened Scrutiny is applied when the group in question has:
"experienced a 'history of purposeful unequal treatment' or been subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities." [Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 313 (1976), quoting San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 28 (1973)]
It is beyond question that homosexuals meet both these tests--being historically reviled and imputed to have disabilities and character flaws based solely on that irrational prejudice. Hence, in my view, the proper standard of review is not rational basis but heightened scrutiny.
The problem is that our legal system creates a perverse catch-22 when adjudicating minority rights claims. Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin explains:
In general, courts will protect minorities only after minorities have shown a fair degree of clout in the political process. If they are truly politically powerless, courts may not even recognize their grievances; and if they have just enough influence to get on the political radar screen, courts will usually dismiss their claims with a wave of the hand. Conversely, as a reform movement for minority rights gains prominence through political protest and legislative lobbying, courts will increasingly pay attention to minority rights and take their claims more seriously." [Jack Balkin, What Brown Teaches us about Constitutional Theory, 90 Va. L. Rev. 1531, 1552 (2004)]
This explains that--lofty claims about protecting "discrete and insular minorities" notwithstanding--the Court affords higher protection to the elderly and disabled than it does to homosexuals, despite the fact that homosexuals are far more clearly disadvantaged in the political process.
The problem is getting worse, not better. Because contemporary rhetoric from the far right equates even modest victories by gay rights activists (AKA "the homosexual lobby") as proof of their political potency, homosexuals have almost zero space to operate in modern law and politics. If they win, they will no longer be seen as needing protection from the Courts and will see their victories stripped away by a hostile legislature. If they lose, then they won't be seen as an important problem and the Court will just ignore them. Either way, homosexuals will remain in roughly the same position--mostly powerless, mostly ignored, and mostly reviled.
But I digress. Even under the "rational basis" test, I think that homosexual marriage bans fail. Dafydd gives several "rational" reasons for the ban:
It is in society's interest that children be raised with both a (male) father and a (female) mother; therefore, we encourage anything that tends to lead in that direction, such as traditional marriage, and discourage that which denies it, such as same-sex marriage.
We believe that traditional marriage empowers women and civilizes men.
If laws against two men marrying are held to be unconstitutional, and there is thus a "constitutional right" for any two adults to marry, then what is the argument against allowing any three adults to marry?
Cultures have the right to define themselves by enacting values into law, so long as there is some secular reason for such values; one such secular reason for rejecting same-sex marriage is that...a union between a man and a woman is required to propagate the species...thus, such unions should be encouraged in the law and alternatives that do not serve to propagate the species (and civilize the young; see first argument supra) should be discouraged in the law.
We might abbreviate these arguments as the "interest of children" argument, the "interest of partners" argument, the "polygamy" argument, and the "democratic" argument.
The case that best explicates the Rational Basis test is Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center [473 U.S. 432 (1985), because it gives us an example of what type of arguments don't satisfy rational basis. The two arguments rejecting in Cleburne were laws that rest on "irrational prejudice" and ones which weren't applied to similarly situated people. The latter test can be articulated in two ways, either a) that the minority group doesn't have the "different" trait ascribed to it, or b) it does have the difference, but so does another group that is treated in the way the minority group wishes to be (or has the right the minority argues it should have). In addition, I think it is somewhat self-evident that the argument has to be related to the proposal in question--"the sky is blue" is a rational argument, but it has no bearing on homosexual marriage. I also have my own standard I think is a rational supplement:
When seeking to achieve a legitimate political end, the state cannot adopt a more exclusive policy in cases where it could just as easily adopt a more inclusive one without substantially changing the nature of the objective.But let's apply just those first three tests to Dafydd's justifications.
The first basis is by far the most common one argued--that since heterosexual couplings are better for children, they should be encouraged to the exclusion of homosexual ones.
This fails tests one and two. It fails the second because California is perfectly willing to allow homosexual couples and single parents to adopt children, as well as allowing both to artificially conceive them if they wish. Since the state allows a similarly situated person (IE, a not heterosexual couple) is allowed by California to take care of children and is not discriminated against for doing so, there is no rational basis absent some method of distinguishing single parents and homosexuals. This brings us to why it fails test one--the claim that children fare better raised by heterosexual parents is supported by no evidence whatsoever--indeed, the scientific evidence runs nearly uniformly in the other direction. Dr. Michael Lamb of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, testifying in Howard v. Arkansas, summarized the body of literature analyzing homosexual parenting and concluded that it
(i) does not increase the risk of problems of adjustment for children; (ii) does not increase the risk of psychological problems for children; (iii) does not increase the risk of behavioral problems; (iv) does not prevent children from forming healthy relationships with their peers and others; (v) does not cause academic problems; (vi) does not cause gender identity problems; and (vii) does not cause any adjustment problems at all.
No mainstream medial or psychological organization has concluded otherwise. I think when the state makes a claim that is buttressed by naught but stereotype discredited by numerous scientific studies, it's safe to label it an "irrational prejudice."
Moving to number two, the "good for the partners" argument. I'll try not to giggle too much about traditional marriage "empowering" women (see, e.g., Fronteiro v. Richardson, 411 US 677, 684 (1973) "[traditional notions of sex roles] in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage."). This one fails tests two and three. Homosexual marriage does nothing to stop marriages between heterosexuals--so the empowering/civilizing effect remains the same. Meanwhile, as far as I can gather men are "civilized" by marriage because it provides someone who depends on them and needs their love and care, and woman are "empowered" because there is a primary earner leaving them free to care for children and the household. Both of these are sex-neutral--a man can as easily serve as the dependent partner, a woman can be the primary earner (of course, some men won't be dependent partners. But the neither will some women. These type of sex-based differentiations DO fall under Heightened Scrutiny and are unlikely to survive constitutional scrutiny. See Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976)). Hence, the civilizing effect has zero bearing on homosexual marriage--the standard isn't applied to heterosexual couplings where it is deemed unlikely that either the man will be civilized and/or the woman will be empowered, and as far as the logic goes it applies to homosexual couples as well.
The "polygamy" argument is slightly different. First of all, asking it violates longstanding legal norms of deciding cases before they're ripe--we shouldn't decide whether polygamy is legitimate before we actually have a case relating to polygamy (in fact, we've already had one: Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S 145 (1878), and it's already been distinguished from homosexuality, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, 539 US 558 (2003).). Taking it at face value, though, we note that it fails test two in the opposite direction, that is, polygamous couples ARE differently situated than homosexuals. Specifically, someone who would like to be polygamous is not forced to marry someone they're not attracted to in order to become an equal citizen under law. They may not be able to marry as MANY people as they'd like, but the rights themselves are still open to them where they are not for homosexuals. Hence, the analogy doesn't hold. Furthermore, the slippery slope doesn't hold (see Part IV) on its own any way.
After dealing with the preceding three, the final "democratic" argument becomes irrelevant. Yes, democracies can generally legislate their own existence, but only within the bounds prescribed by constitutional law (which imposes requirements beyond that the laws be "secular"), boundaries that have so far held against the "rational reasons" given by Dafydd. The weak independent reason given in reason four--that heterosexual couples can reproduce the species doesn't fly. Aside from the fact that our species doesn't seem to be at any imminent risk of population collapse, it fails test three (as many babies will still be made because heterosexuals can still marry) and test two (homosexuals are similarly situated because thanks to modern tech, they too can have babies!).
For those reasons, even under the Rational Basis test, bans against homosexual marriages are unconstitutional.