veryone agrees that Tuesday's decision by a federal appellate court to strike down California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, is a big win for marriage-minded gays and lesbians in California. But what about gays outside the Golden State? The ruling, by Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, is explicitly narrow and California-specific, punting on the "broader question" of "whether under the Constitution same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry." Does that mean gay-marriage proponents are celebrating, and opponents mourning, too much?
This is only "a limited win for equality": Judge Reinhardt starts his opinion with "what sounds like a sweeping statement" in favor of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, says The Baltimore Sun in an editorial. But the rest of the ruling is "so narrowly drawn that, even if it is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in an inevitable appeal, it may have little bearing" on any state other than California. This is a "symbolic" win for marriage equality, but little else.
"Proposition 8 ruling: A limited win for equality"
Actually, it's a broad swipe at "traditional marriage": Don't be fooled, says Ed Whelan at National Review. Reinhardt's ruling "is far broader than his purportedly narrow holding." The activist judge "misdescribes marriage" as simply "the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults," dismissing the vital role that marriage plays in "responsible procreation and childrearing." If the courts accept his reasoning, "I don't see how traditional marriage laws could survive anywhere."
"Initial assessment of Ninth Circuit's anti-Prop 8 ruling"
The ruling is narrow — but strategically so: For better or worse, "the most liberal judges in the most liberal state on the most liberal appeals court" chose not to shoot the moon, and "delivered a far more moderate decision than anyone would have predicted," says Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. But look, that's probably the smart play — and a "transparent attempt" to win over Supreme Court swing Justice Anthony Kennedy. And in the end, if Kennedy sides with Reinhardt, Prop 8 stays dead.
"For Prop 8, no Hollywood endings"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Attack of the invasive species
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 14 wonderful words with no English equivalent
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- How to flirt, according to science
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- What The Americans gets wrong about Russian spies
Subscribe to the Week