WaPo's Ponnuru defeats himself in gay marriage debate

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

In 2007, the Washington Post brought on National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru to write a "Right Matters" column and run an online forum "to discuss issues of interest to conservatives."

Here's Ponnuru's take on the Iowa Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage:

Iowa's supreme court has ruled that its constitutional guarantee of "equal protection" for all people requires the state to recognize same-sex marriage. The court overturned a law passed in 1998.

In a democratic system such as ours, it can be perfectly appropriate for courts to set aside laws. Constitutions reflect the permanent will of the people, which trumps the temporary will of the people as expressed in ordinary statutes (if a court is forced to choose between these sources of law to decide a case).

But nobody can plausibly claim that Iowans meant to ratify same-sex marriage when they approved a constitution including equal-protection language. Nor can anyone plausibly claim that Iowans meant to authorize judges to decide such matters as marriage policy when they approved that language.

The court's ruling thus has no democratic or constitutional legitimacy. Whether or not same-sex marriage is a good idea, the decision by Iowa's court to impose it on the state is an outrage.

This is such nonsense, it's hard to know where to begin.

Let's start here: By Ponnuru's logic, you could just as easily say "nobody can plausibly claim that Americans meant to ratify integrated classrooms when they approved the 14th Amendment, therefore the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown had no democratic or constitutional legitimacy." In fact, that would be precisely the same argument Ponnuru is making above. I presume Ponnuru would not agree with such an assault on Brown, though maybe he'll prove me wrong.

Now, Ponnuru says "Constitutions reflect the permanent will of the people," as opposed to "ordinary statutes," which represent the "temporary will of the people." Fine. For the sake of argument, let's stipulate to that. Amazingly, Ponnuru thinks that supports his anti-gay marriage argument. It doesn't. It undermines it.

Look: what principle did Iowans enshrine in their Constitution - the document that reflects their "permanent will," according to Ponnuru? Equal protection. And what did they codify via "ordinary statutes" -- the reflection of their "temporary will," according to Ponnuru? A ban on same-sex marriage. Permanent will trumps temporary will -- Ponnuru says that.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ
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