I have to address a common argument and bit of rhetoric that I keep hearing regarding the recent overturn of Utah's 3rd Amendment. It's the same argument that came up time and time again after a judge ruled California's Proposition 8 illegal.
"It's not right for one judge to be able to overrule the will of the public. The majority of people voted for this and one person shouldn't be able to strike it down."
I've heard this repeatedly from new anchors, talk radio/TV figureheads, politicians, state representatives and even some in my family. I think that most of these people are repeating the argument without thinking it through. Sure it does a good job of making it sound like judges are overstepping their bounds, but it has one critical flaw — judges exist to rule on unconstitutional laws and counteract acts of the Legislature. We have three separate branches of government for this exact purpose so that each branch can check and balance the other.
Just because a majority of the voters approve of a law does not mean that law is granted immunity. The law is still subject to higher laws of the land and interference from the other branches of government. That law can still be struck down by the courts if it's in violation of basic rights and protections or if it contradicts existing laws.
Let's place ourselves into a different Utah-friendly realm. Pretend that 100 percent of Utahns approve of a bill that makes all firearm ownership and use illegal and amends the Utah Constitution as such. That law would still be considered unconstitutional and would be struck down by the courts. Even though the decision to pass the law was unanimous, it wouldn't matter because the states would not have the right to pass laws in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.
That's what is happening here. Utah passed a constitutional amendment making gay marriage illegal based on a majority vote back in 2004. The law was contested by a gay couple and brought to court. The court examined the law and the arguments and determined that the law passed by Utah was in violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and was therefore illegal and in violation of federal law. This wasn't an example of a federal judge overstepping his bounds. This was an example of the system working as designed.
Just because a specific ruling doesn't match your wishes doesn't mean you have the right to suddenly forget and ignore why we have these processes in the first place.
Carson Anderson has no party or religious affiliation and was born and raised in Brigham City, Utah.
- Natalie Gochnour: Contrasting religious practice
- Letter: Romancing the gun
- George F. Will: Finding our place in the...
- Michael Erickson: Stop America's later-term...
- Letter: Fall of America
- In our opinion: Remembering German Unity Day
- Letter: Congress surrendered
- John Florez: School board members must speak up