Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Treaty with Iran? Deal me in!

The Middle East has undoubtedly been a central part of American foreign policy over the last 15 years.  One of the many problems for the region was Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Since 2013, the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, and China have been working with Iran to propose a deal that would end their development of such weapons.  

That deal has finally come to fruition, and here in the United States, there's no shortage of criticism for the Obama administration for this deal.  Republican opposition to this agreement hinges upon the notion that such a deal would actually destabilize the region and allow a pathway for Iran to develop weapons in secret.  

My contention is that this deal is the appropriate course of action, and contains enough provisions that will encourage Iran to avoid developing a nuclear weapon.  It represents a foreign policy success for all parties.

The agreement itself creates serious limitations on Iran for key elements in developing a nuclear weapon.  Iran is sacrificing quite a bit.  Here's what's at stake:

Tens of thousands of centrifuges are required for uranium enrichment.  Iran currently has about 20,000 and under this agreement, they will reduce that number to approximately 6,000.

The level of uranium enrichment is also another significant point of interest.  Uranium that occurs naturally contains less than 1% of the special uranium isotope needed for nuclear weapons.  To make weapons grade material, laboratories must take that uranium and "enrich" it to the point where the level of the special isotope is making up about 90% of the uranium.  Under this agreement, Iran will not enrich its uranium to a level greater than 3.67%.   

Additionally, under this agreement, Iran will agree to reduce the amount of uranium stockpile by 98%.  Even if they chose to attempt developing weapons, they would need over a year to accumulate and process the necessary stockpile of fissile material.  This agreement will still permit Iran to use uranium for energy purposes, with its spent fuel rods being shipped from the country, so they cannot be processed into plutonium.

To ensure that Iran is complying with the provisions of this agreement, they have agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect all sites, monitor the transport of fissile materials outside of the nation, and examine any sites that may arouse suspicion.  

Most of the provisions Iran agreed to occur for a minimum of 15 years, while some of them last for greater terms, including a few aspects that they agreed to on a permanent basis.  If Iran breaks any part of the agreement, the United Nations and the United States would be justified in implementing the same sanctions again.

In return, the United States and allies will agree to lift the economic sanctions that have crippled Iran.  Over the last 10 years, the United States, the European Union, and United Nations have all imposed serious sanctions.  Iran's ability to trade internationally has come to a near halt.  Travel restrictions have been imposed.  Banking institutions, weapons industries, shipping, the energy sector, etc. have been limited to the point where Iran's people are suffering because of the restrictions.

The effects of the sanctions have become apparent over the last three years.  Iran's gross domestic product (GDP) peaked in 2011, with a value of approximately $576 billion.  Over each of the last four years, the GDP of Iran has steadily decreased, with a reported $415 billion GDP from this past year.  That translates to a reduction of GDP by an astonishing 28%.

It's also significant to address that the Iranian economy is struggling with an unemployment rate that is conservatively estimated at 10%, but according to the World Bank, could be as high as 20%.  The youth of Iran are the demographic affected most by the high levels of unemployment.  Lifting these sanctions will allow for more trade and economic development, which will, in turn, less the chances of these youth becoming radicalized.  If people have jobs and economic opportunity, they are less likely to become involved in any terrorist activities.  

Trade and economic development not only benefits Iran, but the United States as well.  The reserves of oil Iran holds will allow more access and drive down the price, which assists American consumers.  The opening of trade allows for investment from foreign sources and allows American businesses the opportunity to grow and expand.  With a population of nearly 80 million, Iran also becomes a marketplace for American goods and services.

While there are plenty of good reasons to move forward with this deal, many Americans raise objections to crafting a deal with Iran, and those deserve consideration.  One of the major concerns is that Iran, free from economic sanctions, will be flush with cash and have access to convention weapons and arms that will allow it to advance its own agenda in the Middle East.  I can understand why people are concerned about Iran, because they are so antithetical to what the United States represents.  But they, as a sovereign nation, have a right to pursue their goals and objectives just as any other nation.  Their attempts at dominance in the region will be checked by a nuclear armed and American backed Israel and an already strong Saudi Arabia.  

The objection has also been raised that Iran has historically not been very trustworthy, and any negotiations with them would be suspect.  I can understand this critique, but this does not excuse completely removing ourselves from diplomacy.  The allegations of mistrust also cut two ways.  Iranians have plenty of reasons not to trust the United States, including the CIA coup d'├ętat of the Iranian government in 1953.  The United States and Great Britain have a long history of exploiting the oil resources of Iran, and they haven't forgotten.  Part of breaking through that mistrust is sitting down and discussing problems.  That's precisely what both sides have done.  

Critics of this deal also point to the fact that the State Department lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.  They have either directly or indirectly supported terrorist groups, and this does represent a problem.  But should this preclude us from working out a deal that will keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?  Absolutely not.  The United States has negotiated with far worse and more dangerous regimes than Iran.  

During both the Bush and Obama administrations, we have reached out to North Korea to extend opportunities for dismantling their nuclear programs.  North Korea already has nuclear weapons, and is the world's leader in human rights violations.  

The presidency of Ronald Reagan helped to create a diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Union, the same nation he labeled as the "Evil Empire."  Diplomacy eased tensions with a threat that rivaled the United States in terms of their nuclear arsenal. 

President Richard Nixon responded to overtures from China and Mao Zedong in the 1970s.  His efforts allowed the United States to drive a wedge between China and the Soviet Union.  The diplomatic efforts didn't change Mao's terrible policies of the past, but it did create a stepping stone for the future.

This diplomatic solution allows for economic development for everyone and it will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  It also has the potential for preventing the radicalization of future terrorists in the long term.  While Iran has other problems and shortcomings that we want to change, we cannot broach those problems today. 

Many of the critics of this agreement falsely believe the United States can project power by being one-sided in its approach to diplomacy.  This is no diplomacy at all, but the same line of thinking that created tension with Iran in the first place.

In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy delivered a significant statement about diplomacy.  He noted, "So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

The negotiations and agreement with Iran are not a sign of weakness, but of strength.  The sanctions imposed upon Iran were put in place because they began developing nuclear weapons.  Now, they have agreed to stop pursuing that goal.  This is the right move at the right time.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why is everybody picking on the Supreme Court?!

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

 —  Chief Justice John Marshall

Political parties and politicians love to point fingers for what's wrong with the America, and in the last 15 years, perhaps no other institution received as much verbal abuse as the United States Supreme Court. When the nation's highest judicial authority rules on the constitutionality of laws and settles some of the most important disputes, one side praises the Court for their wisdom while the other derides the justices as if they're the most inept, unintelligent group to don black robes.

Since the turn of the millennium, the Court has ruled in a large number of landmark decisions that have dramatically altered the political and social landscapes of the United States. Yet, this is precisely what these justices are supposed to do. 

The job of the Supreme Court is to act as a court of final authority and make assessments about controversies involving precisely what the law means. The nature of the selection of the justices, their tenure, and the near finality of their decisions frustrates the losing side of any particular case. Their only response is to criticize the decision making as somehow unjust or undemocratic. Because of the fact that both liberals and conservatives have suffered serious blows to their political agendas through the decisions of the Supreme Court, both sides have attempted to politicize the judicial process to the best of their abilities.

The Supreme Court has become more politicized than what Americans would like, but it's not entirely possible to divorce the Court from the political process. The president has the power and responsibility of appointing justices to the Court, while the Senate must confirm these selections. As such, elected officials will attempt to influence the makeup and the decisions of the Court.  We must remember that each justice is a willful, flawed human being who must struggle to decide cases objectively.  Though the Supreme Court is more politicized, there's no reason to change the way we select justices, their tenure, or the current lineup of justices.

The Criticisms of the Supreme Court

Americans criticize the Court for making decisions that subvert the will of the majority. This criticism makes a few false presumptions. The Framers of the Constitution did not intend on the majority of the population to dictate policy in every instance. The nation held a great fear of the potential tyranny of a majority and James Madison noted as much in his oft referenced Federalist #10. One of the more pivotal questions he addressed was how to deal with a tyrannical group in the United States. When the dangerous group was in the minority, dealing with them was handled by merely outvoting them. However, what are we to do when the tyranny comes from the majority?

One of the reasons that we implemented a republic with elected representatives was to prevent the dangers associated with a more direct form of democracy. Madison believed that a small body of individuals would be more apt to make a good decision rather than a large group. We have a natural distrust for the masses because of how quickly they can be inflamed.

The will of the majority wasn't intended to lord over the nation's every policy and position, and these are evident in the Constitution. International treaties must be confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate. The president's vetoes can only be overridden by two-thirds of both houses of Congress.

The Constitution also contains an established set of rights held by all citizens, and their enumeration in the Constitution means that a majority cannot simply vote these rights out of existence. The will of the majority is restrained by the Constitution's difficult amendment process. It takes an overwhelming number of elected leaders to alter the foundation of our government and the rights of Americans.

Politicians bemoan the the Court's authority to interpret the Constitution, but what institution would they prefer handle that task? They overlook the fact that someone must resolve disputes about the law. Handing over the keys to the kingdom to the majority runs counter to what the Framers of the Constitution wanted.

Critics also point to the Court as out of touch with reality because they are elitist in nature. The current Court has five members who graduated from Harvard Law School, three from Yale, and one from Columbia. No one would doubt that these are three of the finest schools American has to offer, but I don't think it's fair to characterize the Court as elitist because of their respective alma maters. Would we not want the Supreme Court to have some of the most well-educated minds in the nation? Who would really tell their own children to turn down an Ivy League institutions for fear of being branded as elitist? 

The Court's internal policy of no camera coverage of proceedings has also brought criticism from various circles. A large number of Americans believe the Court should televise its proceedings, but the net effect from such a change would be a negative. The nature of television would augment the way in which cases were argued, whereby the attorneys arguing (and perhaps the justices) would be tempted to grandstand and make a spectacle rather than focusing on the issues at hand.

The lack of camera coverage also ignores the fact that the Supreme Court creates audio recordings of every case they hear and provides a transcript as well. Moreover, the Court is the only one of the three branches that explains its decision making in writing on every single issue. If anything, the other branches of government should be as transparent as the Supreme Court. Perhaps that's a reason why the Supreme Court has a higher approval rating than either the president or Congress.

The fact that justices on the Court do not receive their position through an election presents another problem for Americans. Critics want the justices held accountable to the people for their decision making. People quickly forget, however, that of the various levels of federal government, only the House of Representatives was originally meant to be elected by the people. Senators were chosen by their respective state legislatures, the president is chosen by the Electoral College, and members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president. 

The federal judiciary was meant to have a layer of insulation from public opinion so that they could make decisions based on the law rather than popular sentiment. This also overlooks that a system of accountability already exists.  The justices can be impeached and removed from their post in the same process by which we can remove a president.

The Court's decisions also are subject to being superseded by amending the Constitution. That's precisely why the 11th Amendment came into existence. After the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Chisholm v. Georgia (1796), the states were bothered by the ruling that a state could be sued by a citizen from another state. Their response was to work together to amend the Constitution, which changed the scope of the judiciary's authority.

What happens when politicians do not achieve their objectives through the judicial system? They cry foul and resemble a child throwing a tantrum because they didn't get their way. Their response is to use political power to pressure the Court, which is precisely what our system was designed to resist.

The Politicization of the Court

Politicians have launched an offensive at the Supreme Court and they use every weapon at their disposal. Perhaps the most powerful weapon a politician holds is their access to the media.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed Robert Bork to a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Bork's resume was more than adequate, having been a law professor at Yale, a stint as Solicitor General, and then serving as a federal court of appeals judge. However, his conservative nature and his candid answers during his hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee prompted many Democrats to become fierce opponents of Bork's confirmation.

Senator Ted Kennedy spearheaded a campaign to stop Bork's nomination. He strongly condemned Bork, stating,

Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy ... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.
Kennedy's statement in front of the Senate made its way into every major media outlet, despite the protestations of Bork and his supporters that none of the statements were true (they weren't).

Additionally, a series of television ads, narrated by famous actor Gregory Peck, attacked Bork as unfit for the high court. The wave of anger directed at Bork was so intense, newspapers somehow obtained a history of his video rentals in the hopes of finding some sensational piece of information.

The crusade against Bork was effective. His confirmation vote yielded only 42 votes for, and a surprising 58 against. The strong nature of the media feeding frenzy produced results for Democrats, and this was in 1987, before 24 hour news cycles were the norm and social media could spread a rumor across the world instantaneously. 

After the decisions by the Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and require all states to permit same-sex marriages, conservatives quickly weighed in about the poor decision making of the Court. They noted that "five unelected judges" uprooted the will of the people. A few critics called for impeachment of the justices.

Former Arkansas governor and current presidential candidate Mike Huckabee put the Court on blast, stating, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

Senator Ted Cruz was willing to go even further, claiming the two decisions represented "some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history." He suggested a radical plan that would have called for Supreme Court justices to face re-election every 8 years, whereby they would need a majority of the nation to vote for them, and at least half the states would have to approve of the justice or he or she would be barred from ever returning. 

Cruz's demagoguery is disgusting and it's more than fair to ask if he and fellow conservatives were this critical of the Supreme Court when it's ruling in Bush v. Gore, which allowed for a Republican to take the White House in 2000. Flash back to 2010, when conservatives were overjoyed at the ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed for corporations to engage in nearly unlimited spending on campaign activities. Republicans were also pleased last summer when the Court overturned certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of course, the reverse of this trend is also true. Democrats are just as hypocritical about the Court's decision making. After the Citizens United decision, President Obama fired shots at the Court during his State of the Union address in 2010 — while the justices were in attendance.

Current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi derided the Court last year after a decision that loosened campaign finance rules, claiming, "Nothing again is more disillusioning to the public than the vast display of money spent in campaigns. ... Our founders sacrificed everything — their lives, their liberty, their sacred honor — for a democracy. A government of the many, not a government of the money."

The comments from party leadership on both sides bring about a simple truth. When the Supreme Court doesn't rule in the manner consistent with your liking, they're elitist bums out of touch with reality. When your party wins, you applaud them for upholding the cause of freedom and democracy.

The resentment from Court decision making can also be gleaned from the confirmation process itself. Prior to Bork's failed nomination, the process of selection and confirmation of a justice was far less political. The selection of a Supreme Court justice was considered to be a choice that rested primarily with the president. The Senate's role in confirming a nomination appears to have been almost a formality unless a serious objection existed. Prior to 1965, most Supreme Court justices were confirmed with only a voice vote in the Senate. 

When looking at the confirmation votes of the current justices, the number of 'nay' votes is startling when you examine the four most recent appointees compared to the four senior most justices (I've excluded Clarence Thomas because his high number of nay votes was predicated upon accusations of sexual harassment).

How is it possible that Antonin Scalia was confirmed by the Senate with not a single vote in opposition? Scalia is arguably one of the most conservative justices in the last 100 years and no one stood against this appointment made by President Ronald Reagan? Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer were liberal appointees under the Clinton administration and Republicans only mustered 12 no votes? Hardly any opposition to these four justices existed.

Contrast that with the four most recent appointees, all of whom were appointed by two polarizing presidents. The mere correlation of increased no votes doesn't necessarily mean the process has become politicized, but when you examine the no votes in each of these four cases, it becomes more difficult to deny a political slant to the process.

In Elena Kagan's confirmation vote, 36 of the 37 no votes came from Republicans. All 31 of the no votes for Sonia Sotomayor came from Republicans. Party lines were apparent in Samuel Alito's confirmation also, as 40 of his 42 no votes came from Democrats (one Republican 'no' came from Lincoln Chafee, who has since defected to the Democrats and the other 'no' was a left-leaning independent). Finally, all 22 no votes against Chief Justice John Roberts were from Democrats.
  
What does it say about the process of selection Supreme Court justices when it appears the confirmation process is polluted by partisanship?


The Supreme Court's decision making during the Roberts Court is worth examining because of the ideological makeup of the membership, which includes four liberals, four conservatives, and one Anthony Kennedy, who is considered 'the swing vote.'

Since the current Court was set in 2010, the Supreme Court has heard 393 cases. Of these cases, 71 of them were 5-4 split decisions. These decisions are of interest because they frequently deal with some of the more divisive policy issues in the nation. In these 71 instances, the four conservative justices sided together and the four liberal justices did the same in an amazing 58 instances. How is this possible that the same eight justices were divided the same way in so many controversial cases? 

I suppose it's possible that those eight justices were divided in exactly the same manner due to coincidence or similar judicial interpretations of the law, but it's far more likely these justices were influenced by their own ideological thoughts and beliefs (which match their votes in each of the 58 cases). The justices themselves have politicized the process by having a preconceived idea of what the outcome ought to be, and then manipulating the information and facts to suit that conclusion.

The politicization of the Court has also granted an immense amount of power to Anthony Kennedy. Because Kennedy is the wild card among the justices, he ends up being the decisive vote. Kennedy has literally decided the outcome of American policy in 14.7% of the cases during the last five years. No other official in the nation, not even the president, has enjoyed such unilateral decision making authority.

Keeping things as they are

Despite the politicization of the Supreme Court, the current system we have actually is the best defense against an even greater danger to society. The media blitz from members of Congress and the president has not corrupted the system to the point where the Court isn't capable of carrying out their duties and interpreting law correctly.

While the justices are divided in many cases, there's another trend in their decision making of which we overlook. During the last five years, 171 of 393 the cases heard by the Court, the decision was unanimous. This accounts for an astonishing 43.5% of the time where there is no dissent among the nine justices. Though the justices are divided on controversial policy cases, they speak with a unified voice nearly half of the time. This points to the Court's ability to adjudicate with accuracy, considering the liberal and conservative justices are typically in agreement.

The attacks on the Court from the other branches of government was anticipated by the Framers, who saw the Court as an "excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body.  And it is the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws." This excerpt, from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist #78, is noting that the judiciary is not a flawless remedy, but the best option that we have.

Moreover, the Court has weaknesses just as the other two branches. The justices are kept in check by the threat of impeachment, and the public exercises influence over the president and the Senate, who bear the responsibility for choosing and confirming the members of the Court. 

Congress holds the power of the purse, deciding how to raise and allocate tax dollars. The president possesses the power of the sword, as the commander-in-chief of armed forces. These branches were given their vital authority explicitly by the Constitution, but the Court is given no such enumeration in our founding document. The Court, "... may be said to have neither force nor will but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments." The Court has a political twinge that must disappear. Yet, the effects of a politicized Court are limited.

The Supreme Court will always have some semblance of political nature within its membership, but it was never intended on being perfect. The system in place has allowed for the politicization of the Court, but not its corruption. We should be working toward a "more perfect union," but don't believe the hype. Changing the Court would only damage the republic, and I doubt American politicians want the change they seem to advocate.

Members of Congress and the president may publicly denigrate the judiciary, but that's about as far as they're willing to go. A Supreme Court justice hasn't been impeached in more than 200 years, and no justices has ever been removed. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have made any serious effort to put together a Constitutional amendment, and the executive branch hasn't been threatening to not enforce the decisions of the Supreme Court.

So why all the anger directed at the Court? Because the Court is an easy target. Sitting justices typically shun cameras in all settings and rarely give interviews. They do not publicly rebuke those who attack them, nor do they attempt to persuade citizens with grandiose speeches or false promises of reform. The Supreme Court is stoic in nature, always keeping a stiff upper lip. Politicians count on the Court to behave in this manner. 

When politicians can point to the Court as "the problem" in America, it deflects the attention away from themselves and their own failures. If any of these politicians had any serious qualms about the decision making of the Court, they would have taken steps towards changing the system. The Supreme Court provides other members of the government with a convenient whipping boy, and they're happy to keep things as they are, lest these politicians might have to take responsibility.

If we want to hold people accountable for bad policy or poor decision making in this nation, look to the other two branches of government. We have a history of giving poor presidents a second term. Incumbents in Congress tend to be re-elected at more than a rate of 90%. And they want us to believe the Supreme Court is the problem? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

More questions than answers: Same-sex Marriage in America


Exactly two years ago today, the Supreme Court delivered its ruling in the case of United States v. Windsor, declaring part of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional.  According to the Court, the federal government had an obligation to recognize same-sex marriages in states that had granted those marriages.  As such, thousands of marriages across the country were recognized by the federal government, which permitted them to obtain the benefits that come with marriage.  In 2013, the Court declined to address two significant issues.
  • Did the Constitution guarantee the right to marry to same-sex couples under the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause?
  • Would individual states who did not approve same-sex marriages be required to recognize marriages from states who do grant those licenses?
The Court, which did not address these questions then, chose to deal with them today in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.  In what's sure to be considered a controversial ruling, the justices voted 5-4 that the Constitution did guarantee the right to marriages to same-sex couples and would require states to recognize those marriages.

The case developed out of several challenges to state and federal laws from gay couples who believed they were being unfairly discriminated against.  The petitioners in these cases were from various parts of the nation, and their lawsuits were fair questions to address, since the Court kicked the can down the road two years ago.

I also made a post about the Windsor case, and the crux of that post, was that the debate about same-sex marriage was far from over.  I know it didn't exactly require a crystal ball to make that prediction.  However, the problem then is the same problem the Court created today.  I believe their decision was incorrect, and it's a more complex issue than what people believe. 

With its decision today, the Court essentially redefined the meaning of marriage, a social institution as old as recorded history itself.  Critics of the conservative position will claim that marriage has constantly evolved over time, and to that objection, I agree.  But until recently, no civilization had attempted to change that marriage was distinctly between men and women.  Is that alone a reason to keep it the same?  By no means, but the frustration that results from this case is that five individuals (i.e. the liberal wing of the Court) have made their determination not on the law, but their own preference.  In doing so, their arbitrary ruling of what marriage means is no less a farce than what they claim the historical definition of marriage is.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his dissenting opinion,  
... the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?
It can be tempting for judges to confuse our own preferences with the requirements of the law. ... And it answers that question based not on neutral principles of constitutional law, but on its own "understanding of what freedom is and must become."  ... The real question in these cases is what constitutes marriage, ormore precisely who decides what constitutes marriage?  [emphasis original]
Roberts also referenced Justice John Marshall Harlan II, who noted that courts are not  "... free to roam where unguided speculation might take them."  Courts must "regard to what history teaches ..."  Did the Court today (which relied so heavily on Harlan's words) regard history when making this decision? 

Many critics of the traditional view of marriage would bring up the point that at one point, interracial marriages were banned in many states.  And the Court rightfully struck down such legislation in Loving v. Virginia (1967).  However, there's a distinct difference between the case of same-sex marriage and Loving.  The Court in Loving did not attempt to redefine marriage as between one man and one woman.  This presents a different issue altogether from the decision in Obergefell.  The Court in Loving was so convinced in its ruling, the decisions was 9-0.  The 5-4 decision today was one vote from a dramatically different decision.  These cases also differed in the sense that in Loving, a man and wife couple were actually imprisoned for their relationship, whereas same-sex couples today face no such action from the state.

This ruling from the Court also creates another problem with respect to religious freedoms.  What will the government do when a same-sex couple insists that a clergyman of their choosing conduct their wedding ceremony?  I'm certain that most same-sex couples will seek out an official for their wedding that supports their union, however, there will be conflicts.  Will we force pastors to violate their own religious beliefs as to provide 'equity' under the law?  How long before society accuses such a pastor of being discriminatory?  What if same-sex couples insist on having a ceremony inside a certain church that does not believe homosexuals should be included in the covenant of marriage? 

If people believe this to be an unrealistic expectation, or a far-fetched idea, consider the plight of many businesses operated by people of faith.  Bakeries, caterers, flower shops, and photographers can be required to be an unwilling participant in a ceremony they believe God does not condone.  Would you be willing to violate their First Amendment Freedom of Religion so that another person could exercise their right to marry? 

Moreover, many proponents of same-sex marriage have taken to notion that religious beliefs shouldn't be part of the equation in this situation.  The liberal position here often tries to correlate traditional marriage views as bigoted, or mean-spirited.  This is an unfair critique and overlooks the fact that so many good-natured people genuinely believe that homosexuality is not part of what marriage is. 

 One of the reasons why I believe Americans are so much more accepting of same-sex couples now (as opposed to two decades ago) is that more people actually know someone who is openly gay.  It becomes more difficult to oppose someone's position when you meet them face to face and regularly interact with them.  This should not translate to a Supreme Court ruling in their favor merely because we find they are likable people.  The Chief Justice also noted as much, writing,
... the majoritys argument is that the Due Process Clause gives same-sex couples a fundamental right to marry because it will be good for them and for society. If I were a legislator, I would certainly consider that view as a matter of social policy. But as a judge, I find the majoritys position indefensible as a matter of constitutional law.

Maybe the people of the United States want to authorize same-sex marriage as a matter of policy through legislative bodies and approved by the governors of the states.  It's also worth noting that the Constitution nowhere mentions marriage.  Per the 10th Amendment, this is a power vested in the individual states to determine what their marriage laws ought to be.  Though the Constitution includes many rights that are not enumerated, the majority of the Court would have us believe that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right for no other reason than because they say so.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent, in which he critiqued the majority for essentially recreating laws as they saw fit.  Scalia wrote,
These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago,21 cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.
This statement from Scalia also brings about the fair point that modern-day liberals have created a narrative in society that classifies anyone who does not agree with same-sex marriage as some kind of monster.  Such a notion discounts the genuine beliefs of so many, while engaging in the same sort of shenanigans they deride the right for engaging in.  The result is this: if you don't believe what we do, you should leave.  The level of intolerance for a conservative position on marriage is unconscionable. 

We also now face the problem about the extent of the meaning in 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause.  This text states, "Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ..."  If the term 'liberty' is now construed to include same-sex couples, to what end will we go?  If, as the liberal position maintained in Obergefell, the traditional meaning of marriage somehow demeaned same-sex couples, then must we now conclude that liberty should include the right to marry more than one person.  If the Court's majority is correct in its ruling today, then polygamy must be on the table as well.  Where do we draw a line about marriage?  Why can't a 17 year old decide for themselves if they wish to marry?  Who among us is fit to get in the way of love?  The battle cry for liberals today is "love wins."  Well, love doesn't win unless you fit into their concept of what love entails.

While discussing the idea of love with respect to this issue, Justice Anthony Kennedy's last paragraph of the Opinion of the Court is worth examination.  He wrote,
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilizations oldest institutions.

Though Kennedy's high view of marriage and love is commendable, I can't agree with some of his conclusion.  If the issue of this case is really about love, then Kennedy's position that homosexuals are "condemned to live in loneliness" is untrue.  No laws exist that prevent homosexuals from living together, loving one another, or sharing their lives.  If love is what really matters, then why does any couple need the sanctioning of any government or religious group?  Love each other and live your life. 

Love is not the issue at stake here.  This case is about the financial benefits that come with marriage, such as inheritance rights, tax breaks, and benefits packages.  The Court's ruling today missed this issue entirely. 

Justice Clarence Thomas chimed in on this particular subject, noting that the petitioners in this case could not make a claim that they've been deprived of life, liberty, or property.  His dissent included the following,
Petitioners cannot claim, under the most plausible definition of "liberty," that they have been imprisoned or physically restrained by the States for participating in same-sex relationships. To the contrary, they have been able to cohabitate and raise their children in peace. They have been able to hold civil marriage ceremonies in States that recognize same-sex marriages and private religious ceremonies in all States. They have been able to travel freely around the country, making their homes where they please. Far from being incarcerated or physically restrained, petitioners have been left alone to order their lives as they see fit.
So, again, what is it that same-sex couples are being deprived of? 

In its decision today, the Court and advocates of same-sex marriage will proclaim this as a victory for freedom and liberty, but the reality is that the Court caved to a small segment of society that made enough noise.  The notion that the Court is influenced in such a capacity is a problem for America.  The Opinion of the Court seemed to imply that their decision was the correct one because they felt it was the right thing to do.  They ignored history, robbed states of a decision that was always considered theirs, ignored the considerations of religious liberty, and veered into the realm of policy-making instead of interpreting the law.