Animus Not a Legitimate Government Interest?

Oooh, juicy. A federal district court judge struck down DOMA, the federal law that restricts marriage to heterosexuals. Uh oh! Time for the shit storm!

Judge Joseph Tauro wrote:

“This court is soundly convinced that the government’s proffered rationales…are without ‘footing in the realities of the subject…And when the proffered rationales for a law are clearly and manifestly implausible, a reviewing court may infer that animus is the only explicable basis. [Because] animus alone cannot constitute a legitimate government interest, this court finds that DOMA lacks a rational basis to support it.”

3 thoughts on “Animus Not a Legitimate Government Interest?

  1. It was in two companion cases. One case struck down part of DOMA as violating (I believe) the Fifth Amendment, and the other case struck down the same part of DOMA as violating the Tenth Amendment. I wonder how all those “states’ rights” people will react to something being struck down as violating states’ rights. It’s hypocritical and incoherent to stand for states’ rights but use federal power to preempt them when it prevents states from doing something you don’t like.

  2. I was just thinking about this issue! Because of my values, I am often wary of “state’s rights” arguments because it is usually a case where the state wants to be able to discriminate against part of it’s population and is angry that the feds might prevent it.

    But in this case, the “state’s rights” argument supports my values, i.e. full equality for all people. So in a way, I am equally hypocritical. However, I don’t think the “state’s rights” argument is compelling for any issue… it’s just about who gets to decide who plays in the sandbox; about different ways to demarcate realms of power, and who gets to exert power over whose lives.

    So I guess I would try to resolve this contradiction by saying that I support any government action that removes restrictions on equality, and oppose actions that place restrictions on equality, whether at state or federal level.

    And no, I do not think things like “affirmative action” or integrated lunch counters restrict the equality and liberty of white people. They are restricted only in their desire to restrict others. Right after the imperative of government to “first, do no harm” comes the imperative to prevent harm whenever that prevention doesn’t trigger or place a greater harm on a group than the harm prevented.

  3. We’d better be careful about the Tenth Amendment bits, though. At his blog, Andrew Sullivan quotes others who believe that the same Tenth Amendment reasoning used in this decision could also be used to strike down other laws one might find agreeable, such as your recent health care reform law.

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