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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 8, 2017

On the Obergefell Dissenters′ Selective Judicial Self-restraint

Ronald Turner
From the journal ICL Journal


In its landmark decision in Obergefell v Hodges a five-Justice majority of the United States Supreme Court held that state laws depriving same-sex couples of the right to marry violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Four dissenting Justices - Chief Justice John G Roberts, Jr and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr - criticized the majority’s ruling and analysis. Calling for judicial self-restraint and deference to the outcomes of democratic decision-making, the dissenters argued that same-sex marriage bans enacted by state legislatures did not violate the Constitution. This essay argues and demonstrates that the Obergefell dissenters have not restrained themselves in other cases in which they voted to strike down legislative enactments and did not defer to democratic decision-making. This selective restraint reveals that the dissenters have not been unwaveringly committed to judicial self-restraint, and raises the central question of when should the Court defer to legislatures in cases presenting constitutional challenges to state or federal laws.

Published Online: 2017-2-8
Published in Print: 2015-12-1

© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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