Other States Could Be Affected By Supreme Court's Proposition 8 Ruling

Mar 26, 2013
Originally published on March 27, 2013 5:58 pm
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Now, we're going to hear from one state that bans same-sex marriage and could be affected by the Supreme Court's ruling on today's case. In 2008, voters in Arizona approved an amendment to the state Constitution that, like California, defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Tom Horne is Arizona's attorney general, and he joins us now from Phoenix. Tom Horne, welcome to the program.

TOM HORNE: Well, I'm an NPR listener, so it's a great pleasure to be with you.

CORNISH: Well, to start, we know that you've actually argued before this court before, and I'd like to know your read of today's arguments. What were the specific moments that jumped out at you?

HORNE: Well, one that jumped out at me was when Justice Scalia pointed out that we don't really know what the effects in the long term are of gay marriage. It may be that it really won't harm anything and everything will be fine, and that seems to be the trend in the debate in the country. But we don't know that for sure. And so the - it's not a good idea for the U.S. Supreme Court to cut off the debate, to cut off the process and to dictate to the whole country whether or not we should have gay marriage.

It's better to have an ongoing process in which the issue is debated. New evidence may come to light and decisions can be made rationally on the basis that our decision should be made, which is that the people really make the decision.

CORNISH: And at the same time, we know the justices also mentioned that - one of the justices also mentioned that the court allowed the issue of racial segregation to play out in the country for decades before finally stepping in. It wasn't clear where the court was going with that.

HORNE: No. Well, you know, obviously, it was a shame that the issue of racial segregation went on, but this is not the same issue as racial segregation. It was pointed out in the argument that the court correctly held when it did reach the issue of racial intermarriage that there's nothing about somebody's race that can possibly be relevant to marriage. And I think that's an obviously true statement.

But in the case of gay marriage, we don't really know. It may be that it doesn't matter, and that kids are brought up just as well in gay families as they would be in straight families. And if I were to guess, I think it probably will come out that way. But we don't know.

CORNISH: Now, this actually I want to - this brings me to the amicus brief that you signed on to about this case. It argues that Californians should be able to ban same-sex marriage both on the basis of legal precedent and moral grounds. And to quote, it says that allowing same-sex marriage in California is a disintegration of perhaps the most fundamental and revered cultural institution of American life: marriage as we know it. But with same-sex marriage already allowed in nine states and here in D.C., is what you call this disintegration already happening?

HORNE: Well, you know, that was a brief that was - that 15 states joined into, and so you're not going to have the attorney general of every state agree with every word in the brief. We agree with the general thrust that the debate shouldn't be cut off, and that we should let the political process proceed and let people decide for themselves. I don't think that so far - in the states that have had gay marriage, there's no evidence that I know of that it's done any harm at all or the kids have been badly brought up. But it's a new institution that it - one of the justices pointed out it started in the year 2000 in the Netherlands.

So it's a very new institution. There may be unforeseen consequences. There may be studies that'll come out that'll influence people, perhaps not. And it may well be as a trend now, as it's been a tsunami in public opinion. It's gone from 2-1 against gay marriage in 10 years to in the high 50 percentages approval of gay marriage and 80 percent among young people.

CORNISH: And do you get the sense that regardless of the ruling, you're going to be dealing with this as a legal issue for some time?

HORNE: Well, if - I think if the ruling is that California citizens had a right to pass Proposition 8, which I think is a correct ruling, then we will be dealing with this for a long time as a political matter. And when I say political, I mean, the people rule themselves. So people look at the evidence and the people make the decision. If the court were to rule that gay marriage is a constitutional right, that cuts off the debate.

We can't discuss it anymore in a meaningful way because it will have been decided and the people will have been dictated to. As a process matter, I don't think that's a good idea. I think even if we end up with gay marriage as a general institution, it's better if it evolves through people deciding that's what they want and the legislatures adopting it than if it's dictated to them by this - by a court.

CORNISH: That's Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Mr. Horne, thank you so much for coming on the program.

HORNE: It's a great pleasure to be with you.


CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.