A living, breathing Constitution

Over the last two weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States has made some dynamic, sweeping rulings by the way that the majority interpreted the Constitution. Unlike religion, there is nothing orthodox about the Constitution or understanding it. In fact, the checks and balances put in place by the Founding Fathers — with the three branches of government — are to keep one person, one position, one branch from being too powerful, which could otherwise pose a threat to our country and the very Constitution itself. To further those checks and balances, Supreme Court justices, who do not have term limits on the bench, are nominated by the President and then approved by the Senate. Five of the current Supreme Court justices were nominated by Republican presidents, two of them by George W. Bush; and four by Democrats, two of them by President Obama. Each level of this process, with various elected officials, reflects the democracy as it was intended: to best represent the will of the people.

While conservative Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were in the minority of the when it came to ruling on gay marriage, with conservative-leaning Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote that legalized it in all 50 states, conservative Roberts and Kennedy were the winning votes when it came to upholding the constitutionality of providing subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, a law Republicans have been trying to destroy since its passage in 2010. This divide on certain partisan issues shows that there is nothing solid in political ideology or, in particular, regarding what being a conservative means. Also, while Roberts claimed that legalizing gay marriage somehow undermined the democratic process by taking the decision on the question away from the states, this should never have been about states’ rights. It has always been about human equality.

The Supreme Court historically has eventually reflected the changing cultural norms on personal freedoms. Some may disagree with that direction. Given the way the public has reacted over social concerns, such as taking down the Confederate flag after a hate murder spree and several organizations distancing themselves from Donald Trump after his anti-Mexican rant, the majority of the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution as the breathing and living document it is, as it was often referred to by at least some of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution was never set in stone, but rather it’s malleable to a certain degree, just as our opinions and values are. In the end, the justices are human, too, and it’s clear that the majority are in favor of dignity for all humans.

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” —Thomas Jefferson

A living, breathing Constitution

A living, breathing Constitution

 

Over the last two weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States has made some dynamic, sweeping rulings by the way that the majority interpreted the Constitution. Unlike religion, there is nothing orthodox about the Constitution or understanding it. In fact, the checks and balances put in place by the Founding Fathers — with the three branches of government — are to keep one person, one position, one branch from being too powerful, which could otherwise pose a threat to our country and the very Constitution itself. To further those checks and balances, Supreme Court justices, who do not have term limits on the bench, are nominated by the President and then approved by the Senate. Five of the current Supreme Court justices were nominated by Republican presidents, two of them by George W. Bush; and four by Democrats, two of them by President Obama. Each level of this process, with various elected officials, reflects the democracy as it was intended: to best represent the will of the people.

While conservative Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were in the minority of the when it came to ruling on gay marriage, with conservative-leaning Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote that legalized it in all 50 states, conservative Roberts and Kennedy were the winning votes when it came to upholding the constitutionality of providing subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, a law Republicans have been trying to destroy since its passage in 2010. This divide on certain partisan issues shows that there is nothing solid in political ideology or, in particular, regarding what being a conservative means. Also, while Roberts claimed that legalizing gay marriage somehow undermined the democratic process by taking the decision on the question away from the states, this should never have been about states’ rights. It has always been about human equality.

The Supreme Court historically has eventually reflected the changing cultural norms on personal freedoms. Some may disagree with that direction. Given the way the public has reacted over social concerns, such as taking down the Confederate flag after a hate murder spree and several organizations distancing themselves from Donald Trump after his anti-Mexican rant, the majority of the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution as the breathing and living document it is, as it was often referred to by at least some of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution was never set in stone, but rather it’s malleable to a certain degree, just as our opinions and values are. In the end, the justices are human, too, and it’s clear that the majority are in favor of dignity for all humans.

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”  —Thomas Jefferson

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