I have a feeling we are about to be bombarded ad nauseum, again, from right-wing talking heads on the airwaves and in print with the phrase "activist judges."
A Superior Court judge in California, Richard Kramer, ruled this afternoon that California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
It's not the end of the road for this battle, that's for sure. It will certainly be appealed to the state supreme court, and groups are trying to get a measure on November's ballot which would give voters a chance to establish a ban, as 13 other states did last year.
Judge Kramer wrote, "It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners." Well, no rational purpose unless you're one of those worried about survival of the species.
Yet I have no doubt that conservative pundits will be outraged over this latest example of judicial overreach. Right-wingers are just big into "traditional" marriage -- heck, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are such staunch supporters, they've tied the knot three times each -- and some of them go so far as to claim that "redefining" marriage will result in the collapse of civilization.
Of course, by "traditional" we're referring to the millennia-old practice of bartering adolescent or pre-pubescent girls as property to be traded in financial and/or political contracts. But never mind.
What is an "activist judge"? This case was brought before the court system, assigned to Judge Kramer and tried, and he retired to ponder the arguments and evidence presented, and then rendered a verdict. Isn't that a judge's job?
If you're a right-wing nutcase, an "activist judge" is any judge who reaches a verdict with which you disagree, despite overwhelming evidence, logic, morality or plain common sense.
If you're a clear-thinking, rational person (aka "progressive" or "liberal"), an "activist judge" would be someone with a demonstrable, ex-curia track record of advocating certain ideas or agendas and a habit of reaching verdicts that support those same ideas. For example:
President Bush has renominated William G. Myers III to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (He got blocked last time.) His resume consists largely of lobbying for mining, timber and oil companies and he once compared government management of federal lands to the tyranny of King George III. (Which was nothing in comparison with King George Bush II.)
Re-nominee Janice Brown of California called The New Deal the "triumph of [America's] socialist revolution" and has criticized worker health and safety laws as infringements on the rights of business.
Re-nominee Claude Allen is reponsible for removing language about condoms from the CDC website.
And then there's Priscilla Owen of Texas. She was once admonished by Alberto Gonzales, of all people, for "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."
When someone who authorized torture said you did something "unconscionable," you KNOW you crossed a line.
So hurray for Judge Kramer, whose verdict clearly reflects the intent of the equal protection clause. It's a sad state of affairs when a legal opinion based squarely upon one of the great principles of democracy -- that everyone is equal in the eyes of the government -- is denounced as an act of radical fringe activism.