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Peter posed a question earlier today: If the Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage, how should we respond? I defer to Richard Epstein’s views on the comparison between Dred Scott, Lochner, and gay marriage. I think that Robert P. George rightly warns of the dangers of the use of the due process clause by judges to advance their personal policy preferences. There are surely similarities between the Court’s use of substantive due process in all three periods. I think that a decision imposing gay marriage on the nation incorrectly reads our constitutional structure, just as Dred Scott mistakenly interpreted the Constitution’s original understanding of federal and state control over slavery and freedom.
But there is an important difference here, one that shouldn’t affect their legal decision but will control the political response. A majority of Americans support gay marriage now, as opposed to 2008. There will be no groundswell of opposition to the Court on gay marriage in the way there was against Dred Scott.
The most there will be, I predict, will be opposition of the kind that arose in response to Roe v. Wade — gay marriage could become an important issue in debates about values and judicial appointments. But there won’t be widespread resistance and successful presidential candidates who promise to under-enforce the decision because the majority of Americans will agree with the outcome, even if they disagree with the way our society reached it.