A routine order issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Tuesday transformed into a flame war among four of the court’s members, one of whom claimed that he is not obligated to follow the United States Supreme Court’s decisions.
The actual opinion of the court in Costanza v. Caldwell is a three-page order acknowledging that the Supreme Court has ruled that “the State of Louisiana may not bar same-sex couples from the civil effects of marriage on the same terms accorded to opposite-sex couples.” Nevertheless, this acknowledgement of an instantly famous Supreme Court decision sparked four separate opinions from the court’s members.
Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll, while conceding her obligation to follow the Supreme Court’s decision, wrote separately to complain about the “horrific impact these five lawyers have made on the democratic rights of the American people to define marriage and the rights stemming by operation of law there from.”
That prompted Justice John Weimer to retort that it is not a judge’s job to “point out what, in my view, the law should be.”
The most unusual opinion of the lot came from Justice Jefferson D. Hughes, III, who dissented from the court’s conclusion that it actually must comply with binding constitutional precedents handed down by the United States Supreme Court. “Judges instruct jurors every week not to surrender their honest convictions merely to reach agreement,” Hughes began. “I cannot do so now.”
Hughes’s opinion is only two paragraphs. It cites no authorities and provides no legal arguments in support of his position. It does, however, include an apparent suggestion that gay parents are pedophiles. “This case involves an adoption,” he writes, adding that “[t]he most troubling prospect of same sex marriage is the adoption by same sex partners of a young child of the same sex.”
Justice Hughes’s unsupported notions about gay parents aside, it’s worth noting that he is also wrong about the facts of this particular case. As Justice Greg Guidry points out in yet another concurring opinion, “[t]he dissenting opinion appears to be unaware of the facts of the case before us, which involves the intra-family adoption of a boy by the female spouse of the boy’s biological mother.”