Last month, California federal judge Virginia Phillips struck down the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy as unconstitutional because it violated the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the servicemembers’ First Amendment free speech rights. Pursuant to that decision, Phillips granted the Log Cabin Republican’s request for a broad, worldwide injunction yesterday to immediately “suspend and discontinue” any further DADT discharges.
In reaction to the injunction, right-wing Rep. Steve King (R-IA) blasted the judge’s decision as a unilateral attempt by an “out of control” judge to push the “gay-rights agenda.” Decrying the injunction as “the latest in a line” of activist decisions, King proceeded to assail any recent judicial decision supporting LGBT equal rights as a “flagrant disregard” of the law and to call for the judges’ removal:
“Judges in this country are out of control, whether they sit on the federal bench or on Iowa’s Supreme Court,” said King. “Today’s ruling by Judge Phillips is just the latest in a line of decisions in which judges have implemented their own policy preferences at the expense of the Constitution, American citizens, and the Rule of Law.”
“In Iowa, the seven members of Iowa’s Supreme Court overturned the state’s law recognizing marriages as an institution only between one male and one female. Earlier this year, a federal judge single-handedly invalidated California’s voter-enacted Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage within that state. Today, a different federal judge unilaterally issued a worldwide injunction that prevents the military from enforcing the Congressionally passed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.”
“These decisions share a common trait: in order to advance the politically correct ‘gay-rights’ agenda, the rogue judges involved ignored both the expressed will of the people and of the legislative bodies that have examined the issue. In Iowa the Supreme Court even bragged that their reading of the Iowa constitution included ‘rights’ that ‘were at one time unimagined.’ Judges should not be rewarded for flagrant disregard of the Rule of Law and the American people should respond by pursuing avenues which would result in the removal of lawless judges from the state and federal bench.”
King is a vocal leader of the right-wing culture crusade against judges who rule in favor of equal rights. Earlier this week, King penned an op-ed calling on Iowa voters to “use their moral authority” to remove the Iowa Supreme Court’s “rogue,” “activist” judges who overturned Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban last year because “they feel empowered” to “usurp the letter of the Constitution and the Code of Iowa” and to use “convoluted legal jujitsu” in order to “match their personal, political and policy preference with their conclusion.”
In August, King corralled other anti-gay rights Republicans to denounce Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban as “tyranny of the courts.” King joined Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) in introducing a resolution accusing the judge who overturned Proposition 8 of failing “to conduct himself in an impartial manner” and called for the decision to be appealed. At a press conference, King said, “I would be very happy to take whatever steps, however bold, to reverse [the decision].” And King’s call to arms is carrying well in the right-wing echo chamber.
The “judicial activism” attack is a popular play among Republicans. While the Supreme Court is an equal branch of government that is constitutionally required to review laws, Republicans are quick to denounce any judge they do not approve of as an out-of-bounds activist. But, should a judge favor conservative principles while ignoring judicial precedent, conservatives are happy to abandon the tactic. As ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser notes, the way Republicans see it, “the American people can have whatever kind of laws they want – so long as they’re conservative.” Apparently, equal rights don’t fall into the purview.