Republicans treat the Constitution like a toy that they can manipulate however they choose. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) claims that all federal education programs — including Pell Grants and student loan assistance — are unconstitutional. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says that they are constitutional problems with the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) suggested that child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. And when the Ninth Circuit held that yes, the Constitution does have a First Amendment, Newt Gingrich’s political advocacy group called for that court to be abolished.
With so many Republicans claiming that the Constitution can mean whatever they want it to mean, it should be no surprise that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) wants a piece of this action. Yesterday, Bachmann told a gathering of social conservatives in Iowa that if the courts insist on applying the Constitution’s requirement that no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” to gay people, then Congress should strip federal judges of their power to hear marriage equality cases:
Something else that we can do to reinforce our pro-marriage, pro-life, pro-family agenda is to limit the subject-matter jurisdiction of the courts . … At the federal level with what are called Article III courts, Article III of the United States Constitution, we can limit the subject matter that justices can rule on. We have it within our authority to decide what judges can rule on and what they can’t. Any time the people speak, they say with one voice that marriage is one man, one woman.
Bachmann is, of course, wrong about the public’s view of marriage equality — 53 percent of Americans believe that gay couples should not be denied their constitutional right to marry. It is also not entirely clear that Congress actually has the power to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing a marriage equality case, although Congress could prevent lower federal courts from hearing these lawsuits.
At the end of the day, however, Bachmann’s court-stripping plan is nothing less than an assault on the Constitution itself. Bachmann does not like the fact that the Constitution requires gay people to be afforded the same legal protections as everyone else, so she wants to hamstring the courts from according equal protection to all Americans.