People, news outlets, and politicians who call a Supreme Court decision “the law of the land” drive me absolutely nuts. I’ve heard Iowa Governor Terry Branstad say that, Carly Fiorina has said that, Ben Carson has said that, and disappointingly I’ve seen U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) say that as well.
On one hand I understand what they are trying to say – it’s hard to undo it, and the path to a remedy is going to be difficult. On the other hand it is the legislative branch who makes law. The judicial branch interprets it, or at least that is how it is supposed to go.
Princeton law professor Robert P. George had a brilliant response on his Facebook page yesterday.
If a politician tells you that the Court’s ruling in the marriage case is “the law of the land,” ask him whether Dred Scott v. Sandford was “the law of the land,” as Stephen Douglas maintained, or was not, as Abraham Lincoln believed. Shall we side with Douglas or with Lincoln on the question of judicial supremacy? To accept lawless and usurpative decisions of the Supreme Court as absolutely binding on the other branches is, as Lincoln said, to suppose that “the people have ceased to be their own rulers, having practically resigned their government into that eminent tribunal.”
He wrote an article in First Things on how to respond back in March in expectation of yesterday’s ruling. I highly encourage you to read it.