Over the past few years when citizens across the country organized to put initiatives on their respective state’s ballot enacting a law or amending the state’s constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, I, while opposing their initiatives, appreciated their motivation. They did not want their state Supreme Court to mandate that their state recognize same-sex marriages.
I would rather they put forward a different measure, removing marriage from the court’s jurisdiction so that their action would not bar the elected legislature from taking action.
But, with the legislatures in Maine and Vermont having acted on their own, without being mandated by the state Supreme Court, I have less appreciation for citizens who seek recourse through the initiative process. In previous cases, citizens were taking a stand against an unelected court imposing its will on the state. But, the issue changes when an elected legislature changes the law. Because that’s what its job is, to make laws.
The court’s job is to interpret and apply them.
To be sure, the Maine Constitution allows for a “citizen’s veto. And I expect they’ll succeed in gathering the 55,000 signatures they need to get such a bill on the state ballot. How it will fare is anyone’s guess.
This time, however, opponents of the measure can’t claim they’re fighting to preserve the will of the people. For, in Maine, the people, through their elected representatives, have spoken.