Study Links Elected State Judges and Denial of Marriage Equality

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Gay MarriageA Center for American Progress report links state judges and magistrates who are resisting the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling this year with the fact this comes in states with big-spending, highly politicized judicial elections.

“The states where judges still resist equality are also states that have experienced, or are beginning to see, highly politicized, multimillion-dollar supreme court elections that require judges to cater to public opinion,” states the  paper by Billy Corriher, director of Research for Legal Progress at CAP. The report focuses on jurisdictions in Alabama, Texas, and Kentucky that decline to give marriage licenses to all couples.

“This kind of political pressure is not a problem for judges who are appointed, not elected. For example, more than half of South Carolina voters oppose marriage equality, but judges there—who are chosen by the state legislature—offer marriage licenses to all.”

The report endorses appointive systems for choosing judges as a better method for ensuring courts that protect individual rights:

“If citizens want courts that protect individual rights and check the power of the political branches of government, they should push for a system of appointing judges in their states. Judges who do not have to face reelection can focus on the facts and law in each case, without worrying about whether the ruling will be popular. It is crucial that states that continue electing their judges also make concerted efforts to minimize the role of partisanship, big money, and politics in the courts.”