Supreme Court should act on gay marriage

Editor’s Note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of “Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America.” She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

This week the Supreme Court turned down all pending gay marriage cases

Donna Brazile: It seems like the justices are more concerned about politics

She says guaranteeing the right to marriage, a fundamental constitutional right, is critical

Brazile: Those who live in states that don't approve of gay marriage deserve justice

CNN  — 

Don’t get me wrong. By deciding on Monday to turn down all pending same-sex marriage cases, the Supreme Court managed to bring marriage equality to at least five new states and many thousands of couples. In one sense, the Roberts court has done more good simply by doing nothing than they’ve been able to do in volumes and volumes of actual rulings.

But I can’t help but feel that the Supreme Court’s decision to turn down all those cases passed the buck on their core constitutional responsibility to do justice.

Donna Brazile

Over the past few years, we’ve learned that the Supreme Court doesn’t have a care in the world about taking up huge, hot button issues and issuing sweeping rulings that change the future of this country.

Citizens United. 5-4. Crippled our campaign finance system.

Voting Rights Act. 5-4. Gutted it.

Hobby Lobby. 5-4. Continued the war on women by putting their reproductive health decisions in the hands of corporations.

(I don’t know about you, but I hear a lot from my Republican friends about “judicial activism.” Those are the rulings that sound like judicial activism to me—striking down portions of critical laws that help make this a better, more equal country for all.)

When it came down to guaranteeing the right to marriage—a fundamental constitutional right—the court just passed the buck. The justices simply turned down the opportunity to do what’s right.

And, yes, the court’s decision to turn down those cases on Monday meant that some states won marriage equality by default. But what about everyone else?

What about a gay couple living in one of the states that is still being left behind, like my own home state of Louisiana? There are folks in these states who have been living together for decades, going to church, volunteering, or working for a better future.

If one of those folks gets in a car accident tomorrow, their partner, their spouse, has no legal right to survival benefits, to pensions, to being on the death certificate! And the Supreme Court wants to tell us that there’s no dispute here? No federal issue that merits their immediate attention? It’s absurd.

Campaign finance laws say a billionaire can’t give a candidate a million dollars? The Supreme Court’s on it like flies to honey.

A little old lady’s partner of 40 years dies, but her state says they were never married in the eyes of the law? “Eh,” the Supreme Court says, “we’ll get to it later.”

It’s just wrong. People are suffering, the nation’s marriage laws are in chaos – so what on Earth is the point of delay? To me, the only reason seems to be politics. I worry that most of those justices didn’t want to get their hands dirty by dealing with this deeply emotional and human issue.

But folks, that’s just not how this social contract is supposed to work. If you’re a Supreme Court justice, the American people have elevated you to one of the highest offices in the land out of the goodness of their heart and out of deference to your legal wisdom. You get a lifetime appointment, limitless prestige, a great office, and what I have to assume is a very comfortable chair.

And as Americans, all we ask in return of our justices is that they do what’s right.

The justices failed in that duty this week, and I hope they get a chance to remedy that decision sooner rather than later. After all, when deep, fundamental constitutional rights are at stake, we know from history that we cannot tolerate two nations divided against one another. We need one nation, with liberty and justice for all. I hope we get one soon.

Read CNNOpinion’s new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on