Where it all starts

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled May 9 that Arkansas' ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Danny Johnston, AP.

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled May 9 that Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Danny Johnston, AP.

One of the recurring themes in letters since Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s decision on May 9 is “How can one single judge overturn the will of the voters?”

Answer: All cases have to start somewhere, and this one just happened to land in Piazza’s court.

It’s been mumble-mumble years since my Constitutional Law course and the day my professor noted that under an old Jonesboro ordinance, private residences with four or more women were classified as cathouses (Gosh, thanks, David, for pointing out to the class how many roommates I had). However, I do remember that only a relative few cases go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court, established under Article III of the Constitution, has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Those cases under original jurisdiction, according to uscourts.gov, are “those involving disputes between the states or disputes arising among ambassadors and other high-ranking ministers.” Wright v. Arkansas most definitely was not something that would be covered under original jurisdiction, which means it would be a case that might make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, like most of the cases it hears, through the appellate process.

Inscription on the wall of the Supreme Court Building from Marbury v. Madison, in which Chief Justice John Marshall outlined the concept of judicial review. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Inscription on the wall of the Supreme Court Building from Marbury v. Madison, in which Chief Justice John Marshall outlined the concept of judicial review. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Even before the latest wave of voter-supported constitutional amendments on same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. were tossed out as unconstitutional, other voter-supported amendments in several states, ranging from laws on political donations from government contractors in Colorado in 2010 to one on term limits in Washington state in 1998, were thrown out.

The concept of throwing out amendments is far from new. Laws can be repealed, and are, especially when they are seen to be vague, overbroad, or discriminatory. As times change, the law changes as well to fit the times. For example, you have noticed, haven’t you, that speakeasies and bathtub gin are pretty much things of the past? That’s a function of living law.

Thinking of walking your cow down Main Street in Little Rock on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Police might not take as kindly to it as the people of Pune, India. Image from tripadvisor.com.

Thinking of walking your cow down Main Street in Little Rock on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Police might not take as kindly to it as the people of Pune, India. Image from tripadvisor.com.

For that matter, there are tons of old ordinances still on the books in cities throughout the U.S. that are no longer enforced because, frankly, most areas no longer need to worry about people walking their cows down Main Street after 1 p.m. on Sunday. Yes, Little Rock actually had this law … don’t know if it still does … anyone want to test it out? 😉

State constitutions are much more easily and more frequently amended than the U.S. Constitution. In 2000, the Maryland State Constitutions Project found that there had been almost 150 state constitutions that had been “amended roughly 12,000 times, and the text of the constitutions and their amendments comprises about 15,000 pages of text.”

Just imagine what it is 14 years later, and just how many of those amendments have been repealed through the years.

Wright, which was originally filed last July, is now under consideration by the state Supreme Court, which will study and review the case with much deliberation. If its decision is not liked, it might eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, though not for quite a while.

In an overloaded court system, justice doesn’t always move swiftly.

Image from trunews.com.

Image from trunews.com.

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We hear again from the good-humored Dr. John Vowell who, like some other readers, seems to think I lean very far to the left, a notion that is highly amusing to those who know me well as pretty darned middle of the road on most matters.

Leaning far to the left

Yeah! I agree with Bob Johnson of Huntsville. I have thought that if Voices Page Editor Brenda Looper leans any further to the left, she might tump over. After reading the May 22nd Voices page, I’m pretty sure of it.

JOHN G. VOWELL

Little Rock

As I’ve noted before, we all have things we feel strongly about, but they don’t define us. When it comes to what letters make the Voices page and when, a lot of factors come into play, but not whether I agree with a letter.

We’re not in the business here of deciding what is acceptable thought (and my eyes are already in preparation for rolling at the inevitable 1984 reference). There are many things members of my own family and I don’t necessarily agree on, but that doesn’t mean that their opinions are less valid than mine; the same goes for the Voices page.

As for those who seem to think I’m an “avowed leftist,” that actually cracks me up, not just because those people apparently don’t own a dictionary or know what “avowed” means, but because I know people on both sides of the spectrum who constantly accuse me of fence-sitting because my views are quite moderate for the most part (c’mon, I grew up in Arkansas, land of the conservative Democrat). We are, however, living in a time of extremes, and I guess that to someone on the extreme far right, someone just left of center is a raving socialist in comparison.

Opinion evolves over time, and the Voices page is no different, especially as we all age (too much), and some old reliable standbys pass on, some far too soon. Without new letter-writers and the drive to publish samples of the exceedingly wide array of opinion in our state, the page would die.

lettersWhile we might not agree with others’ opinions on some matters, that’s no reason to dismiss them out of hand. A one-sided page would serve no purpose except for those who adhere to that side. Insistence on only one’s own perspective being represented in everything is far from a healthy reaction to the world and reality; an open mind is imperative to survival in these reactionary times.

The tide has been turning a bit in the letters we’ve been receiving in the last week or so, with more letters leaning a bit more to the left. All letters, though, as always, receive the same scrutiny, and with fact-checking a bit backed up at the moment, some letters may take more time to reach the page, especially if there’s a lot to be checked. Where letters fall on the political spectrum has nothing to do with whether they make the page; clarity, timeliness and adherence to facts (and whether a writer has been published in the past 30 days) have much more to do with it.

By the way, Dr. Vowell, props for using “tump over,” which was one of my late granddad’s favorite phrases. I’m still waiting for someone to use “persnickety,” which was one of my late grandma’s favorites (and mine).

And “amok.” Please, someone, use amok!

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While reading proofs of the Perspective section, I often come across phrases (I call it creative cursing) that I MUST find a way to work into everyday conversation. “Bovine excrement” was my favorite until last week, when I saw “son of a belly dancer,” which is a huge insult in Egypt.

If I happen into a situation where I can use both, I can die happy.

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A random sentence that became my favorite of last week came from my wonderful clerk, Steph. It just applies to so many things, and I’ll leave you with that thought.

I’ll try to come back tomorrow and give more of a damn.

Sorta says it all, don’t ya think?

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