June 2011 Vol. 109 No. 8 THE REVIEW

Ely at the Altar: Political Process Theory Through the Lens of the Marriage Debate

Jane S. Schacter

Political process theory, closely associated with the work of John Hart Ely and footnote four in United States v. Carolene Products, has long been a staple of constitutional law and theory. It is best known for the idea that courts may legitimately reject the decisions of a majority when the democratic process that produced the decision was unfair to a disadvantaged social group. This Article analyzes political process theory through the lens of the contemporary debate over same-sex marriage. Its analysis is grounded in state supreme court decisions on the constitutionality of barring same-sex marriage, as well as the high-profile, recent trial in federal court on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, which featured extended testimony by opposing political scientists on gay and lesbian political power. The Article argues that the marriage debate reveals deep conceptual problems with process theory as it has been conventionally understood, and that looking at the theory through this lens can point the way to refashioning it in both doctrinal and conceptual terms. It calls for a more substantive and nuanced conception of democratic equality, as well as a more realistic institutional understanding of courts and the political process.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

Fall Submission Season

MLR’s Articles Office will open its fall submission season on Monday, August 18!  The Articles...

The Ninth Circuit's Treatment of Sexual Orientation: Defining “Rational Basis Review with Bite”

On February 10, Nevada's Democratic attorney general decided to stop defending the state's constitutional...

Inhibiting Intrastate Inequalities: A Congressional Approach to Ensuring Equal Opportunity to Finance Public Education

The United States has exhibited a strong commitment to public education throughout its history. The local...

War Is Governance: Explaining the Logic of the Laws of War from a Principal-Agent Perspective

What is the purpose of the international law on armed conflict, and why would opponents bent on destroying...

Tariffication of the Coastwise Trade Laws

The coastwise trade laws prohibit foreign vessels and mariners from transporting goods or passengers...
MAILING LIST
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List