Columnists > Voices

Modern Abimelechs

Lawless magistrates are writing a new book of Judges and Mayors

Issue: "Mel Gibson's passion," Feb. 28, 2004

IN THOSE DAYS THERE WAS NO KING IN ISRAEL. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That's how the Old Testament book of Judges ends. These days, it seems as if there is no settled law in America: Judges and mayors do what is right in their own eyes. A Massachusetts chief justice orders her legislature to create gay marriage. A San Francisco mayor breaks state law by ordering that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples.

Who are these audacious magistrates? Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court head Margaret Marshall, wife of New York Times columnist emeritus (and evangelical-despising) Anthony Lewis, gained her position through heavy backing by The Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times. Brand new San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a man "whose finely chiseled face, impeccably gelled coiffure and European designer suits grant him the aura of a Calvin Klein model," also won with major press support.

Both beneficiaries of media praise acted in surprising ways once they gained their dream jobs. Before Ms. Marshall's appointment, the Globe called her "a moderate" and cited her opposition to a Boston ordinance that created domestic partners: Cities, she wrote, must not take the law into their own hands, but should press the legislature to act. Once in power, though, Chief Justice Marshall did what was right in her own eyes and put together a 4-3 court majority for same-sex marriage.

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Until Valentine's Day weekend Mr. Newsom was best known as a glamorous Democrat who wanted homeless individuals to receive fewer direct handouts but more government services. Two months ago he barely defeated a Green Party mayoral candidate who had broad gay support. Once in power, though, he did what was right (or politically shrewd) in his own eyes, producing 2,000 marriage licenses and maybe millions of future Gavin devotees, if the 36-year-old's aspirations for higher office turn into statewide or national campaigns.

Mr. Newsom's coup will force California judges-and perhaps eventually U.S. Supreme Court justices-to decide whether to stick with the law, even when real-life gay couples given favorable press publicity plead to be allowed to stay "married." So what if California is one of 40 states that have laws defining marriage as being between a man and a woman? In our new book of Judges and Mayors, each does what is right in his own eyes, particularly if big media eyes see those who violated their oaths of office as heroes.

As hundreds of gay couples waited in line outside San Francisco's city hall on Valentine's Day weekend to gain state sanction for what is right in their own eyes, Campaign for California Families director Randy Thomasson said, "No one made the mayor of San Francisco king; he can't play God. He cannot trash the vote of the people." Why not? Just because Californians in 2000 were in rare agreement with God as they approved by a 2-to-1 margin Proposition 22, which limits marriage to one man and one woman, should our modern Abimelechs cease their littering?

On Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, WORLD readers wanting to give their opinions of the gay-marriage controversy wrote about 250 comments on www.worldmagblog.com. Some pointed out similarities and differences between the Massachusetts/ San Francisco assaults on the law and the stand taken in Alabama by Judge Roy Moore.

For example, Marla Swoffer noted that some folks say, "It's courageous when the mayor of SF violates what we the people of California voted into law so that he can be popular among his constituents and condone an immoral lifestyle, but it's criminal when a judge refuses to comply with another judge's order to take down the Ten Commandments in a public place for reasons of conscience and morality. Sigh."

Kyle Ambrose, though, wrote that "Mayor Newsom is making the same argument [that Judge Moore made]. He is saying that he is upholding the state constitution. Once a higher court ordered Justice Moore to remove the monument and the case was decided, he was bound to comply. If court rulings can be ignored, then every ruling that Justice Moore ever made would also be pointless. We would have total anarchy."

My own view is that Roy Moore has a much better case than Gavin Newsom, and one that many thoughtful Christians support. It's promising that Judge Moore on Feb. 13 joined with an Alabama senator and congressman to introduce the Constitution Restoration Act, which would restrict the jurisdiction of federal courts: The proper way to resolve these matters is through legislative debate, not individual action. In all these situations, as long as we are allowed to vote and freely express our views, Christians must be careful to support the rule of law.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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