Responding to Jeremy Kessler's Counterpoint
Jeremy addressed mainly the legislative element of incrementalism, rather than the federalist element, so I’ll focus my response on that contested ground.
Posted on July 2, 2009 @ 4:08 pm
Continuing last week's Point-Counterpoint, begun by Daniel Winik...
Posted on June 23, 2009 @ 3:36 pm
Over the next few days, Daniel Winik and Jeremy Kessler will use this space to delve into one of the most pressing debates within contemporary constitutionalism: whether progressive advocates for marriage equality should focus their energies on legislatures or the courts. Consider it a lawyerly debate, with each writer arguing wholeheartedly for the merits of his client — Dan for an “incremental,” legislatively-focused strategy, Jeremy for a court-centered approach — rather than either trying to give a completely “rounded” view on his own. Like many questions, the answer probably rests somewhere in the balance.
I’ll open with an argument for incrementalism, an argument shaped in large part by several pieces from The Constitution in 2020, especially Judith Resnik’s discussion of progressive federalism (Chapter 24, PDF) and Robin West’s analysis of “legisprudence” (Chapter 8, PDF). As the essays by Resnik and West suggest, any effective progressive agenda will have to move beyond single-minded reliance on the federal courts as guarantors of rights. This is particularly true, as I see it, for marriage equality: progressives should continue to favor a state-by-state approach to achieving marriage equality, and where possible, they should make their case in the legislatures rather than the courts. Both of these elements — federalism and legislation — are central to an incremental approach. (For similar thinking, see Aaron Zelinsky’s insightful posts here and here.)
Without a doubt, incrementalism makes concessions to the federal bench’s conservative tilt and to the ongoing debate — even among progressives — as to whether the Federal Constitution encompasses marriage equality. That said, my argument is not mainly a tactical one. Even if the Supreme Court were to uphold an Equal Protection challenge, that outcome might not be best for progressives in the long run. Let me suggest three reasons why.
Posted on June 19, 2009 @ 12:23 am
The Constitution in 2020 is a companion website to The Constitution in 2020 (Oxford University Press 2009). Here you will find ten sample chapters from the book, essays about the future of the U.S. Constitution, discussions of current constitutional issues, a bibliography and resources for further study.
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