Steve King wants to save the Constitution from gay marriage — by ignoring the Constitution

Iowa Republican seeks to prevent judges from doing their constitutional duty -- ruling on conflicts between states

Published April 23, 2015 6:13PM (EDT)

 Steve King (<a href="" target="_blank">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Steve King (Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Iowa Representative Steve King (R) wants to prevent judges from ever changing the Constitution, and to do so is proposing a bill to effectively remove Article III from the Constitution, the Hill's Lydia Wheeler reports.

"The Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015" is, as its unwieldy name suggests, designed to prevent federal judges from undermining state bans on same-sex marriage. The bill does so by stripping away rights given to the judiciary by Article III of the Constitution, which grants federal courts license to adjudicate matters of interpretation.

As King stated in his press release, "My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction, 'to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.'"

It is unclear how King's proposal would work legally, given that it imposes a limit on a power explicitly granted to federal grants in Section 2 of the Article -- namely, jurisdiction over "Controversies between two or more States; -- between a State and Citizens of another State; [and] between Citizens of different States." The Supreme Court has already allocated 60 minutes to the question of whether states can refuse to recognize legally performed marriages from other states, which is falls under the constitutionally dictated province of "Controversies between two or more State."

It is not, as King claimed in his press release, a judicial "overstepp[ing] of their constitutionally limited duty to interpret the Constitution," nor a matter of the Court having created "unenumerated, so-called constitutionally-protected rights [that] were not envisioned by our Founding Fathers."

On the campaign trail earlier this month, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) proposed a similar idea, telling voters in Iowa that, if elected, he would "prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the [marriage] issue" via "a rarely invoked legislative tool."

But as MSNBC's Steven Benen noted, this "legislative tool" is rarely invoked because it is a violation of the separation of powers, as it would effectively allow the legislature to dictate what laws the judiciary could or could not consider.

As Benen wrote, "the idea that the legislative branch will dictate to the courts what kind of cases judges are allowed to hear is more than a little crazy -- it undermines the very idea of an independent judiciary."

By Scott Eric Kaufman

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Gay Marriage Steve King Supreme Court