Home > Marriage Equality, Proposition 8, women's rights > “It Ignores the Writings of [Three Long-Dead Guys]”

“It Ignores the Writings of [Three Long-Dead Guys]”

In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, former Reagan AG Ed Meese takes Judge Vaughn Walker to task for ignoring facts and evidence that would supposedly have supported the state’s interests in restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. One thing that Meese didn’t like about Walker’s opinion:

“It ignores the writings of legal giant William Blackstone and philosophers John Locke and Bertrand Russell.”

That’s really it, isn’t it? The defenders of marriage fall back on tradition and history, little realizing (or acknowledging) that the institution of marriage that these (admittedly) great men spoke of bears little resemblance to the version on offer today. Blackstone, for example, whose influential Commentaries on the Law of England were completed before the U.S. existed, spoke of marriage from the perspective of coverture, a principle by which a married woman’s legal existence was swallowed whole by her husband. This quote will give you the flavor of how extensive the disability was:

“By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing; and is therefore called in our law-French a feme-covert, foemina viro co-operta; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture. Upon this principle, of a union of person in husband and wife, depend almost all the legal rights, duties, and disabilities, that either of them acquire by the marriage….For this reason, a man cannot grant anything to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her, would be only to covenant with himself: and therefore it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage.”

How could Walker have ignored the bewigged Blackstone’s writings? Here’s a better question: How benighted is Meese — not only to chide Walker for failing to consult Blackstone, but to think that his argument would be strengthened by this point? Yet his failure gets at the real deficiency of the anti-equality forces: They don’t have any arguments that work under current, and generally well-accepted, views of what marriage is, or should be.

  1. August 23rd, 2010 at 20:58 | #1

    You have a way with writing, but remember by and large, english is a tool for hiding the truth

    Sent from my iPhone 4G

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