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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
Features Writer

The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Court power should increase

In April of 2009, Iowa became the first and only state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage.Since the Iowa State Supreme Court passed down its ruling, same sex marriage in Iowa has been under attack by groups around the country that claim America’s voting population would never vote to uphold these marriage rights.

For example, in 1996, Michigan voted on Public Act 324, which both prohibited same-sex marriages from being performed, and defined such marriages performed in other states as unrecognized by the state. Michigan’s supreme court has upheld these laws, and further defined them to deny same sex partners employee benefits from the state.

Conservative groups throughout the country claim that decisions on marriage rights should be left up to a state’s voting population, and not the courts. But the right of judicial review (the ability of the court to overturn laws) is necessary in our country to protect the sometimes unpopular rights of the minority.

One of the groups attacking this right of the court is led by Iowa pastor Jeff Mullen. Mullen has started a website called iowajudges.com to mobilize Iowa voters to vote out several state supreme court justices in a judicial retention election. The judges need to be removed for taking the law into their own hands without concern for the will of the state’s population, Mullen said.

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The real issue, he says, is not same-sex marriage itself, but the courts power to change established law. Mullen uses the recent overturn of Proposition 8 by the California Supreme Court as an example of “rogue judges” in the country changing the laws as they see fit. The proposition represented the will of the people, and the courts had no place in interpreting a law that had been voted on, Mullen said. He is encouraging Iowa citizens to vote to remove three Supreme Court justices from office purely because of this.

One need only look into the history of civil rights in America to realize the importance of the courts’ right to overturn discriminatory laws via judicial review. Court cases such as Brown v. Kansas Board of Education, which outlawed racial discrimination in public schools, stand out. Despite being massively unpopular in southern states, this case was a major landmark for the civil rights movement, and would never have come to pass through a vote by the public. It proved the courts usefulness in interpreting the constitution and protecting the rights of the minority.

Mullen and others have a right to be outraged that the courts would ignore the will of the public, to some extent. In a democracy, the will of the public should almost always be considered sacred. Supreme Court Justices are not voted on; they are appointed. But it is because they are apart from the political system that they are able to make decisions on law without having to worry about becoming unpopular with voters. When the will of the public discriminates against a group of people, such as gays, it is necessary for the courts to step in and defend our constitutional rights.

Mullen did have one thing right, however. The central issue here is not same sex marriage. The issue here is the belief that the will of the majority is the only will that matters. Mullen claims that the freedom of American citizens is being attacked by activist judges. These Iowa judges are, in fact, courageously defending our American right to be treated equally under law. They made the right decision in a political environment that worked against them in every way possible.

. Support for same sex marriage is growing in our state; the percentage of Michigan voters who approve has grown from 24% in 2004 to 46% in 2009. The laws however, have yet to come under review by the courts. How long will it be until Michigan judges step up to the plate?

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