Rutten's debut for the other guys: Marriage equality and the court

tim-rutten-lang.jpgAfter 40 years at the Los Angeles Times, much of the time as a columnist, Tim Rutten began offering his thoughts on Sunday in the pages of the rival Daily News and other Los Angeles News Group papers. His debut column covered the Supreme Court's expected upcoming consideration of Proposition 8, the California initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. Rutten, generally liberal, sees Justice Anthony Kennedy as the key vote to uphold same-sex marriage "for the sake of justice and America's moral progress."

He analyzes the court's makeup on the issue:

By America's historic standards, the drive to recognize gays' and lesbians' right to marry has proceeded at a stunning pace. A majority of Americans now say they support marriage equality.

Coincidentally, the Supreme Court, which now has the opportunity to ratify this social sea change, also is the product of an unprecedented transformation. For most of its history, the court has been dominated almost exclusively by white Protestant males.

Today, by contrast, six of the nine justices are Roman Catholics and three are Jews. To get a sense of just how fundamental that shift is, consider that, since ratification of the Constitution, there have been 112 Supreme Court justices, only 12 of whom are Catholic.

Like the nation, American Catholics are divided over marriage equality. The church hierarchy adamantly opposes same-sex marriage; a majority of lay Catholics support it. Five of the six Catholic justices, however - John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito - are political conservatives and devout adherents of the church's traditionalist wing. The sixth, Sonia Sotomayor, the court's first Latina, is a reliable vote for the court's liberal wing.

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When it comes to marriage equality, it may be that decency and right reason have an ally in the court's swing vote, Justice Kennedy. Though Catholic and conservative, Kennedy has been a forthright proponent of equal rights for gays and lesbians in the past.

With Rutten on the editorial page, and Al Martinez on the front page, the Daily News now offers its readers two columnists with something like 80 years between them at the Los Angeles Times.


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