The Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is required by the Constitution will surely produce a mountain of books and articles in the coming years (and has already produced a huge amount of online comment). Catholics, of course, will say that it is wrong about the substantive question of the definition of marriage. That debate certainly needs to be carried on. Here, however, I would like to try to express, in the simplest terms, why I think it was wrong from the standpoint of the American regime–that is, from the standpoint of the kind of government we are supposed to have and preserve. I would put it this way:
The Obergefell ruling involves the biggest domestic policy decision of our lifetimes, and it was made not by the people of the United States but by the Supreme Court. And while it was made in the name of the Constitution, it was not made on the basis of the Constitution. There are no explicit words in the Constitution that compelled the Court to do what it did, and it did what it did on the basis of an interpretation of certain passages (the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment) that nobody had ever entertained until the last 15 years, and that certainly would have been repudiated by the people who wrote and ratified those passages, as well as by almost everybody who lived under them for the last 150 years.
For these reasons, the ruling makes a mockery of our claim to be a self-governing people living under a Constitution that imposes the rule of law.
Of course, you can call it the rule of law, if you want, because the Supreme Court declared it. But on that standard anything at all that the Court decides to do–however unheard of or unexpected–will be the rule of law. Rule by the will of a handful of lawyers is not the same thing as the rule of law.