Michael Ramsey and Evan Bernick have both posted excellent and challenging ripostes to my argument that conservative judicial engagement is theoretically defenseless against liberal judicial activism. The dispute seems to distill to this question: Can an interpretive theory constrain the courts?
In the vast majority of governing charters around the world, you will read the word “dignity”—but you won’t see it in the American Constitution. The traditional lodestars of American rights jurisprudence have been liberty and equality, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses. But of late, dignity has had something of a renaissance. Writing for the Court in United States v. Windsor (2013), Justice Anthony Kennedy concluded,
The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.