- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2000

The Republican Party was handed a potentially huge "gift" by the Vermont Supreme Court Dec. 20, but it remains to be seen whether the GOP will recognize it as such or treat it simply as a lump of coal.

In a breathtakingly anti-democratic fiat that would do King George III proud, the five-member court ruled unanimously that homosexual couples in Vermont should enjoy all benefits and privileges afforded to heterosexual couples who can legally marry. It was the first court in the nation to make such a sweeping ruling on the issue.

Even in liberal Vermont, it's hard to imagine that such a radical ruling would be greeted with anything less than public outrage. If such a decision is to be made at all, it should be made only with the consent of the governed, by their elected representatives not by five unelected, unaccountable judges making law rather than interpreting it.

That's where the "gift" comes in for the GOP, both at the state and federal levels.

If Vermont Republicans do the right thing, this is an issue that could catapult them into majority control of both chambers of the legislature and the governorship next year. Democrats currently control the Vermont legislature by a surprisingly narrow margin, 17 to 13 in the Senate and 77 to 69 in the House with four "progressive" independents who vote mostly with the Democrats.

Two-term Democratic Gov. Howard Dean, who will be up for re-election next November, conceded he was "uncomfortable" with the ruling. But Lt. Gov. Douglas Racine applauded the ruling, as did state House Speaker Michael Obuchowski and state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin.

So have both Democratic presidential aspirants, Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley.

Whoever the Republican nominees are for governor and lieutenant governor of Vermont and for president should not hesitate to make this a prominent issue in their campaigns, because quite apart from how one feels about special rights for homosexuals and a majority of Americans still oppose the concept, despite the concerted efforts of the gay lobby and its acolytes in the media it's not up to a judicial oligarchy to impose its morality on the people.

(Those same liberals who regularly gainsay the ability to legislate morality apparently have no such qualms when it's their morality, or when the "legislating" is done from the bench.)

The issue whether gays and lesbians should actually be allowed to marry or should be given domestic-partnership benefits equivalent to heterosexual marriage is now the subject of debate before the Vermont legislature.

Vermont Republicans should instead push not only for a state constitutional amendment to overturn the court's diktat, but spearhead the effort to impeach or recall the five judicial tyrants.

With the GOP presidential candidates spending most of this month in New Hampshire, they should make an issue of judicial tyranny, not only that occurring next door in Vermont, but also on the federal bench. (The same day the Vermont justices exhibited their supreme arrogance, for example, a Clinton-appointed federal district court judge likewise substituted his judgment for that of the entire Ohio legislature and governor in voiding a Cleveland school-voucher plan.)

The Republican presidential hopefuls have all criticized the Vermont ruling, particularly Gary Bauer, who Dec. 27 characterized it as "worse than terrorism."

But campaign rhetoric is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. Between now and the New Hampshire primary Feb. 1, they should all endorse as part of their campaign platforms a constitutional amendment proposed by, as it so happens, Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican.

Mr. Smith's amendment would end federal judges' lifetime appointments, making them instead subject to presidential renomination and Senate reconfirmation every 10 years.

That would make imperious federal judges, at least, pause to consider the long-term consequences of their rulings if not to the country, to themselves while at the same time sending a shot across the bow of state judges who overstep their authority.

Peter Parisi is on the staff of The Washington Times.

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