Yesterday's Second Circuit opinion striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional is just one example of how important the courts are – and why Americans should think about the courts when they cast their vote for president.
As wonderful as the Constitution's promise of Equal Protection is, the overwhelming passage of DOMA in the 1990s shows that it's our nation's courts that turn the promise of Equal Protection into reality. When laws are passed that target gays & lesbians, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Muslims, Jews, women, or any number of other Americans, our federal courts – and especially the Supreme Court – have frequently vindicated their rights and the principles our country was founded on.
If Mitt Romney wins on Election Day, he has promised to nominate Justices like Antonin Scalia. Scalia is no friend to the powerless. He has said that if voters disapprove of homosexuality, they are free to pass laws restricting the rights of gays and lesbians. He voted to uphold Arizona's notorious SB 1070. He has interpreted federal laws in ways that make it much harder for victims of illegal sex discrimination to get their day in court. He's even said that the Equal Protection Clause doesn't prohibit sex discrimination.
And that is Mitt Romney's model Justice.
Unlike presidents, Supreme Court Justices have lifetime terms. Far-right conservatives already have a five-member majority on the nine-member Court. With as many as three vacancies opening up between now and 2016, Mitt Romney could cement a hard-right majority for decades to come.
Imagine what America would look like with a Romney Court. Then do something about it on Election Day.