Homophobic Airplanes in Boston

Airplanes pulling anti-gay marriage banners have been circling my building much of today, apparently in an attempt to sway public (or legislative) opinion during today’s constitutional convention (liveblog here).

The banners don’t cast the organizers as the brightest bulbs. Two of the banners are opaque references to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret Marshall — the messages were “Marshall’s Courts Are A Disaster” and “Marshall Incompetent Says Judge Sosman.” Unless you are already a rabid member of the anti-Goodridge crowd, these aren’t going to mean a whole lot to you. The other one is printed too small to read, although after twelve or thirteen time circling past my window, I could make out that it said something like “let the people vote on marriage,” which at least is a little clearer on the message (if not the font). All three had a URL that was too small to read, at least from my vantage point.

I finally pieced together that the banners were referring to massnews.com (I hesitate to link to the site and boost its PageRank, but ultimately I think the contents are so poorly written and reasoned that it probably advances the cause of gay marriage more than anything). The articles on that site really make these guys look like loonies. A great example is this article. Although apparently written by an attorney, the article demonstrates near total ignorance of how legal reasoning and constitutional principles.


When Justice Sosman discussed who else could be applying for marriage after May if the decision is allowed to stand, she had to include the “buzz” words that Marshall and other judges and lawyers use to intimidate everyone else — even including most lawyers who know nothing about this arcane language.

The “arcane” language the article refers to are the standard terms of art in equal protection law: suspect classification, scrict scrutiny, rational basis, etc.. (See this wikipedia article). Any first year law student should be quite familiar with this sort of discourse. (See my class notes from my first year constitutional law course and search for strict scrutiny or suspect classification). “Most lawyers” know nothing about this “arcane” language?

Similarly — the following apparently forms the basis of the writer’s claim that Justice Marshall does not have the intelligence necessary to be the Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court:

Justice Marshall was incapable of answering Justice Sosman. She felt it necessary to insert an unusual footnote to say she was unable to understand or to answer Sosman’s erudite critique. “In any event, we fail to understand why the separate opinion [of Justice Sosman] chastises us for adopting the constitutional test (rational basis) …”

“Failing to understand” in a court opinion (or brief) does not mean “we’re just not smart enough to get it.” It is a standard idiom used to criticize another position as lacking support. It is far from unusual to make that sort of statement in a footnote. It is generally a sign that the point being criticized is so weak that it does not merit full treatment in the main text of the decision.

In any event, I’m happy to see the anti-gay marriage movement leadership so totally marginalized. In a few years, I expect we will wonder what all the fuss was about.