In a Newsmax interview on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said the president is not required to follow laws that are decided by the judicial branch of government. When asked what he would do to protect the “sanctity of marriage” in case the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage, Carson responded by saying he could ignore the high court’s decision. The retired neurosurgeon decided to play constitutional scholar by arguing:
First of all, we have to understand how the Constitution works. The president is required to carry out the laws of the land, the laws of the land come from the legislative branch. So if the legislative branch creates a law or changes a law, the executive branch has a responsibly to carry it out. It doesn’t say they have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law.
Carson seems a tad confused about how the Constitution actually works. He apparently thinks Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade were just non-binding judicial decrees that had no legal standing. In his mind, the Supreme Court is only empowered to offer the power of suggestion, but the president doesn’t have to abide by Supreme Court rulings if he doesn’t want to.
Article III of the U.S. Constitution essentially grants the Supreme Court authority to be the final appellate court for determining the constitutionality of existing law. If the court deems an existing law unconstitutional, it becomes, by definition, unconstitutional. As a result, the court’s interpretation of the law is meant to govern the conduct of the American people, and the president, like every other American, is obliged to abide by the court’s ruling.
The Supreme Court is certainly not infallible. History reminds us that they are capable of making terrible rulings. Nevertheless, in our system of government, they are given an important role in determining which laws shall stand, and which ones fail to comply with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Clearly, Ben Carson hopes they will rule against legalizing gay marriage. However, regardless of what the court decides, the president is required to honor the high court’s ruling.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.