Thursday, February 19, 2004


Banning gay marriages is ultimately a loser. It can’t stand up constitutionally. Even if the Supreme Court acts as irresponsibly as it did during the 2000 presidential election -- or as a predecessor court did on Plessy vs. Ferguson -- gay marriage will be a reality in the United States. In the worst case, at least it’s likely to take the court less time to correct a mistake than the 56 years it took to move from Plessy to Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. This court seems to be moving faster, if its reconsideration of capital punishment for kids is representative.

I have less hope for the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, although it should be as vulnerable on rational grounds as a ban on gay marriage. (The only rational grounds for keeping God in the pledge is that removing it would demand that God also be removed from currency, government buildings and such. A pain. But it’s really not the court’s role to consider such things: “We could abolish slavery, but it would cost a lot of money.”)

My skepticism flowers, and my hope withers, when I see tomorrow’s advice column from Robert S. Kutner, a lawyer at Boston’s Casner & Edwards LLP, in the Boston Herald’s real estate section.

In it, he notes that “To be eligible for a [home inspector] license, an applicant must: be of good moral character,” among other things, and that people who’ve already been home inspectors and are grandfathered from the need to pass a test must “still must be of good moral character.”

There’s a difference between a criminal background check, which ensures an inspector won’t rip off a client, and passing judgment on someone’s “moral character.” What does this mean -- that cheating on your wife makes someone an unsuitable candidate? Or being an atheist? Or being a child molester? How can this sloppy, unspecific language define a legal licensing process?

It’s hard to draw much hope from such lunacy on such a small matter. Perhaps the Supreme Court should take up the matter of Massachusetts inspector licensing before anything else, just so we can get a sense of which way things are going to go.

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