The headline for an article in today's New York Times reads: "Court Ruling Could Make Taiwan First Place in Asia to Legalize Gay Marriage"

My question is whether this can truly be considered "legalization." This seems to be the case based on the definition of the word:

to make legal; especially : to give legal validity or sanction to

But for some reason I have the feeling that only those with legislative power (rather than interpretive power) can truly "legalize" something. I would argue (not very confidently) that if a court decides that something is legal based on interpretation of the currently existing laws, than that thing in some sense has always been legal. I think I'm wrong about this, but I just want to make sure.

1 Answer 1


Newspapers often say things that are not technically true by the standards of legal usage, especially in headlines which must be brief. "Legalize" is a popular or political concept, not a legal one. Instead, the legal concept underlying such court actions is that (1) an existing prohibition is unconstitutional, and thus such a law cannot exist, and (2) anything is legal unless it is specifically made illegal. "Legalize" is a reasonable term that describes what happens in such cases: to make something be legal (per (2) that means "remove a restriction").

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