02 August 2008

Democratic Gay Marriage in Massachusetts

An itty bitty little news story is going mostly unnoticed, but it is a devestating blow to the arguments of the anti-gay marriage yahoos. The Massachusetts legislature has repealed a state law that prohibited out-of-state couples from getting married in Massachusetts if their marriage would be illegal in their home state. And here's the significance--for the first time a legislature, rather than a court has taken a positive action to allow same-sex marriage, and opponents can no longer truthfully say that it's only elitist unelected courts that are forcing gay marriage upon us. Oh, they'll still say it, but now we defenders of equality can point out that they're lying.

It shouldn't really matter. The criticism of unelected judges overturning the democratic will of the people is bullshit anyway. The primary purpose of supreme courts in constitutional governments is to ensure that the demos lives up to the ideals of its constitution, because unfortunately James Madison was right when he wrote in Federalist 51:
democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property:
When a court reprimands the public for being too miserly with equality, it's the public that's wrong, not the courts.

But what opponents of equality haven't noticed, or haven't wanted to notice, is that the Massachusetts state legislature has studiously refused to act ever since the 2003 state supreme court ruling. Because the court was interpreting the state constitution, the only remedy would be a constitutional amendment. Amending the constitution in Massachusetts requires that the same amendment be passed by two consecutive legislatures, with an intervening election. This sensible provision allows the public to throw the bums out if they don't like the proposed amendment, thus squelching it.

But not one session of the Massachusetts legislature has passed a repealing amendment--it was smashed by a vote of 151-45 in January of '07--despite the fact that they could have done so before the '04 elections, before the '06 elections, or since the '06 elections. While same-sex marriage may not have been legalized on a democratic vote, it proved to be impossible to get even one democratic vote to repeal it, and yet the citizens have never bothered to throw the bums out.

And note that the state legislature has now overwhelmingly voted to extend same sex marriage, a mere 3 months before the next election, which clearly signals their belief that the public is firmly on their side.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have been desperately clinging to the "elitist undemocratic judges" storyline as their last desperate hope for persuading the public. But they have missed the clear evidence that an initially skeptical public is irreverisbly trending toward support for same-sex marriage. The opponents have lost the battle to prevent it from being defined as a civil rights issue (and in this county civil rights issues always win eventually), and they are losing the demographic battle, as younger voters (roughly 40 and under) just don't see same-sex marriage as a threat to civilization.

It's all over but the shoutin', folks.


yoyo said...

you are right about this being partially an age thing, my children and their friends cant see anything unusual or disturbing about being gay. That might have been a little different if they were boys since there is still alot of homophobia mongst young boys. But I think this is one of the things that fools like Orson Scott Card and ilk freak out about, "our kids dont believe our wingnuttery, circle the waggons and load my gun!".

Vicki Wagner said...

As far as threats to our civilization goes, how about rising gas prices?
Now there's a threat! Especially in the state of CA, where public transportation is a joke!

Scott Hanley said...

That point bears repeating: constitutions and judicial review exist because the many people perfectly willing to legislate their worst impulses.