“Gay Marriage Vs. Democracy.”

The discussion of gay marriage is rarely framed within these terms, so I was happy to stumble on this article on RCP. Steve Chapman discusses the unfolding situation in California, where, initially, the Supreme Court struck down a law that banned gay marriage. The voters then approved of a constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, that legally changed California’s constitution to disallow gay marriage. Now, supporters of gay marriage have started attacking the constitutional amendment, attempting to nullify it on questionable grounds:

Jerry Brown insisted that the people of California, who created the constitution, don’t have the power to change it as they tried to do this time. He argued that it protects pre-existing inalienable rights, including the right to marry, and that an inalienable right “cannot be taken away by a popular vote.”

He’s right to a certain extent. If the United States passed a constitutional amendment that took away freedom of speech for a certain group of citizens, this would certainly be cause for concern. Now, I do not have any problem with gay marriage. My view on this topic has been changing over the past several years, and if a ballot were placed in front of me and I had to decide between “Yes” and “No,” I would either vote “Yes” or abstain from voting. But at the same time, I think it would be a huge stretch to characterize gay marriage as an “inalienable right.” If the right to have the state recognize your partnership with someone of the same sex for the purposes of tax filings, hospital visits, etc., is an inalienable right, then what isn’t inalienable?

Chapman concludes that gay marriage supporters, in California, would be better off not trying to nullify the same constitutional procedures that might eventually grant them the right to marry:

The nice thing about the referendum option is that once gay-marriage supporters constitute a majority, they can promptly amend the constitution to their liking — as I hope they do. But it is hard to win voters to your side while telling them they have no legitimate say on the issue. Like it or not, the California Constitution notes a basic truth in a democratic society: “All political power is inherent in the people.” Advocates of same-sex marriage might do better by treating those people not as opponents to be defeated but as allies to be won.

Well said.

7 Comments on “Gay Marriage Vs. Democracy.”

  1. And the nice Jewish folk should have played nice with the Nazi’s, try and win them over with kindness. Perhaps then the outcome would be different. Perhaps the right thing to do is fight, fight as if your constitutional rights as an American citizen depended on it. I fight for the liberty of all Americans, not just the Christian Taliban! Let the riots begin, if I go down it will not be as a lamb to the slaughter. . . fight to the end!

  2. I find it sad and disturbing that someone honestly thinks it is rational to compare the outcome of a democratic process to something as horrible as the Holocaust (between 9-11 million people died, counting POWs, gays, gypsies and handicapped people along with jews) or the Taliban (which continues to enslave women, children — oh and they actually torture and kill gays too using fundamentalist Islamic laws as justification!) Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a liberal stoop to this kind of disgusting rhetoric and it probably won’t be the last, unfortunately. Thank God that you live in America where at least your lifestyle choices are legal and there’s a chance, as the article posted suggests, that the gay community might still get their right to marry!

    Oh, ps. Liberal messiah Obama isn’t in favor of gay marriage and neither apparently are the people in Cali who put him in office.

    Yoinked from a previous posting of mine:

    President Obama, while yet promising all kinds of goodies to the gay community, is NOT in favor of gay marriage – neither is Vice President Joe Biden. Obama claims he’s for some kind of “civil union” but on gay marriage he told the Chicago Tribune: “I’m a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.” This, however, was largely downplayed in the media before the election. (For more information on voter ignorance, check out http://www.howobamagotelected.com if you haven’t already.)

  3. In response to the original comment, if you read the article that I cited, the author suggests that given current trends in public opinion, California voters may (and perhaps will) eventually pass a referendum in favor of gay marriage. So, I’m not sure I see what the point is.

  4. interested_reader // March 10, 2009 at 5:04 am //

    “I think it would be a huge stretch to characterize gay marriage as an “inalienable right.”

    It seems to me that being allowed to marry the person you love and have that marriage be formally recognized would fall under both “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness”, which are indeed considered inalienable rights. I’m sure you are aware that there used to be laws preventing black couples from marrying. Wouldn’t you say that infringed on their freedom and happiness? So how is it different for gay couples?

  5. Nice post, well thought out. I must say though, you walk into the lion’s den when you address such subjects. Polarized comments galore! It seems no one actually reads the article or the points you make. Selective reading i suppose? As you cited from the author: “Given the trend, their chances of persuading a majority in the next few years look good — if they were to focus on persuading the majority.”

    Also as per the inalienable right issue, the article also addresses this: “But inalienable rights are empty concepts without legal protection — which in this case they enjoy only because of a constitution approved by the people.”

    Which i think goes back to Mr. Shiraev’s point and the frame of this discussion “Democracy vs. Gay Marriage.”
    Quote again from the article he cites: “Once gay-marriage supporters constitute a majority, they can promptly amend the constitution to their liking.”

  6. “It seems to me that being allowed to marry the person you love and have that marriage be formally recognized would fall under both “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness”, which are indeed considered inalienable rights.”

    This places the onus of action on the state. Citizens have the inalienable right to live, be free and pursue happiness. You’re saying that it is an inalienable right of a citizen to demand something of the state if that citizen feels as though his liberty or ability to pursue happiness has been somehow inhibited. There is a difference, I believe, between being allowed to do something and having other people treat you or recognize your actions in a certain way.

    Now, forgive me if this sounds overly anecdotal, but by your logic, it is also my inalienable right to have a job? I certainly cannot be happy without one, so can’t I demand the right for a job from the government? Isn’t it also an inalienable right for me to be well fed all of the time; I certainly cannot live or pursue happiness if I am constantly hungry?

    The whole point is that, for the purposes of this discussion, inalienable rights are those things that cannot be taken away through constitutional referendum. Rights, in general, are derivatives of those inalienable rights, and these can be changed through referendum depending on interpretation. The entire process of constitutional referendum becomes meaningless if we start to expand what we see as “inalienable rights.”

  7. Dennisshiraev & MT: I believe that you do have the right to food, and a job, but you also have the right to work. And just because something is your right does not mean that it should be supplied by the government. Something that the government has the responsibility to supply is more like a privilege.

    Interested_reader: But what really constitutes love. Is it a chemical reaction that can or cannot be controlled, or something spiritual, assuming that we all have spirits. Without this definition, the discussion of those rights are irrelevant.

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