Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Democracy wins again

The American Spectator has a good piece on the current round of the gay marraige debate on the one year anniversary of Goodridge v. Department of Health.

THE FACT IS, FOR MOST people marriage is not an expression of hatred against homosexuals. The existing definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman was not formulated to persecute or discriminate against gays and lesbians. Most people who oppose a redefinition of marriage are not engaged in a conspiracy to deny gays inheritance and hospital visitation rights. There are millions of people who oppose same-sex marriage yet bear no ill will toward their fellow Americans who are homosexuals.

Instead many of these people voted for the idea that ideally children should have both fathers and mothers, that there is something unique about the arrangement syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher has described as "men and women coming together to make the future happen" worth upholding as a shared social norm. A high percentage of these same people would oppose policies that deliberately make gay and lesbian couples' lives harder, and indeed favor offering them some benefits associated with so-called civil unions as long as it isn't simply marriage without the name. Instead of demonizing these people and enlisting the courts to bully them, maybe gay activists would do well to appeal to their sense of fairness and try to change their minds.

An even larger number of Americans with disparate views on the subject of homosexuality object to the idea that shared social norms can be revamped unilaterally by unelected, unaccountable judges. They have voted for the idea that what we as a society decide to recognize in law as marriage should instead be decided by the people.

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) implicitly recognized the good will of those who oppose him in the same-sex marriage debate in comments quoted by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby: "Showing a bit of respect for cultural values with which you disagree is not a bad thing. Don't call people bigots and fools just because you disagree with them."

One year after Goodridge this much is clear: If gay marriage is ever accepted by the majority in this country, proponents are actually going to have to get their hands dirty in democratic debate. It will certainly not happen simply because Anthony Lewis' wife wants to shove it down our throats.