In light of all the hoopla over the recent California Supreme Court decision, there are a few points to make for the willfully ignorant:
- Conservatives love to apply the epithet “activist judges” to any decision they don’t agree with and imply that this works against the democratic process. The balance of powers is there for a reason, but in point of fact, the California Legislature (duly elected by the people of California) twice passed same sex marriage, only to have it vetoed by the governor.
- It always surprises me to hear conservatives argue that marriage in its current form is an institution dating back many millennia. They clearly know nothing about the true history of marriage (and clearly don’t care to have their beliefs challenged with actual facts). I came across a wonderful article today by a historian named Hendrik Hartog entitled, “What Gay Marriage Teaches About the History of Marriage” that beautifully addresses some of these points.
- It also surprises me to hear people who consider themselves to be “for equal rights” completely comfortable with the idea that the word marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals. I am sure they wouldn’t feel as comfortable with the idea that interracial marriage should be called “transracial union” and same race marriages “marriage”, but that would exactly have been their position 40 years ago, fully believing themselves to be without animus. Separate is never equal.
- Speaking of public perception, the very idea that gay marriage should be something that should be subject to a vote is disturbing. One of the great ideas of our constitution is that some things should NOT be subject to a vote, that there are inalienable rights which are not subject to the tyranny of the majority. As an example my mother often sites in pedagogic settings, there is a reason why the majority can’t vote to make you Protestant or Catholic or any other religion. Matters of conscience are not subject to majority rule. Marriage in our society is such a fundamental right that it should not be subjected to vote, unless the outcome will apply to everyone, not just a disapproved class of people.
- Also speaking of public perception, it is interesting to note that when the Supreme Court ruled in 1967’s Loving v. Virginia case overturning miscegenation laws, a much higher percentage of people were opposed to interracial marriage than are opposed to same sex marriage today.