THE GAY ANGLE
As predicted, Andrew Sullivan was less than happy with the speech last night. Enough so that he will take a second look at the Democrats. For a man whose primary motivation in life is the state’s recognition of homosexual marriage, that’s a reasonable position. Indeed, I’m confused why he’s a Republican to begin with. But this explanation is just baffling:
I was also struck by how hard right the president was on social policy. $23 million for drug-testing children in schools? A tirade against steroids? (I’m sure Tom Brady was thrilled by that camera shot.) More public money for religious groups? Abstinence only for prevention of STDs? Whatever else this president is, he is no believer in individuals’ running their own lives without government regulation, control or aid. If you’re a fiscal conservative or a social liberal, this was a speech that succeeded in making you take a second look at the Democrats. I sure am.
Aside from whether calmly noting that athletes are role models and that cheating sets a bad example constitutes a “tirade,” what’s new here? Sully is an incredibly intelligent fellow. How is it that he missed until now that George W. Bush is a deeply religious man? That he’s passionate about getting people addicted to drugs some help? I can take or leave some of these policies, since I’m decidedly less religious and more libertarian than Bush; but I don’t blame Bush for being Bush.
In the previous post, dealing exclusively with the president’s discussion of gay marriage, Sully fisks the passage line-by-line and is outraged that it is rather unclear.
Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process.
What constitutional process? A State constitutional amendment? A federal constitutional amendment? The constitutional attempt to remove or elect judges? Again, who knows? And what would the president’s position be if a state’s legislature passed equal marriage rights? There’s a majority in Massachusetts in the polls on such a matter. California has just passed a marriage-in-all-but-name civil union. Would he support a constitutional process to thwart the people’s will as well? Again: who knows?
Steve Bainbridge notes that several bloggers have jumped on that passage but argues that it was actually “quite clever” in its subtlety:
The move Bush makes here is to begin shifting the terms of the debate from outcome to process. Yes, he’s still focusing too much on whether the law should recognize gay marriage, but at least he has begun to shift attention to the real question, which is “who decides”? The people’s elected representatives or the imperial judiciary?
Whatever happens with the legal institution of marriage, however, ought to happen as a result of democratic processes rather than by judicial fiat. The founders of our republic set up a carefully nuanced set of checks and balances, but the last couple of generations of Americans have allowed nine unelected old men and women to seize control of a vast array of deeply contentionous social and cultural issues of national import knowing that they are immune from being held accountable for their decisions. Our judges now use the law to impose elite opinion about how society should be ordered regardless of the democratic will. We have become courtroom spectators rather than participants in the democratic process. It is as the famed First Things symposium put it, The End of Democracy.
Exactly right. The issue is a very touchy one and, frankly, a moving target. In most of rural America, and certainly the South, there is strong opposition to gay marriage. But there is also a growing sense that homosexuality isn’t a “choice” but rather an inherent characteristic and an increased tolerance for it as a lifestyle.
A constitutional amendment to prevent gay marriage is a red herring, much like the amendments to overturn Roe v. Wade or allow prayer in school that have been bandied about for twenty years or more. Amending the Constitution is, by design, incredibly difficult–a 2/3 vote in both Houses of Congress and then approval by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states being the most common method. I guarantee you that more than one third of the Senate and 1/4 of the state legislatures would oppose any such amendment.
That said, the country isn’t ready for gay marriage yet. It’s not unreasonable that people are concerned that, if a particularly “open” state institutionalizes it, gay marriage will become the default norm because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. It’s also perfectly valid for people to not want difficult social changes forced on them by federal judges. My guess is that, inside twenty years, gay marriage will be a reality and we’ll adjust to it.