Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ok, the bigots won in Maine, so can we at least give up on "letting the people speak"?

I'm not surprised that Maine repealed gay marriage yesterday; seriously, are you? Of course perhaps if you're Andrew Sullivan, or some other vapid talking head who's highly invested in the idea that civil rights for minorities should come from the electorate rather than the courts, you actually are.

But here's a news flash for Andy and his ilk: civil rights for minorities are almost always granted by the courts, not the electorate.

Why should it be otherwise? Civil rights exist as a safeguard against the abuses of the majority, which has always been uncomfortable with the principles of our own government. And courts are the legitimate institutions for the protection of those rights. The prescience of the Massachusetts legislature - which insured freedom for gay families by tying up bigoted ballot questions indefinitely - should now, I think, be admitted even by Sullivan (who decried it at the time). Because let's be honest - when it comes to ballot questions, passionate bigots almost always win out. Face it, guys - it took intervention by the Supreme Court just to make condoms available to straight people! And you think you can win gay marriage at the ballot box? Get real.

And let's also be honest about something else: gay marriage is no longer some frightening experiment, some sort of tampering with an ancient tradition, blah blah blah. It's a fact in several states, and in some form or other in most industrialized countries. We've had it in Massachusetts for five years!

And what exactly has happened as a result to straight people, or the institution of marriage? Precisely nothing. Gay marriage opponents can't point to any deleterious social effects. Nada. Ixnay. None. Zip. Zero.

Thus, in a word, there is no legitimate argument against gay marriage. None that should stand up outside a theocracy, that is. (Please, don't bring up polygamy or sex with your dog; the obvious answers to those puerile debating points are available all over the web.)

There's only the bigotry against gay people. And that may exist - well, forever, just like racism. I hope that someday gay marriage is the law of the land for everyone in the United States. But frankly, I won't be surprised if that isn't the case for another hundred years. And in the meantime, it's perfectly okay - and I mean perfectly okay - to rely on the courts to protect our rights.

1 comment:

  1. Given how contrafactual these bigots can be, I am certain that they actually do believe that Massachusetts combusted in flame, was shook by an earthquake and then slid into the Atlantic Ocean back in 2004 just as every single hetro gave in to the temptation of legal gay marriage.

    You are correct: There isn't a single modern authoritarian or totalitarian regime that hasn't relied on the tyranny of the masses for its power base: That's precisely why equal protection under the law is just as important, if not more so, than voting as a basis for democracy.