We’re ahead, let’s call off the contest

Here is the Washington Post’s editorial take on the Massachusetts decision on gay marriage. The Post makes four points: (1) that the opposition of most Americans to gay marriage should not necessarily be dispositive because most Americans probably once opposed interracial marriage, (2) the policy arguments for gay marriage are strong, (3) the Massachusetts court may nonetheless have been wrong on the constitutional question, and (4) we sure hope that George Bush doesn’t try to play this issue for political gain.
The Post is to be commended for acknowledging point 3, and to be respected, whether one agrees or not, for making point 2. However, points 1 and 4 demonstrate much of what is loathesome in liberal argumentation these days.
The analogy between outlawing gay marriage and interracial marriage won’t withstand scrutiny. In the case of interracial marriage, there was no dispute about what constitutes marriage — the union of men and women. Some states were banning some men from marrying some women because of race. In the case of gay marriage, homosexuals are trying to expand the definition of marriage. That may or may not be a good idea, but no homosexual is denied the right to marry, as that right has always been understood.
The Post seems to recognize that it is not for the courts to expand the definition of marriage. But many do not accept this, and cite the same analogy to interracial marriage, this time to show why, regrettably they say, courts must again become involved. This is a great liberal canard. The fact that the Supreme Court was about ten years ahead of the Congress on the issue of civil rights in the mid 20th century is no justification for handing to courts the authority to make society’s moral decisions. In the mid 19th century the Dred Scott Supreme Court lagged behind Congress on the same issue. At the turn of that century, the Plessey Court was pretty much in lock-step with Congress. Nothing in the Supreme Court’s overall record comes close to justifying abandoning normal democratic processes whenever one spots a big ticket moral issue.
Nor is there any justification for crying foul, as the Post does, when our leaders try through lawful means to counteract such judicial usurpation. The Post is fearful that Republicans “will push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and woman.” It calls this “milking [the issue] for all it’s worth” and worries that it will make life more difficult for many gay and lesbian couples and their children. But it was the gay community that decided to raise, the definition of marriage as a constitutional issue and to make this issue a battleground. A majority of Americans, as the Post says, disagrees with what they are trying to accomplish. It’s difficult for me to understand how the issue now can be kept off the national political stage in the name of avoiding divisiveness, or why it should be.


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