Although I’m in the middle of three days of intense classes in Mythological Studies, because of my blog-league’s nudge, I burn the midnight oil to weigh in on San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer’s ruling that the Golden State’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Since reading the article on the web (when returning to my hotel room from classes), I have had the chance to scan a number of press releases and read a number of posts (from gay bloggers) on the topic. All seem to be reveling in the decision.
Well, I would rather be the bearer of good news. But, I believe that this joy is misplaced. This is the decision of one judge who sits in perhaps the most liberal big city in the United States. Although he was appointed by a Republican Governor, from what little I have read about him, he does not sound like a conservative jurist.
The case will likely be overturned on appeal. And if it’s not appealed, opponents of gay marriage will certainly be able to gather enough signatures to put an amendment on the California ballot to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Five years ago this month, Californians overwhelmingly voted to so define gay marriage, but the provision they passed was not a state constitutional amendment.
So far, not one state legislature has passed a law extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Nor have voters in any state approved such a definition of marriage. Indeed, in every state where they’ve had the chance to vote on provisions limiting the definition of marriage to the union of one man and one woman, they have passed such provisions overwhelmingly. Even in such “blue” states as Oregon, California and Michigan.
I do not share the joy of gay leaders and other gay bloggers because when state courts define marriage as gay activists want it defined, citizens of the various states and their elected representatives respond by enacting laws (and state constitutional amendments) codifying the traditional definition of marriage. We would not have had the raft of state referenda and state laws on marriage had not a Hawaii court in 1995 ruled in favor of gay marriage. In the wake of that decision, Hawaiians amended their state’s constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The popular backlash against gay marriage that began with the Hawaii decision a decade ago will continue should other state courts rule similarly.
If we want to stop that backlash, we need to turn our attention away from the courts and toward the American people. Gay organizations say much about “fairness” and “equality” in heralding Judge Kramer’s decision. But, that’s not how most Americans talk about marriage. Instead of carefully crafting legal arguments to influence judges, we need to make social and moral arguments to sway our fellow citizens, particularly those in the “red” states.
If we want marriage, we need to talk about the institution the same way straight people talk about marriage, not as a right, but as a privilege whose purpose is to bring two individuals together for their “mutual welfare.” The writer whom I quote in the previous sentence believes marriage brings together individuals of different genders. We have to address that difference as it has defined marriage for as long as the institution has existed.
I wish I could share the joy of those who herald today’s decision. But, alas, I do not. I fear the backlash that will ensue. I fear as well that too few gay leaders are willing to engage the American people in a discussion of the meaning of marriage. And why we are deserving of this privilege.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com