I’m not as upset by this decision as are many gay activists and organizations. I believe they have picked the wrong fora to make their case for gay marriage. They should be going to legislatures instead of courts.
With this post, I repeat that point in response to the California Appeals Court decision yesterday to uphold the Golden State’s ban on gay marriage.
As I mentioned in my update to Bruce’s post on the ruling, I see the decision as a good thing. Had a state court imposed marriage on a state whose citizens voted in 2000 by an overwhelming margin to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, we could face a another backlash at the ballot box.
Randy Thomasson, executive of the Campaign for California Families, a staunch opponent of gay marriage, failed to muster enough signatures to put a referendum on the Golden State ballot this fall banning gay marriage. People weren’t willing to sign a petition to place such a gratuitous measure before the voters. With Governor Schwarzeneggger’s veto of legislation mandating gay marriage (legislation in direct opposition that 2000 referendum), there was no reason for further laws.
This would have changed, however, had a state court mandated gay marriage. It has been the fear of such decisions that has helped ensure the success of referenda defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in state after state after state. But, with this court decision, Thomasson and his allies won’t be able to get Californians behind them as they seek not only to block gay marriage, but also to overturn the state’s landmark domestic partnership program.
With yet another failure at the state level, it’s time that gay activists do what I have been saying even before I started blogging — and focus on making a strong moral case for gay marriage to the American people rather than on framing legal arguments to state courts. If they’re serious about gay marriage, they should have the confidence to take their case to the American people.
As I said, nearly two years ago, in one of my first posts on gay marriage:
If we’re to take seriously the struggle for gay marriage, we have to face the fact that many Americans still see [a] gay world . . ., all too familiar to those of us who live in locales like West Hollywood — where sex is easy and many of our peers encourage and celebrate multiple-partner sex. Not only that. Many gay activists believe that monogamy is rare in our world. I recently had an argument with a gay man who claimed that fewer than 10% of gay couples in LA were monogamous. I believe that the figure is higher. MUCH HIGHER.
. . .
We need to talk about marriage as straight people talk about marriage. We need to make clear that just as we seek the same privileges that the government grants straight people, we accept the same responsibilities expected of them.
In short, we need to do as Jonathan Rauch does in the best chapter of his book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America where he asks “What is Marriage for?” We need to talk about the meaning of marriage. We need to advocate monogamy — not just because it’s part of marriage, but because it’s good for our souls. It helps affirm the spiritual bond between the two lovers, be they of the same gender — or of different genders.
Let this failure in the courts serve to strengthen the resolve of gay marriage advocates to make their case to the American people.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest)