The more I think about the reaction of the gay groups toward the vote last Thursday in Massachusetts blocking a popular vote on a state constitutional amendment on gay marriage, the more disturbed — deeply disturbed — I become by their rhetoric and attitudes. They are gloating about denying the citizens of the Bay State an opportunity to vote on this important issue.
To be sure, I don’t believe the people need to vote on such matters. Had each House of the Massachusetts General Court (i.e., the Commonwealth’s state legislature) debated gay marriage, then passed legislation extending the definition of this ancient institution to include same-sex couples, I would have heralded the decision as I did the vote two years ago in the Connecticut General Assembly recognizing same-sex civil unions in the Nutmeg State.
What disturbs me is the rhetoric of the gay groups. They act as if Massachusetts were about to put people’s rights up to a vote. And yet the issue was not whether or not gay individuals could live freely with the partner of their choosing in the Bay State and call themselves married (if they so choose), but whether or not the commonwealth would recognize those individuals as married. It was not an issue of basic rights or fundamental freedoms, but, I repeat, of the gender composition of couples the state chose to privilege.
It’s too bad too many gay marriage advocates refuse to acknowledge the meritorious arguments of certain gay marriage opponents, instead choosing to portray them as troglodytes who wish to stand athwart history blocking progress. For many of those opponents offer strong defenses of the institution of marriage to which gay marriage advocates should take heed (as Jonathan Rauch has if marriage is an institution important enough that we should extend its privileges to same-sex couples.
Let me conclude, by returning to my general ambivalence on the Massachusetts vote. I would see it as a huge step if a state legislature, without being mandated by a court or pressured by interest groups, voted to extend the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. But, the General Court only acted because the a number of citizens of the state presented petitions seeking to overturn a court decision. That said, the elected legislators of Massachusetts did, to some degree, consider the issue. And they answer to the citizens whom they represent.
If those citizens believe that gay marriage is an issue important enough to merit a statewide referendum, then they can vote them out of office. And those who replace them can vote again on a new constitutional amendment. But, as I understand it, given the way the Massachusetts constitution works, such a referendum could not take place until 2012 — at the soonest.
So, in the intervening five years, it’s up to those who support gay marriage and those same-sex couples who elect to get married to show that they understand the meaning of the institution they have chosen to define their relationship. For their actions, their very lives indeed, may well help make up for the empty and antagonistic rhetoric of the great majority of the most public advocates of gay marriage.
ADDENDUM: I realize that, in large measure, this post reiterates points I made in my two previous posts on the Massachusettts decision (Gay Groups Cheer Defeat of Proposal to Allow Referendum on Gay Marriage in Mass and Massachusetts, Marriage, Civil Discourse & Blogging ), but it does expand on them to some extent.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’m still flabbergasted by the rhetoric on gay marriage of the gay groups (especially HRC’s lapdogs at Log Cabin) who don’t seem to see marriage as anything more than a “right” and seem to think freedom means state recogntion. Nor do they recognize that the struggle for marriage is more than an issue of such recognition, it also involves a social understanding of the institution.
But, since that is something I have long wanted to write about — long before I even knew what a blog was — indeed before Al Gore “invented” the Internet, you can expect to see many more posts on this blog on that subject.