Tomorrow, March 4, 2008, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case combining the lawsuits “by nearly two dozen [same-sex] couples . . . and . . . by the city of San Francisco” demanding that the state recognize their unions as marriage.
While advocates of gay marriage are giddy about the coming hearing, those pushing for state recognition of same-sex marriage through the courts are incredibly short-sighted, especially in a state which in 2000, voted overwhelmingly for a proposition preventing the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside the Golden State. Clearly, California voters expressed opposition to same-sex marriage.
If, as gay marriage advocates contend, people’s views have changed on the subject, then they should put another referendum on the state ballot overturning Prop. 22 and changing the definition of marriage. But, at the event I attended in January launching a new initiative to promote “marriage equality” in the Golden State, activists were determined to keep a referendum banning gay marriage off the ballot, preventing the Californians from having a say in the matter.
Not just that. Those who push recognition of same-sex marriage ignore history. Gay activists may blame Karl Rove for placing a raft of referenda on state ballots in 2004 defining marriage there by its traditional definition, the union of one man and one woman. But, they’re more to blame than he for the success of their referenda.
Only after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down Goodridge v. Department of Public Health on November 18, 2003, requiring the Bay State to recognize same-sex marriage, did social conservatives to put those referenda on the ballot in several states.
Had the Massachusetts court not mandated gay marriage, these social conservatives would never have been able to rally people in other states to support such referenda.
In recent years, when several state Supreme Courts, notably New York and Washington, have exercised restraint and refused to mandate same-sex marriages, seeing such recognition as the province of the legislature, there has been considerably less momentum for marriage referenda. In recent years, referenda have passed by smaller margins than they had in 2004 (the year after Goodridge while voters in Arizona (for the first time) succeeded in defeating such a proposal.
It’s too bad that gay activists haven’t learned much from history. This case is a no-win situation for advocates for gay marriage. Should the state Supreme Court mandate that California recognize gay marriage, social conservatives will better be able to muster their supporters to ban gay marriage at the ballot box. And other states which have not already banned gay marriage move do so. There will be a renewed push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage.
Instead of continually trying to change the law through courts, gay marriage advocates need to make their case to the citizens of the various states, explaining why marriage is good for gay people and why same-sex couples deserve protections long offered to monogamous married couples of different sexes.
Yet, by attempting to redefine marriage through the courts, gay marriage advocates only invite a backlash from their political adversaries. While they may blame Karl Rove for the raft of referenda defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, they are more responsible that thus much-maligned Republican for the success of those propositions. For had they not pushed gay marriage through the courts, social conservatives would not had the impetus to get those propositions on various state ballots nor would they have succeeded in convincing their fellow citizens of the need to vote for them.