Along with Jonathan Rauch, Dale Carpenter is one of those rare advocates of gay marriage who can make a compelling case for “this expansion of the meaning of marriage” (as the editors of the LA Times puts it) to a conservative audience. (Basically, if you see Dale’s name on a column, just read the piece.)
Going through my accumulated e-mail (and finally emptying out all my e-mail boxes), I discovered a draft of a column Dale had written two weeks ago on the impact of the California Supreme Court decision mandating the Golden State recognize same-sex marriages. When I wrote him to commend him on the piece, he wrote back, pointing out that it (long since) been published.
Observing that “proposed amendment [defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman] was going to be on the ballot in November anyway,” Dale finds the “the main effect of the court’s decision has been to change the context in which the vote will occur:”
The question is, what effect will this reality have on voters? On the one hand, whatever they think of gay marriage, some voters may feel that it would be unfair to strip existing married couples of their rights. Voters may also be reassured by seeing that nothing bad happens when gay couples wed.
On the other hand, seeing gay couples actually marry may anger some voters. The sight of two men or two women kissing, no matter how joyous the occasion to those involved, is still shocking to a lot of people. They may vote â€œyesâ€ as a way to stave off what they see as growing decadence and immorality. Five months just isn’t a lot of time to normalize what people have spent their entire lives believing is abnormal.
Other voters will be angry at what they see as judicial activism and vote â€œyesâ€ as a way to rebuke the courts.
It’s impossible to predict now what the net political effect of all these gay nuptials will be. But it is possible to say what the stakes are.
Rather than have me tell you how Dale sees the stakes, click here and read it yourself. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but you will agree he understands the potential impact of the Supreme Court ruling — and the ballot initiative.