I had planned a post today on the hearing the California Supreme Court this morning on the constitutionality of Prop 8, but realized that I would basically be repeating a point I had made over and over again, with a slight twist to reflect the circumstances. But, some things, I believe, bear repetition.
This return journey along the judicial route shows (yet again) that most (but not all) advocates of state recognition of same-sex marriages would rather make legal arguments to a small pool of judges than social arguments to a large group of citizens. They seek to change society by appealing to a narrow class of people with arguments which, at least on the issue of marriage, don’t resonate with many of the people who currently oppose gay marriage (and even with some who are ambivalent about it).
There are a great variety of reasons why I believe the court should uphold the popular initiative, primarily because I don’t believe the propositions alter the fundamental meaning of the state constitution (as required to overturn a such an initiative).
That said, should the Court uphold Prop 8, I do believe the people should overturn it, with, as I have suggested previously, an initiative amending the constitution to make the elected legislature responsible for defining marriage. The legislatureÂ then vote, as it has, to expand the definition of marriage, conferring legitimacy on the new understanding of this ancient institution.Â At that point, we will have effected a fundamental social change and hopefully achieved a social consensus doing so.
I say, “hopefully” because I believe building that social consensus depends entirely on advocates of gay marriage making the case (as Jonathan Rauch long has done) why it’s a good thing to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.
In the wake of the passage of Proposition 8, we saw anger and name-calling, but also a commitment to do a better job next time. To turn that commitment into effective action, advocates of gay marriage must lose the sense of entitlement which dominated the last debate and refuse to demonize opponents of gay marriage.
Instead, they must understand their arguments and counter them with better ones, attempting through gentle suasion to change their minds. Many, if not most, opponents of same-sex marriage, do not hate gay people. They merely define marriage by gender difference.
Understand they hold that meaning in good will and without malice.Â Thus, when we challenge them, we must respond accordingly.
As I long have said, gay marriage advocates need to make better arguments to promote their cause.Â This, I believe, is the path which will lead to the social change they seek. And should they show respect for their adversaries (on the issue) and challenge with ideas not insults, they could see that change as soon as the next election.