The news that made the recent headlines in terms of marriage equality in the United States was that a federal appeals court ruled Proposition 8, the California plebiscite overturning gay marriage, violated the Constitution, setting up an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or possibly not. Meanwhile, the Washington state legislature passed a bill legalizing gay marriage; here is part of the debate. Also, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has vowed to veto efforts to repeal that state’s same-sex marriage law.
Discussing specifically the California judicial ruling, writer Mark Evanier noted: “I still wish this thing could be settled by a vote of the people rather than to reopen silly arguments about ‘judicial activism.’” And in an ideal world, I would tend to agree with him.
But I was struck by something that Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, a Democrat, said. He broke with Governor Chris Christie, a Republican with whom he has previous been aligned. Booker opposed Christie’s call for a gay marriage referendum, and his threat to veto a gay marriage bill because, as Christie put it, “I need to be governed by the will of the people.”
In response, Booker noted: “I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.” He submitted that leaders are elected to make difficult decisions, not submit to a public referendum. “Equal protection under the law – for race, religion, gender or sexual orientation – should not be subject to the most popular sentiments of the day. Marriage equality is not a choice. It is a legal right. I hope our leaders in Trenton will affirm and defend it.” You can watch Booker here.
I was fascinated by a lengthy article in Salon: The making of gay marriage’s top foe: How Maggie Gallagher’s college pregnancy made her a single mom, and a traditional marriage zealot. “The organization she founded in 2007, the National Organization for Marriage, helped organize the successful effort in 2008 to pass Proposition 8 in California….
“Gallagher’s opposition to gay marriage seems to have very little to do with gay people, indeed with people at all. What really excites her is a depersonalized idea of Marriage: its essence, its purity, its supposedly immutable definition…For Gallagher, gay people are the enemy only insofar as their desire to marry is yet another attack on Marriage…”
Except that marriage had already been on the decline, at least in the United States, long before the first gay nuptials. I suspect it’s a function of children with divorced parents being less likely to tie the knot. It’s almost ironic that gay couples, for whom marriage had long been out of the question, are now a growth segment in the matrimonial business.
A brief history of the Gay Rights Movement.