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Posted at 9:10 AM ET, 11/12/2009

The wrong way to win the right to marry

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Doug Mainwaring
Potomac


Same-sex marriage has been defeated by popular vote in 31 states, most recently in Maine. It has been legalized through court rulings or legislation in five. While legalization in these states is claimed as a victory for gay people, the nagging truth remains: In every state where the issue has been put before the voters as a referendum, it has been squarely defeated.

That is why the D.C. Council pushed hard earlier this year to enact a law recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. It is also why the council is moving ahead with alacrity to pass legislation legalizing such marriages in the District. Council members know that if this issue were put before residents as a referendum, the measure would probably fail.

I am a gay man and, like every American, I yearn for those things that were so brilliantly articulated in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But also included in that document, in the same paragraph in fact, was the reason for the Founders’ profound declaration: escaping from tyrannical government. They would go on to create for this new nation a government founded upon what can only be described as a divinely inspired Constitution that protected its citizens from the tyranny of their government and the imposition of the will of a few upon all.

I yearn, too, to be married someday, but at what cost? To force same-sex marriage into law through the caprice of judges, the sympathies of a majority of various legislatures or even the fiat of a president can be viewed as a kind of tyranny.

We must read the writing on the wall: Thirty-one votes, 31 rejections. Repeated attempted end-runs around our fellow Americans are not a good strategy, and the odds can’t possibly be in our favor in the other 19 states and the District. Clearly, the general public is not ready. A much better path to gay marriage as a matter of civil law is for the people of this nation to warmly welcome its enactment.

This is the greatest nation on Earth, and its people are the finest. One of the many daily proofs of this is the unprecedented, formerly unimaginable level of acceptance and support we gays now enjoy here. I have great faith in the extraordinary good will and good sense of my neighbors and of people across this nation. Gay-marriage law should not be born from tyranny but from a further embracing of freedom grounded in the Constitution. To achieve it in any other way would be an uncomfortable and hollow victory.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | November 12, 2009; 9:10 AM ET
 
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Comments

"I yearn, too, to be married someday, but at what cost? To force same-sex marriage into law through the caprice of judges, the sympathies of a majority of various legislatures or even the fiat of a president can be viewed as a kind of tyranny."

That could be applied as well to slavery, constitutional amendments, and civil rights bills. You don't seem to understand the mechanics of American democracy.

Posted by: seller11 | November 12, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

The beauty of judicial review in American democracy is that an incorrect and unconstitutional will of the people may be redirected for the good of all. When a minority group is being wrongfully discriminated against on so many separate accounts, the American people rely on the Court to help lead us in the right direction. As is stated in the previous comment, without judicial review and judicial activism in post-Civil War America, civil rights may not be explicitly extended to all as they are today.

The LGBT community should not stand for this discrimination, and neither should any other identifiable community in the US who take seriously our constitutional freedoms.

Posted by: mmelzer1 | November 12, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I assume you wouldn't agree with the statement that the real tyranny here is the tyranny of the masses keeping down a civil right because of overwhelmingly religious reasons in a secular society.

You could have made the same argument against landmark decisions such as Brown v. Board or, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were those hollow victories?

Also, since you so highly revere the popular referendum as the only method of decision making that qualifies as "not hollow" (Thankfully, the good sense of our founding fathers insulated our great country from such a ridiculous concept with the cool-headed Senate): Are you questioning the legitimacy of the Congress or ANY court decision, because of the fact those decisions whether political or judicial were not decided by the masses?

Your logic justifying the continued oppression of gay men and women in America seems based on the radical concept that America is not a representative republic, and any decision outside a public referendum is "hollow."

I disagree.

Posted by: johnz21 | November 12, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I'll take it a step further. I don't even yearn to be married some day. I've enjoyed my serial monogamy. Each relationship has been different because at each stage of my life, I have been different. I don't want children so there is no need to ensure their safety.

Most importantly I don't need a priest, minister, or rabbi to validate my love for another man. I find it a particularly sinister form of self-loathing for gay men and lesbians to go crawling to religion in search of affirmation.

And I certainly don't need lawyers to profit from the natural transitions in my personal relationships. It's time for gay people to grow up.

Posted by: Neal3 | November 13, 2009 3:09 AM | Report abuse

As a straight man still head over heals in love with my wife of more than 30 years, I may not enjoy the perspective of some of you. Be that as it may, I disagree with much of what has been written.

1. I do not think that the Constitution can ONLY be described as divinely inspired. It was written by brilliant men, but there was no Divine spark. My God would not have created a Constitution permitting slavery and denying women the right to vote. Divine inspiration ended with the Old Testament (and with Revalations for Christians).

2. In a representative democracy such as the United States, legislatures act on behalf of the people. There is a longstanding philosophical and political debate about whether the representative is supposed to do what s/he considers right or is supposed to do what the constituents want. If gay marriage is correct, either as a matter of equal protection under the Constitution or as a matter of fairness if not Constitutionally required, I see nothing wrong with legislatures leading the people into correct decisions.

3. I don't think that for gay people to grow up they need to repudiate their religious beliefs concerning the holiness of marriage. If people want to flit from monogamous relationship to monogamous relationship, that is their choice. It is equally their choice to seek both legal and Divine sanction of a commitment to a permanent life with the person they love. Laws allowing gay marriage will not force Neal3 or anyone else into a relationship they do not want, but will allow millions of people the opportunity for a relationship now denied them.

Posted by: wvanpup | November 13, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

I should add to my first comment about Divine inspiration that it ended at other places for people of other religions, including some Christians, and I should not have cut it off at Revelations as I did.

Posted by: wvanpup | November 13, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: martymar123 | November 13, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse


Your psychological condition is called "self-loathing homosexuality", you have been so brainwashed about your inferior status, that you are unwilling to stand up for your rights by legal means.
The schools never would have been desegregated if it went to public votes. Slavery would still exist. That's why we have a legal system of checks and balances, three CO-EQUAL branches of government. Majority rule is at times mob rule, and that's one reason why courts exist.
Jews would still be barred from many neighborhoods under your world. Sorry, your interpretation is not what the US Constitution is all about.
And by the way, Mr. Maryland, DC is the last colony. Please let us here in DC decide this ourselves - this is a local issue. No need for you folks who won't give us our votes in congress to meddle on this matter too. Bishop Harry Jackson came into DC as a carpetbagger from Maryland on this issue too.

Posted by: petronius88 | November 13, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I suggest that you see the movie "Milk" to learn a little about gay history, and what needs to be done to receive civil rights.
You are probably a nice guy, but really, your attitudes expressed are below being Uncle Tom. You are more like Benedict Arnold, because you are not only personally not interested in confronting the repression of gay rights, you are a traitor who is working against gay rights in writings such as this.
You only have the freedom to write what you did without fear of reprisal because of the hard work and sacrifice by others who were not afraid to offend, to step on toes, and to challenge the existing system of denying equality. Not too long ago, no one would publicly admit to being gay for fear of loosing a job, or of being denied housing. Today, it still gets you kicked out of the military.
I dare say that more than 99.9999999% of all laws in America are NOT submitted for direct vote by the public. We are a nation of representative, republican democracy. There is nothing illegal about the city council passing a law on this matter.
In case you are not aware, gay marriage already exists in the city. Last spring, the City Council passed a law that recognizes gay marriages from other jurisdictions. Thus far, the the sky has not fallen, and neither in Washington, D.C. nor in the several jurisdictions in which gay marriage already exists has the Catholic Church had to cease all of its charitable operation.

Posted by: HumanBeing621 | November 13, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

To Petronius:

Your ad hominum analysis of this author actually validates his position--you seem to want to take issue and fight--classic misplaced anger toward a domineering mother. Why condemn a fellow homosexual rather than extend charity, if not brotherhood, because his approach differs from yours?

Posted by: valmain1 | November 13, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

In 1964, prior to Loving, there was a score of states which barred interracial marriage, with that bar having been passed by voters in many. If President Obama's parents had taken their toddler just about anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, they could have been fined at the least and possibly even jailed.

In the 2004 Presidential election, 40% of Alabama voters votes to keep bars on interracial marriage in the state constitution. 40%. I doubt that even people as hostile to civil rights as Clarence Thomas and Mitch McConnell would have been willing to accept that their own so-called "wives" should be considered as being at best second-class citizens, and certainly not REAL wives, regardless of popular vote. (Or, turned around, whether former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao would have been willing to accept that her own so-called "husband," Mitch McConnell, should not automatically be considered family when it came to legal or health matters, that should she happen to fall sick, Mitch McConnell could be excluded from her hospital room, should she die Mitch McConnell could be excluded from her funeral, etc.

I do hope that you reconsider your view. Oh, a reminder -- part of what you consider "divine inspiration" for the Constitution called for counting slaves as being only 3/5 of a human being. Think about it.

Posted by: edallan | November 14, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Edallan and wvanpup. I am straight and happily married, but see no reason why gay people can't marry. They need to keep fighting for the right to marry. Religious views should not be used to try to control another person's behavior. That is not religion, it is hypocrisy. Religious "leaders" need to STOP trying to control the behavior of other people, especially those who are not doing any harm.
If the ministers and priests were constantly petitioning the Federal government to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, they would be more respected.

Posted by: Whazzis | November 14, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The government is elected to protect the people from a tyrannical majority as well. A government of a Democracy represents ALL of its' citizens. The truth of the matter is that you the writer have been raised to hate yourself by the majority of this straight society and your opinion demonstrates that.
The unborn child, who can't speak or vote, has more protections in this country than gender-variant adults. So by the writers logic-unborn children shouldn't be protected because they can't vote(and therefore can't win referendums) for their own protections. Logic problem here?

Posted by: SoupLine | November 14, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

First of all, being against same-sex marriage != discrimination. When you conflate the two, you will continue to fail to understand why the majority is still against it. It does not follow (and is not true in my experience) that the majority is against homosexuals in general. There are many reasons to be against the government sanction of same-sex marriage that have nothing to do with opinions regarding homosexuality.

The government recognizing same-sex marriage is not a "right", any more than the government recognizing opposite-sex marriage is a right. Anyone can undergo a ritual to get married--the government has no role in that. The solution is to separate the two--the ritual and the contractual portion. Governments should recognize civil unions between adults and leave the "marriage" part to the religious and spiritual community.

Posted by: Sneeje | November 15, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

This is exactly why civil rights issues should not be decided by popular vote. The majority were against equal voting rights, social security, and going into WWII as well.

Quite simply, this is our government discriminating based on sexual orientation and it's illegal to do so.

Posted by: janeway1 | November 15, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I don't think that an elected council passing legislation constitutes tyranny.

Posted by: blackwoodward | November 16, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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