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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 12/22/2010

Trusting democracy on gay rights

By Jennifer Rubin

Charles Krauthammer offers what I think is the most persuasive argument from a conservative perspective for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He says that the issue wasn't whether it would be repealed, but by which branch of government:

This is the way you want to do it. It was inevitable. It was always going to happen. It's a generational shift. It's good it happened in Congress not only because it lends legitimacy and authority but because the way the language is written, unlike a court decision which would happen overnight, it will allow a gradual implementation which the military will appreciate.

There will certainly be no insubordinate resistance. They [the military] do what civilians tell them to do, but done in a reasonable way. I think it will be done in a rollout starting with the Pentagon and ending in the outer reaches, the further outposts in Afghanistan where the integration and implementation is most difficult. I see this as exactly the way you want it to happen if it was going to happen -- and it was going to happen inevitably....

Everybody understands there has been a shift in the culture of public opinion.... And now the military will have to adapt, but at least it will have understanding and respect as it does gradually with the deep respect for readiness and the feelings of the troops.

Although it may be too much to hope for, it would be a sign of political maturity, not to mention intellectual consistency, for gay rights activists to take the same approach with regard to other items on their agenda. If they can persuade 65 senators to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," can't they trust the voters in various states to decide marriage and other gay rights issues? If they agree that we are in the midst of that "generational change," (as some Senate Republicans argued during the DADT debate), then it would seem to be a smarter political tactic to work on changing hearts and minds, and then legislation, through elected leaders.

The monopolization of the abortion issue by the courts fueled a sense of unfairness, aggrievement and frustration by pro-life Americans. That, in turn, manifested itself in large, well-organized and influential conservative groups that focused not only on abortion, but also on a variety of other social issues. Would that have happened had states, one by one, decided the issue in legislatures? It's hard to imagine it would have.

But legislation takes time, and states would reach different results, advocates complain. Indeed. Democracy is very ponderous at times, since you need to, you know, forge a majority among the citizenry or among their representatives to change the law. It's so much easier to run to the courts and bypass all that messy democracy.

But if advocates of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" enjoyed not only a victory, but a sense of pride that the country had come a long way, maybe they will take the experience to heart on other causes. If they do, along the way, they will earn the respect of their fellow citizens. And that is a very valuable commodity.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 22, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  law  
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This seems like a fairly blithe attitude to take towards peoples' rights. Maybe Ms. Rubin missed the news, but DADT was being challenged in court as well, and the threat of that challenge likely gave some urgency to the drive for legislative repeal.

Posted by: mustangs79 | December 22, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

We'll see if you trust Democracy if BHO is reelected. LAJ/
Laugh at Jennifer

Posted by: rcaruth | December 22, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

We'll see if you trust Democracy if BHO is reelected. LAJ/
Laugh at Jennifer

Posted by: rcaruth | December 22, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

mustangs79 didn't read the article, that much is clear.

And rcaruth is committing a grave error: counting the chickens before they hatch.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 22, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Skipper,I said "if",learn to read,please

Posted by: rcaruth | December 22, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin, one of the strengths of having three branches of government is that change can be manifested in a number of ways.

A multi-pronged effort is more likely to find an opening for change to blossom than focusing on one tactic alone.

"[R]unning to the courts" is part of our "messy" democratic process, not separate from it. For example, how much longer would we have tolerated 'separate but equal' without the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision?

Posted by: MsJS | December 22, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, worse, every action has unexpected and unintended outcomes. It is all very well that the United States, among other nations, has undergone a "generational shift" regarding gay rights.
Keep in mind that until about 2500 years ago everybody had "gay rights" until the Torah banned them outright and for good reason, gay activity engendered paganism.
Thus while everybody is cheering this "great moment," it might just turn out to be one of those "be careful what you wish for" events.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 22, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Benlyyar; where is your supporting evidence for the statement, that gay activity engendered paganism. Furthermore why do you feel monotheism is superior to paganism (I'm assuming you are using it in a polytheism way and not in a non-abrahamic one). Either way, that belief is nothing more than cultural imperialism. If ending DADT has a side effect of reducing the role of the Abrahamic religions in civil life, then that will be for the better. I think however as societies become more educated the role of religion and the tyranny of the priest-casts is naturally reduced. This in turn, gives the oppressed groups, the ability to fully partake in civil society.

Posted by: unreligious | December 22, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I really don't like your attitude about civil rights. Should blacks have refrained from using peaceful demonstations of civil disobediance and "running to the courts" to gain their civil rights. Should women? Should anyone? We have a Constitution and it guarantees equality. Unfortunately, many people believe their religious beliefs should hold sway over laws. Separation of church and state is being blithely ignored and religious views are being used to deny some basic civil rights of homosexuals. For you, correction of this outrage may not seem to be an urgent matter, one worth fighting for. For many gay people, it is outrageous and unbearable. Get real!

Posted by: don6 | December 22, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I am hardly blithe. The reason for my suggestion that change through legislative, evolutionary means is that it is the way to secure broad and lasting acceptance for gay rights. Brown was based on a clear reading of the 14th Amendment. The lengths to which state courts have gone to invent state constitutional rights and/or override popular referenda are a recipe for a backlash and failure. The message here is: in a generation after Roe the country is more pro-life than pro-choice. That's not a recipe gay rights activists want to emulate.

Posted by: Jennifer Rubin | December 22, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Jennifer, I trust democracy to (eventually) get to the right place, and I am pleased to know that we could successfully appeal to the consciences of moderates like Sens. Collins and Voinovich in supporting DADT repeal.

But I don't trust conservatives to ever do the right thing. Gays seeking respect from conservatives is like expecting blood to pour forth from a stone. And I, for one, won't waste my time or energy trying to make you feel warm, fuzzy and comfortable about LGBT citizens' claiming ALL the privileges, and responsibilities to which we are rightfully entitled.

Jennifer, if you haven't noticed, almost all of the politicians on your side of the aisle have sought to enhance their conservative bona fides by hating on gays. Right-wing media cheerleaders (such as Commentary, FOX News, and the Washington Times) for decades have used gay-bashing as a weapon for tactical gain and to paint opponents as weak on defense and "traditional values."

Conservative antipathy and prejudice is not going to magically dissipate because gays played nice and observed the rules of an uneven playing field. Ted Olsen fighting Prop 8 is the exception that proves the rule--but I suspect you will now dismiss him as being an activist cry-baby for daring to petition the federal courts to seek an appropriate legal remedy for California's gay and lesbian couples.

Why should anyone's civil rights be put to majority vote? When did we get the opportunity to vote on how you practice your religion? On whom you marry? I'd relish the chance to put you in your place, and to give you a painful lesson in the limitations of representative democracy. In the meantime, I am certain your rabidly conservative fellow travelers will continue to malign and abuse LGBT people, majority vote in Congress or no, and they will be aided and abetted by people like you, speaking from positions of privileged and power, who will tsk-tsk-tsk those crazy gays, like those uppity African Americans before them, for expecting justice sooner than conservatives want to dole it out.

Posted by: mitchw7959 | December 22, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Here's a thought: why don't you give up your equal rights as citizen of this country, as well as your dignity as a human being; and then wait patiently for more than 50% of am electorate taught all their lives that you are immoral and don't deserve to walk this earth to decide maybe you're really OK after all? And don't forget you'll also require 60% of the Senate. No, this was not a good idea for African American rights or for interracial marriage, and it is not a good method to establish the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, thank you very much.

Posted by: frank73 | December 22, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Right on the money. Brilliant. However, Krauthammer is mistaken about the generational shift. Roughly thirty states have held referenda on gay marriage and it has not passed in one state. In California, a referendum reversed a ruling in favor of gay marriage. There is clear evidence that a majority of Americans in each state, including liberal states such as California, oppose gay marriage. There is no similar evidence that a majority of Americans favor gay marriage. Mr. Krauthammer is a wonderful opinion writer but he suffers from being part of the DC echo chamber. I do wish that you would address the importance of the fact that a majority of Americans have shown through the democratic process that they oppose gay marriage. We are in fact creating a situation that is fully parallel to the abortion disaster. Americans do not forget when their votes are refused.

Posted by: JohnMarshall3 | December 22, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

If there is anything to be learned from the responses by Leftists and activist gays to Ms. Rubin's post, it is that democracy is not now possible and engaging with these people is utterly fruitless.

The theme is clear - one side in cultural issues is enlightened, evolved, precociously at the culmination of inevitable "generational shifts" and perpetually "on the right side of history." They claim "rights" which are, naturally, overdue. It is clear where the Nation must go and they have grown tired of debating just how long it should take and enduring the delays of "process." They have no reason to doubt whether they are right and honorable, nor whether the effects of their activism could produce negative results - it is simply not within the realm of possibility.

The other, as a rule, has only very recently mastered stone tools and is motivated solely and exclusively by prejudice, hatred, and fear.

What is there to talk about between and among these mismatched sides? Democracy means posing the question incessantly, never accepting "no" as an answer, and declaring the matter closed for all time when the enlightened find a good judge - many to be found in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, of course. Clearly, the primitives must be brought to heel by a judiciary composed of the "right sort." Much like tearing a bandage off quickly, once our great cultural leap forward is complete, you'll thank them for their efforts on your behalf, you see.

Posted by: DonkeyMattanza | December 23, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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