Monday, February 20, 2012

Who really defends the Constitution? (update)

Following upon on Chris Christie's veto of marriage equality in New Jersey, and the remarkable idea in contravention to the Constitution that a minority should have its rights voted on by the majority: Andrew Sullivan points out how the minority opposed to marriage equality keeps changing the rules, and can't even manage to be consistent in their "pro-Constitution" views. (My emphasis)
They moved the goalposts on us. When we actually began to win in state legislatures, such as California (twice!), or New Hampshire, or now Maryland and New Jersey and Washington State, that process became suddenly unacceptable - and undemocratic! - as well. Even on an issue many hold to be a core civil right, we were told the courts were irrelevant and now that the legislatures were irrelevant. This was particularly odd coming from conservatives who at one point in time were strong believers in restraints on majority tyranny. But this is what a legislative debate can do that no referendum can, and it's why the founders established a republic not a pure democracy:

...But the way in which a tiny 2- 3 percent minority seeking basic civil equality has been forced now to be subject to state referendums, even after winning legislative victories, strikes me as revealing. It's basically an attack on representative government, a resort to the forms of decision-making which maximize the potential for anonymous bigotry and minimize the importance of representative government, a core achievement of Anglo-American democracy, that can help enhance reason of the accountable against the sometimes raw prejudice of the majority.

Christie is a man whose candor I admire in many ways. But this was an act of cowardice and unfairness and a misguided disregard for representative democracy. How many other duly enacted laws must now be sent to the referendum process for final judgment. Why have a legislature at all? And this from the party that claims to defend the Constitution.
Live your life by your own values. Set an example if you choose. But do not, in a representative democratic republic, presume that you can force your views on those who equally passionately, believe differently.

Update: Meanwhile, the Prop8 case will have its next level of appeal to the 9th circuit en banc. And gay couples still can't marry in CA.


Counterlight said...

I don't think Christie cares much about this issue. He's throwing a bone to the religious right with 2016 in mind.

Paul (A.) said...

He also may be pushing for a referendum to be on the ballot in November in order to pump up the right-wing Republican voters and get them to the polls.

dr.primrose said...

"Obama may be the most explicitly Christian president in American history," says evanglical scholar in story here. H/T to Episcopal Cafe

dr.primrose said...

Good N.Y. Times column supporting same-sex marriage by Frank Bruni, "Value Our Families."

"In the intensifying debate over same-sex marriage, what I sometimes find hardest to understand is why so many opponents don’t see gay people's longing to be wedded as the fundamentally conservative, lavishly complimentary desire it is. It says marriage is worth aspiring to and fighting for. Flatters it. Gives it reinvigorated cachet, extra currency, a sorely needed infusion of fresh energy.


"The religiousness of this country’s social conservatives is a selective, capricious, hypocritical thing. Some Catholics who cite church teaching to explain their opposition to same-sex marriage have broods much smaller than they likely would if they let nature have its way. They're using artificial birth control, which, as we’ve recently been reminded, the church officially rejects, a stance that illuminates just how ludicrous some orthodoxies are.

It's funny (but, then again, not): in the past, homosexuals were denounced as sexual libertines who brazenly flouted society's norms. Now many of us are pleading to be yoked to those norms, only to be told by many Americans, including many political leaders, that that's not O.K. either. The only possible takeaway is that we're meant to be outliers forevermore, unworthy of the experiences and affirmations accorded others."