Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gay Marriage in Mass.

Meant to comment on this story from MA.
Massachusetts lawmakers blocked a proposed constitutional amendment that would have let voters decide whether to outlaw gay marriage in the only state that allows it. The narrow vote was a blow to efforts to reverse the historic court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The ban needed 50 votes to secure a place on the 2008 ballot. It got 45, with 151 lawmakers opposed.
I'm in favor of legalizing gay marriage so I don't have a problem with the outcome here. The question comes down to process and whether or not this is a legitimate extension of the governing desires of the people. Former MA Gov. Mitt Romney didn't think it was:
"they could either take the decision away from the people or they could give the decision to the people, and the state legislature of Massachusetts decided to not allow the people to vote on the definition of marriage."
He (obviously) has a better feel for what the people of MA want than I do. The most recent poll I could find seemed to find general agreement with the legislature. Absent some kind of evidence that the legislature is honestly ignoring the clear will of the people, I must disagree with Romney. Elected officials must vote for what they think is best. Since this has been a high profile issue, we have to assume that voters were informed as to where there votes would lead.
Opponents of gay marriage have (rightly) suggested that imposing it through the courts bypasses the clear will of the majority. They prefer to have the legislature make these types of decisions. Now they have.
There's a side issue here that's worth exploring. The whole idea of a referendum is to give the voting public a chance to make a direct vote on an issue. It's a way of bypassing officals that don't agree with voters. I'm not a fan of routing that process back through a state congress to get their ok on it. Kind of defeats the purpose, no?
Someday we'll have a situation where a clear majority approves gay marriage for a state. A situation that isn't muddled with court decisions or claims of illegitimacy. On that day, a clear milestone will have been passed. This one isn't so clear.



Blogger Steve said...

I totally agree on the legislature needing to represent the people and legislate without sending tough issues to referendum. I voted against both Minnesota referendums last year specifically because I thought both issues should have been dealt with by the legislature and not by referendum.

However, in this particular case I see the case for sending the issue to referendum. The legislature did not make a law regarding gay marriage. They simply refused to send the issue to referendum, thereby endorsing the court decision which then will be treated as law in the absence of an actual statute. I am no constitutional lawyer by any stretch, but I believe that part of the partisan rancor surrounding Rowe vs Wade over the past 30 years is that it is not legislated law but is a court ruling that has become law in the absence of a statute.

Gay marriage aside, I believe any legislation on polarizing issue (gun control, abortion, gay rights, etc) needs to be legislated and not ruled on. I really do think the legitimacy of an actual law from elected representatives and not just a couple of judges opinions that would reduce at least some of the partisan fury around these issues.

9:31 AM  

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