Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Marriage in NY

Last night the state of New York legalized gay marriage. (Or at least I think they did. The legislature passed the appropriate law; I'm not sure what role their governor plays.) As I'm a supporter of gay marriage, this made me happy. We have a fairly large population as a whole and a large gay community that can marry if they choose. I heartily approve.
But I'm also very pleased that this was done through a legislature. For years I've heard gay marriage activists say that it is only a matter of time until public opinion swings their way. Usually they say this in the context that states that aren't ahead of the time will suffer later embarrassment. My response has always been that we should simply wait a bit until the public is ready. That seems to have happened now in New York.
I haven't seen any poll results but in general we should assume that duly elected representatives actually do represent the people who elected them. If not then they'll be voted out of office and replaced by people better in step. That is the way that a democracy should work. This is basic Civics 101.

Throughout the debate on gay marriage I've heard people say that we don't vote on basic rights. This is wrong of course. All rights that we have have been voted on at some point or other. The Bill of Rights was ratified through a series of votes, etc.
Sometimes this is modified to 'we don't vote on minority rights'. There is a kernel of truth to this but it goes to far. We do have extra protections for minorities so that they don't get trampled by the majority. But it isn't hard to think of exceptions. Our immigration policies are subject to voting. Affirmative action, which is all about protecting minorities, is voted on.
In fact once you get past skin color as a proxy for minority, every vote has to do with some kind of basic right. Bar owners are a minority and we vote on all kind of stuff that they can do. Smokers are (now) a minority and we vote on their rights. The top 1% richest people in the country are by definition a 99-1 minority and that doesn't stop people from trying to vote their taxes up. None of this bothers the majority of gay marriage supporters, so I don't know how firmly they really believe in it.

When conservatives use the courts to block various items that they disagree with there is usually a chorus of derision that they would use a tool like the judiciary in a way that they say it shouldn't be. I thought of snarking last night that gay marriage supporters should have boycotted the legislature since they've been saying you can't vote on rights. But . . . well, I know that a lot of people have worked very hard and long on this and it's a very emotional issue. They don't need me raining on their happiness.
The obvious truth is that you can't always work in the method that you think best. That's just life.