Links we recommend
Link to us
Free email update
What's New & Interesting
Massachusetts had, until a few days ago, seemingly taken a nationally quiet but nonetheless bold step in the continuing debate surrounding gay marriage (wherever the debate continues; one assumes it’s somewhere), the legislature putting before itself a bill that would have allowed the populace – through a 2004 election day referendum – the ability to define for the State the exact definition of marriage, toward the end of an explicit declaration in the State’s Constitution. As one would expect, chaos ensued at the mere notion of marriage being defined, and protestors for and against the idea showed up to have their collective voices heard.
If you’re an architect of social reengineering, or one who greatly desires such societal changes, how dangerous is taking something like this to the people? Apparently too dangerous; the bill was killed before it even reached a vote, leading to cheers from the pro-gay marriage portion of the assembled throng. Marriage would not be defined as a union between a man and a woman, at least not in Swift Country, leaving the door open to marriage coming to also include a union between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. Which brings to mind an interesting question: Does it or does it not matter what the people think on any matter other than who represents them in Government? There are arguments for and against each answer, and it just so happens logic can, to certain lengths, support both.
On the one hand, what do the people go to the polls for is not to choose the very people who should vote on matters such as what defines gay marriage? Sure; and had not the bill in question included a mingling with the State Constitution, a stronger than usual case could be made for this line or reasoning. Government is never truly run by the People, insofar as their modern involvement seems too often to end at the selection of representatives and the accountant’s office. Once in awhile the voices of the taxpayers become so overwhelming they cannot be ignored (e.g. the Clinton socialized medicine plan), but by and large they tend to shelve whatever disapproval they may have, relenting to Government’s antics (which so often come to resemble what drunken high school seniors would do if they could rule the world). So haven’t the People long ago decided through their inaction to allow those they elected to run things, and decide everything?
On the other hand, an electorate who doesn’t openly take it upon itself to decide pivotal parts of their lives has no reasonable right to complain when things go wrong, as they inevitably will, or when Government makes grievous errors in the name of the People. Approving gay marriage isn’t like raising license plate taxes; it would change the very fabric of what people believe is not only important, but what is tradition as well. That people today are ever willing to turn out in droves in order to take credit for and lend support to their own beliefs should be taken seriously as a statement but cannot, so long as someone more powerful than them has an agenda of some sort.
The issue here isn’t gay marriage (your author is undecided; you can take it or leave it – the institution is flawed at its base, gays can’t possibly do it any more damage than straights have), but whether or not the People should have the ability to decide, at the polls, the most important issues of their times, as they pertain to the individual States. In this we’re speaking not only of what marriage means, but whether or not someone has the right to die as they please, or whether marijuana should be legalized. (And let’s not forget most matters of taxation; a topic for another time.) Whether or not the citizenry is, on the whole, smart enough to consider the nuances of these individual issues is debatable, but you’d think everything of importance can be narrowed down to idiot proof questions: Should marriage be defined exclusively as a man and a woman in a state of union? Should marijuana be legalized? Do people have the right to choose how and when they die? Et cetera.
Someone asks, Would you have taken the issue of Jewish rights to the Germans in 1940? The question is meant to suggest you cannot let people with a clear bias vote on whether or not their biases are justifiable. Although the Jewish rights aspect of the question is intellectually illegitimate (America has never stuck Jews in concentration camps … just the Japanese), the overall point isn’t: Ask ten pedophiles if pedophilia should be legitimized, you’ll get ten yes votes even though the practice is abhorrent.
Here at least we have a built in deterrent: logic. No one is rationally suggesting gay marriage is on par with pedophilia, or that being gay suggests pedophilia any more than the priesthood suggests pedophilia. To the end of logic there will never be an open debate on whether or not a five- year-old can consent, but there will always be the question as to whether or not marriage is something open to everyone, or just the first 85 percent of the population. What better way to put those debates to an end than to put the issues to the People?
Which brings to mind two pivotal questions: For one, What should happen is the People change their minds? Those things that become “rights” cannot just be recalled just because they become unpopular somewhere down the line … that is, unless we’re talking about the right to bare arms. And, What should happen if and when the Federal Government or the Supreme Court decide either: a) to usurp the State’s rights to decide for themselves, or; b) decide the will of a State’s populace is unconstitutional? The questions are complicated, and because they’re complicated, State-wide referendums on our time’s most important questions will remain a rarity as opposed to the norm, unfortunately.