Precinct 333

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Some People Don't Have A Clue

Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times writes a mildly interesting column about the whole gay marriage issue. In it he talks about those who suggest that the Democrats should have come out agaisnt gay marriage, and why he believes that strategy would be wrong. The analysis isn't bad, neither rising above nor settling below that which the average local columnist writes. If that were all, I wouldn't bother commenting.

Deggans, however, also shows why he and many liberals don't have a clue regarding a key point on this issue.
As a black man married to a white woman, I couldn't help wondering what might have happened if Americans had voted on interracial marriage back in 1968, when the Supreme Court ruled that laws against such unions were unconstitutional. According to a Gallup poll from back then, 72 percent of respondents disapproved of the idea.

I couldn't imagine someone telling me my marriage was "too much, too fast, too soon," even then.

Expecting the Democratic Party to turn its back on a minority group fighting for equality feels too much like throwing out the baby with the bathwater - parroting a prejudice voters wouldn't believe coming from the party of Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy, anyway.

There was a time when black people were told their demands for equal housing, schools and voting rights were "too much, too soon," and they turned to the courts for victories they couldn't win at the ballot box. Can anyone blame today's gay activists - with 40 years of black-focused civil rights history behind them - for an unwillingness to wait now?

What Deggans misses is that there is a fundamental difference between the struggle for full equality for African-Americans and the gay marriage issue. More than one, actually.

  • Equal rights for blacks was already contained, explicitly, in the US Constitution. The battle that was waged for decades was about enforcing what was already there, not reading into the document that which never existed and which its authors would have repudiated.
  • By 1968 interracial marriage was already legal in most states outside the South, and had been for decades. While there was social stigma, the law in most places generally supported such marriages. Gay marriage is an innovation that has had to be created by courts from scratch, via a usurpation of the legislative function and the rejection of the beliefs of the people.
  • A high melanin level doesn't raise moral issues. Homosexual activity does, at least for the overwhelming majority of Americans.
  • Interracial marriage did not require a wholesale redefinition of the marriage, whereas gay marriage does.
Unfortunately, Deggans assumes that all opposition to gay marriage is based upon bigotry and hatred. It isn't. That allows him to discount the views of the majority without having to examine them. And it also allows him to ignore the fact that a majority of Americans, including the President, are willing to see the creation VIA THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS of some form of civil unions that will protect the rights of gay couples and their families by guaranteeing inheritance rights, medical decision-making and hospital visitation rights, and child custody rights. Many would also include healthcare and Social Security benefits, as well as adoption rights. But what most of us will not do is allow the courts to usurp the role of The People in the constitutional order of government.


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