Monday, June 05, 2006

Another Thought On Gay Marriage, Institutions, And Talking Points

Google news is tossing up links to all kinds of articles about Bush's recent statements regarding the proposed amendment against gay marriage. He's called it the most fundamental institution of civilization that shouldn't be redefined by activist judges.

So, while we're on the topic of fundamental institutions of civilization, I'm wondering if we could prioritize a few and maybe come up with a list of things we'd like to protect and the ones we can live without.

So this debate comes from, if the talking points are to be believed, various state court rulings overturning state marriage laws.

We've got fundamental institution one, representative democracy, up against fundamental institution number two, the courts and divided government, up against fundamental institution number there, marriage.

We're fighting around the world to ensure that democracy takes root. But we'll go ahead and undo the process here at home (no, kids, the courts count as part of our democracy, remember, that whole 3 branches thing) to . . . uh . . . "protect" marriage.

Divorce, however, still totally cool and usually no one's fault.

If marriage is so fundamental, so integral to the human experience, why isn't it a bigger part of our goals abroad? I don't hear it mentioned often in foreign relations discussions. I don't hear concerns about family values and strong marriages in Iraq.

Strong, heterosexual marriages are the most important thing. Ever. Whatever those marriages look like, however long they last, doesn't really matter. Just so long as they start with one biological male and one biological female, everything else is irrelevant.

Like democracy.

And the rule of law.

1 comment:

jvgordon said...

Just being nitpicky - but the courts are not part of our "democracy." They are certainly part of our government, and it's a damn good thing they are. But the courts are not, with the exception of juries, a democratic institution. Courts are really a check against Democracy, which the Founders rightfully feared. Though we extole its virtues today, the Founders did not want Democracy, they wanted a Republic. Their political philosophy was still informed by the experiences of ancient Athens, where Democracy ultimately ruined Athens through punitive taxation and majority tyranny. Aristotle classified Democracy as the bad form of rule by the people for that reason.

While I don't generally disagree with CD's point in this post, I just thought it important to point out that courts are an intentionally undemocractic institution, but an important aspect of how we balance against the tyranny of the majority. When courts "interpret" new rights out of the fixed words of the Constitution or state constitutions that change the long-held meaning of those words, that is both beyond their intended role, and fiercely undemocratic. Courts are not meant to make laws, they are meant to interpret and enforce them. And to the extent they overreach that role, they lose legitimacy and invite checks against their power, such as Amendments to the Constitution.