yet another opinion from Andrew Sullivan I could do without

Andrew Sullivan today wrote that California’s Prop. 8 “should stand, and the court should decline to reverse it. We lost. They won in a fair fight. No whining.”

First of all, “we” lost? Sullivan doesn’t live or vote in California. He didn’t contribute may not have contributed (ed.: as Jeff S. comments, the donor database doesn’t appear to be complete, so I can’t assume that Sullivan didn’t donate) a penny to defeat Prop. 8 (at least as of the most recent information in the donor database, from November 6 . He already has taken advantage of his right to legally marry his own same-sex partner in Massachusetts and his rights weren’t taken away by popular vote. How exactly is he part of “we”, and just why should we care what he thinks about this?

Second, by what stretch of the imagination was this a “fair fight”? Frankly, yes, I’d have preferred if Prop. 8 had been defeated at the ballot box, for once and for all. The elected representatives of the people, after all, approved same-sex marriage twice, but the governor vetoed it, saying that the Supreme Court should be the ones to decide.

And when it did go to the people, it won –and even so, just barely– by saturating the air waves with hateful lies and misrepresentations that would never be acceptable if used of any other minority, through appeals to irrational fears and bigotry, and with millions of dollars and person-hours of volunteer time essentially mandated by the Mormon church of its membership, much of that money and time coming from people who don’t even live in the state. And it won through the absurdity of a constitution that can be so easily amended, but not so easily revised. That’s hardly “fair.”

Moreover, Prop. 8 never should have been placed on the ballot for majority vote in the first place, and the California Supreme Court seemed to agree in its May ruling (hat tip Pam’s House Blend) when it wrote:

“..under this state’s Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process [emphasis mine].”

As I wrote a few days ago, our constitutional republic is supposed to guarantee that the rights of an unpopular minority are not subject to the vote of a majority; we have constitutions and courts specifically to protect those rights from popular vote.

It seems to me, then, that the court has a responsibility not only to hear the cases before it in the matter of Prop. 8, but that it should act to overturn it. Otherwise, we and they have effectively agreed with the popular, albeit incorrect, opinion that “the majority is always right,” that the courts are “activist” as opposed simply to fulfilling their constitutionally mandated role, and thereby we essentially weaken the very foundation of our government. That is to say, if we agree that it’s okay to let the majority rule in the case of equal civil rights for gays and lesbians today, and that the courts are prohibited from doing their job to protect those rights, how can we ever justify in any past or future scenario that the majority shouldn’t be able to rule in taking away rights from other minorities, including racial or ethnic minorities, or religious minorities, and that the courts must remain silent and accept the will of the people then, too? Why shouldn’t the majority be able to make interracial marriages illegal again, then, or to make civil marriage illegal for atheists or any other unpopular minority?

Finally, Sullivan also writes, “It is one thing to decide that gay couples are barred from civil equality from now on, but to reach back and strip couples who married in good faith under the law is excessive.” I’m certainly in agreement that it would be wrong for the state to forcibly divorce couples who already legally married in California because of majority rule, though I’m unsure why Sullivan should be able to find this any different than allowing the majority only to prevent any such marriages in the future. I’m particularly chilled by the cavalier manner in which Sullivan apparently finds it acceptable to ban gay couples from civil equality, under any circumstances, just as long as we agree that it’s unacceptable to take away his marriage. I’m sure your wedding cake tasted delicious, Andrew; thanks so much for your “let them have cake” attitude to those of us here in California who deserve the same equality.

3 thoughts on “yet another opinion from Andrew Sullivan I could do without

  1. Great post. I just want to point out that the donor database isn’t necessarily accurate, because I contributed money (as did Homer) and it didn’t show up there. So it’s not fair to say that Sullivan didn’t contribute any money to defeating Prop 8.

  2. Inflamed debate aside, understand that core supporters of Prop 8 do not HATE gays. We simply DISAGREE with your passionate view point about being a minority denied rights. Therefore, core supporters of Prop 8 find the gay community undeserving of any special rights and are further offended by the need to shove the opposite down our throat.
    What do I mean by shoving the opposite down our throat? Consider the rest of Prop 8 supporters. They would probably say, “OK, have your gay marriage. But keep it to yourself. What’s up with trying to teach this to my 2nd grader as normal?”
    Why did you have to throw that in?
    Because it’s not about being denied some right. We recognize that the gay agenda is about changing culture. Otherwise, why would you be going after my children? That sounds like Hitler youth to me. Indoctrinate them while they are young and they will never know the difference. Even fence riders have trouble with that one and ultimately voted Yes when they probably would have voted No.
    So there you have it. Want marriage? I dare say you would have had it by now if you didn’t cross the line by trying to teach our children that it is normal. At least Mr. Sullivan respects that.

  3. April, I’m not even sure where to begin. After all, it’s pretty amazing that you resorted to equating gay people with Hitler in your very first comment to my blog. I guess you’ve never heard of Godwin’s Law.
    Anyway, let’s address your points, such as they are:
    [Some] find the gay community undeserving of any special rights…
    1. The gay community is not asking for “special” rights, just the same rights.
    2. Our constitutional democracy, as per my post, establishes that the granting or taking away of rights from an unpopular minority is not supposed to be the purview of the majority. So it’s immaterial whether or not you find the gay community “undeserving”; it’s not for you or a majority of your fellow voters to decide who deserves civil rights and who doesn’t.
    “But keep it to yourself. What’s up with trying to teach this to my 2nd grader as normal?”
    1. So you bought into the lies being propagated by Yes on 8, without bothering to educate yourself and learn the truth.
    Note that the California Superior Court, in fact, “found that the Yes on 8 campaign had overstated its ballot argument on the measure’s impact on public schools…. Arguments signed by supporters of the measure included a claim that the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage will require teachers to tell their students, as young as kindergarten age, that same-sex marriage is the same as opposite-sex marriage – in other words, that ‘gay marriage is okay.’ [Superior Court Justice] Frawley said the Yes on 8 argument was false because instruction on marriage is not required and parents can withdraw their children.” (San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2008)
    2. California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell also called out those same lies about the public education system and the issue of same-sex marriage.
    Ironically, many parents have reported that their children only started asking about same-sex marriage when they saw or heard the Yes on 8 ads, so those who claimed they wanted to “protect children” from having to hear about it were the very ones who ended up telling children about it.
    3. And even if it had been true, and not a scare tactic used — successfully — by Yes on 8, that schools would teach that “it [same-sex marriage] is normal,” what of it? For some percentage of the California population, after all, it would be normal. Some of those second graders will grow up to be gay. Some of those second graders already have gay parents.
    4. The phrase “going after my children” comes awfully close to sounding like another lie, the ugly and hateful intimation that gay people recruit children. I won’t assume that’s what you meant, but you should be aware that such a phrase could easily be misinterpreted that way.
    “Understand that core supporters of Prop 8 do not HATE gays.”
    1. I don’t know how actively voting to strip someone of their equality can ever be defined as anything other than hateful. But, in any case…
    2. Frankly, I don’t care if you hate gays or not. I neither want nor need your love or your respect. What I want and what I need, however, is to be given the same rights, and to be treated absolutely equally under the law.
    You have the right to believe whatever you want, to hate anyone you want, and even to teach your kids the same hatred and intolerance, but you do not have the right to let your personal beliefs, whether you define them as hateful or not, impact someone else’s civil rights.

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