Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Get Your Sophistry, Right Here in the Globe!

Wherever you stand on gay rights and same-sex marriage, get a mug of strong caffeinated beverage and pick up today's Boston Globe. Attorney and conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby collects and displays the now stereotypical specious arguments for anti-civil-rights ballot initiatives.

Of course, he pours these into a template about same-sex marriage, but go beyond that. His column clearly illustrates the mob-rule aspects of the current scatter-shot legislative weapon of choice.

You have heard it from Arnold Schwarzenegger in defending his veto of the same-sex marriage law his legislature passed, both houses, both parties. Californians had voted five years ago in a ballot initiative to restrict gay marriage. The people had spoken.

To Arnie, if the courts override such a vote, that's one thing. It's quite another if the elected representatives of those same voters after a full consideration (and not just an emotional rush to vote) legalize such unions.

Hence, writes Jacoby, the problem here. The legislators let one such effort to head off same-sex marriage die rather than vote on it. The courts legalized (yes, they have that power) it. Now that the mean-spirited anti-gay forces are trying after one failure to sneak in a different form of ban, Jacoby and others of his ilk would have people believe that the liberal majority of legislators are denying the will of the people.

Well, as in California, the will of the people is represented by constitution in the General Court. The elected legislators are responsible for passing sound, reasoned laws, not emotional whims.

The safety valve of ballot initiatives is there for righting wrongs of corrupt legislatures in extreme cases. Instead, they have become more commonly the tool of special interest groups.

Most odiously, they allow majority or dominant interests to prevent minorities from sharing in their rights or in this recent case in trying to strip existing rights from a class of citizen. Today, Jacoby calls this democracy. A far more accurate term would be mob rule.

Whether it was men not wanting to share power with women, whites with blacks, native born Americans with naturalized citizens, or any other empowered group, which of them wants to cede its superiority? Put in the emotional, us-versus-them terms, why would the haves give to the have-nots?

As we see on both coasts, it is time to refine ballot initiatives to limit the mob-rule aspect.

Jacoby's conclusion today includes:
And it is no answer to say that gay and lesbian marriage is a matter of civil rights, and no one's civil rights should be put to a vote. Whether same-sex marriage should be thought of as a civil right is precisely the question to be decided. The way to decide it fairly is to decide it democratically.
Eyewash! The way it is decided democratically is through representative government. Can I get an amen?

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