Gay Marriage: What’s Wrong with a Referendum?
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
However, to openly state that minority rights cannot be decided by the majority is at worst fiction and at best historical revision. Let’s just remember that the Constitution was decided by a bunch of men representing the individual states who decided that black Americans were three fifths of a person. The majority (white race) certainly decided the rights of the minority (black race). Maybe some of the gay marriage advocates should go back in time and try their rhetorical salsa circa late 18th century and see how well it is received.
Fast forward to the 1960s and if not for many white men and women, many black men and women would not be able to vote today. Again, the majority deciding for the minority. And one last historical reference, women were given the right to vote by the (almost) majority of men in the early 20th century. Wouldn’t have been quite an interesting read if women suffragists argued that men – who had the right to vote – had no right to decide if they should also have the right to vote?
I lied. One final example is more recent and closer to home here in Rhode Island. In 2006, Rhode Islanders voted to give back the right to vote to people on probation and parole. In this instance, the majority (those not on probation or parole) decided the rights of the minority former felons. I don’t recall anyone on the RightToVote campaign decrying the fact that Rhode Islanders held the voting rights of the former felons in their hands.
No, with gay marriage this line of argument seems new and, if I may use this wording, completely intellectually dishonest. We are a social contract society and we decide how we want to live. There are a number of issues I don’t agree with and the majority of folks do. I don’t complain about how my “rights” are being infringed upon by an oppressive majority. No! I try to convince them that my way is the right way! Gay marriage activists should follow in kind and stop belittling our intelligence with rhetorical jumping jacks.
Rhode Island voters should decide the issue of marriage and in my opinion it should be a constitutional amendment. Less desirable is legislation in the General Assembly. It’s less desirable because it can be more easily changed than a Constitutional amendment. I say that without regard to which side wins more so that the issue can (finally) be laid to rest by such amendment.
Yet, gay marriage proponents simply refuse to accept that changing the definition of marriage is a fundamental change to the fabric of our society. It’s not a simple matter of conferring rights from one group to another. It’s a matter of changing the way we view one of the fundamental concepts of our culture. I don’t want to change it, but I’m all for allowing my fellow Rhode Islanders decide and being content with their decision.
Given that recent polls suggest more Rhode Islanders favor gay marriage than oppose it, what’s the fear for gay marriage activists? Do they not really believe their polling? Are they afraid the battle with marriage advocates will sway the electorate to the other side? Whatever their fear is in not encouraging a referendum on this issue it runs counter to the history of change in this country.
And for an institution like marriage, the people of Rhode Island deserve to have their say in the debate once and for all.
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