In the wake of the tragedy of marriage equality being rolled back in Maine by mob rule, I know a lot of people I've talked to in recent days have questioned the wisdom of pouring money into ballot initiatives. When the public speaks, we lose, and it's because the culture hasn't caught up with the fast changes in society. The nays re: marriage equality must be seen as social pushback that cannot easily be dismissed.

This is not a statement that the community shouldn't fight at all if there is one heading to the ballot in a state, but it's a question of whether this in the end gains us anything concrete — should the focus be everything but marriage in name only, taking that the limited rights give fundamental legal protections that lesbian and gay couples would never have if they are waiting for this civil rights question over a word to be decided at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Willy Hameline at Politics Daily mulls it over.

[A]s some Mainers work to overturn the veto that overturned the legislature's marriage-equality bill, one must ask the question: is this the best way to resolve the issue of gay marriage's legality? By “best,” I do not mean the quickest or easiest way to make gay marriage legal; in that respect, ballot initiatives currently have an abysmal track record. I question whether the referenda approach to legalizing or prohibiting same-sex marriage is constitutional. Is it legal; is it fair?

Ballot initiatives are democracy in action…But democracy suffers from a tyranny all its own. For while the sum total of all the votes on an issue will reflect the view of the majority, that opinion can be oppressive and infringe upon the rights of the minority. Direct democracy works great with small-scale issues – infrastructure, bond levying, and so forth – but when it comes to the question of rights, democracy, like all good things, can be taken to dangerous extremes. A majority slice of the population should not be able to vote away the rights of minority members by virtue of the fact that it has more people.

…If the Supreme Court were to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry, its decision would not be tyrannical. Unfortunate, yes, but not tyrannical. It would follow all the proper constitutional channels; this is how our government and legal system works. When the American people vote to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry, that is despotism in democracy's clothing – and I assure you, democracy is a sharp dresser. That is one person – or a majority of persons – determining the rights of another. It is reprehensible both constitutionally and morally (which ever you think is more important) because the question of a group's civil rights should not even be up for public debate. 

And that is the question we have to answer — why are we affirming mob rule when it comes to civil rights, rather than accepting it's unconstitutional in the first place?

 

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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