. . . that very little has changed about the fundamental opinions of the American electorate in this year of "change." A ballot measure that was, essentially, a "people's veto" of legislation passed last spring in Maine to permit homosexual marriage passed handily. The 53 to 47% margin outstrips even California's 52 to 48% on Prop. 8 from last year. Proponents of homosexual marriage expected and hoped for a different outcome because, unlike similar ballot measures in other states, this one was not in response to any perceived judicial fiat. It was a response action on the part of that branch of government closest to the people: the legislature.
This Time article
on the vote in Maine is interesting for the way it draws upon and, I'd add, also draws out some of the thinking of leading homosexual marriage activists in the wake of their defeat. For example, Mary Bonauto (the lawyer who successfully argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 that it should strike down state prohibitions on gay marriage) told Time
, "Ultimately, this is going to have to have a national resolution . . . It's about aligning promises found in the Constitution with America's laws."
This is intelligent politics on Ms. Banauto's part. The argument on behalf of homosexual marriage, if it means to be successful, has to be one suggesting that homosexual marriage is a fulfillment of rather than a turning away from America's promise in its Founding. Every success of big "L" Liberalism (or Progressivism) in this country (up to and including Barack Obama's) can be traced back to public argument that embraced--or seemed to embrace--America's purpose and foundations. Progressive have had to argue that there is something essentially American about adopting the course they advocate; that it is in keeping and of a piece with our familiar understanding of the universality of justice and equality.
But always within these attempted unions of an ever expanding "Liberalism" and the legacy of the American Founding is an inherent tension between them that threatens to bust up the match and, in the interim, serves to make Liberals very unhappy in the marriage. The two things, it turns out, are not at equal purposes and--unless they have a very clever counselor (perhaps like Obama--though certainly like FDR) it's fairly clear in their rhetoric to the electorate, that the partners would prefer to be divorced. For advocates of homosexual marriage or--more generally--the broad agenda of "Liberalism," the trouble with our "abstract truth applicable to all men and all times"
is that it does not expand
any more than it contracts
. It simply is. As Calvin Coolidge
might have said, "it is final." Universal human equality in our natural rights is a fact--whether it is recognized and put into force or not. When it is simultaneously publicly pronounced and practically denied, we have the proverbial "House Divided Against Itself." The denial of human equality in American chattel slavery was at odds with this central and animating principal of our republic in that it denied it by making slaves of men. The homosexual lobby in America--like Progressivism more broadly considered--denies the principle by seeking to grow it. But it wants to appear as if it is trying to protect it or live up to it. It seeks to argue that we have a "House Divided" with respect to equality for homosexuals. It sees no necessary limit to the good that can come of an expansion of the meaning of equality and it appeals to our generosity of spirit. But in seeking to expand the meaning of equality, the truth is that we actually deny it. We cannot make equality, however much we may wish it, to include things not encompassed within the natural meaning of equality.
I have to think that this, at least in part, helps to explain the natural revulsion to the idea of homosexual marriage on the part of black voters--who, of course, were a driving force in the passage of California's Prop. 8 last fall. Left wing whispering, revealingly
, would have you believe that black opposition to homosexual marriage is nothing more than a kind of retrograde or backward prejudice on the part of too many blacks. This is at once patronizing and reflective of some remarkably stupid thinking. The majority of black voters who oppose homosexual marriage rightly sense--when they don't vividly understand--that the suggestion of a symbiotic relationship between the struggles of blacks and the struggles of the homosexual lobby in this country is an insult to their struggles and our shared American history and accomplishments on behalf of genuine equality. It is a kind of righteous indignation--obviously felt more keenly by blacks--at the notion that the elimination of slavery and the struggle for equality before the law for black Americans is anything akin to an extension of a right to marry to homosexuals. That was a struggle to make America live up to its stated principle, not a demand that we expand it. Slavery was wrong from the start . . . not because we eventually grew into that opinion. To suggest otherwise is to demean those efforts by implying that it, like this current struggle, was a mere power struggle or numbers game without any transcending universal principle of right.
If homosexual marriage eventually passes into being and becomes an accepted part of American culture and law it will be something entirely new under our side of the sun. It will not
be an extension of America's promise to recognize the equality of all human beings. It will be a bastardization of that promise and an attempt to undermine the true meaning of it. To suggest otherwise is, let us be clear, to suggest that our rights are not natural or, even, necessarily permanent. It is to suggest that they are but an outgrowth of popular sentiment or of an evolution of opinion. It is logically (though perhaps not fully understood and certainly not clearly articulated by those who advocate on its behalf) to suggest that perhaps there was nothing inherently or fundamentally unjust about slavery. After all, people probably just hadn't evolved enough back then. For in a Progressive's world, persuasion is not a real possibility. Everything is evolution--everything is subject first to hope, then to power, and then to change.
This is why they think the problem for them today is that people just haven't "evolved" enough to recognize that homosexual marriages should be treated as equal to heterosexual marriages. They think that if they keep at it long enough, they can "help that evolution along" (in the thuggish way they've helped other parts of "evolution" along) but they have no doubt as to the eventual outcome of their efforts. Maine is to be commended for its unwillingness, yet, to so "evolve."
UPDATE: Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute adds to what I say here