I am always amused when conservatives wax eloquent about the wonders of federalism. They talk grandly of the states as the laboratories of democracy and the evils of federal control of whatever they’re against in the first place. But only when the outcomes match their preferences. When an issue comes up that they feel strongly about, they’re all about federal control. Marriage equality is a perfect example, as wingnut Star Parker demonstrates at the Worldnutdaily:
One significant development in the recent election was votes in four states approving same-sex marriage initiatives. Until now, all previous state referenda to approve same-sex marriage – 32 of them – failed.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page – a place where conservatives usually turn for intellectual capital – saw this as cause for celebration.
According to the Journal, marriage definition should come from voters, not from court orders. Americans, they argue, have “shown themselves more than capable of changing their views on gay marriage the democratic way.”
In other words, our definition of marriage should follow process, not principle. Let voters decide.
Funny, but “let the people decide” was the battle cry of the religious right when they put all those referendums on the ballot in 2004 and 2008 and they were winning them. Now suddenly, it’s a terrible idea.
I’d guess if I asked the Wall Street Journal editors if the American Constitution should be viewed as a “living document” – if our understanding of its words and what they mean should be open to change to reflect attitudes of the moment – they would say “no.”
What the hell does that have to do with the subject at hand? There is nothing in the constitution that forbids marriage equality (indeed, I would argue that the 14th amendment requires it, just as it required the end of laws against interracial marriage).
In the 1850s, Stephen Douglas proposed solving the dilemma of whether slavery should be permitted in new states by suggesting that they should just vote. What could be more American than submitting the question of slavery to the democratic process of each state?
To this Abraham Lincoln observed: “God did not place good and evil before man telling him to make his choice. On the contrary, He did tell him there was one tree, of the fruit of which he should not eat, upon pain of certain death. … I should scarcely wish so strong a prohibition against slavery in Nebraska.”
Lincoln’s rejoinder to the idea of “popular sovereignty” – that states should vote to determine if slavery would be legal – was that there are core truths – truths that define right and wrong, good and evil – that precede the democratic process.
To reject this premise is to buy into moral chaos, which is what we are approaching today.
This would make a good entry in the wingnut to English dictionary. By “moral chaos,” they of course mean “people doing things we don’t think they should do even if it has nothing to do with us.”