Monday, September 18, 2006

Same-sex marriage -- It's not what you're against that counts, but what you're for

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:48 AM |  

First, Kudos to Jeff Kouba at Bachmann v. Wetterling for this acknowledgement about a Republican National Congressional Committee mailing –

Also, since I don’t like it when the other side does it, I must say it’s rather unfair to use such an unflattering photo of Wetterling. If the message is strong, and I think it is, let it stand on its own. Use a decent photo, not one that makes her look like Grumplina, Queen of the Trolls.
More significant, however, is a discussion thread in the comments to his post. The context is Wetterling’s stand on same-sex marriage; the issue is whether or not opposition to a defense of marriage amendment (state or federal) is the same as supporting same-sex marriage. The implication of the RNCC is that it is. Wetterling defenders are arguing that opposition to the amendment and support for same-sex marriage are not one and the same thing.

Both Wetterling supporters and critics are missing the point.

The critics are wrong in that opposing a constitutional amendment is NOT the same as supporting same-sex marriage. One can justly argue that an amendment is unnecessary given current law, that such an amendment takes the decision out of the hands of future legislatures, that legislating through the constitution is not a legislative prerogative and the like. None of those arguments requires that one support same-sex marriage. One might even opposse it.

Wetterling supporters are wrong because they are making the wrong argument and playing into critics hands. The real issue is not just where Wetterling stands on the amendment; the real issue is where she stands on same-sex marriage. As as note above, her stance on the amendment doesn't tell us that.

If an amendment is wrong, then is current law also wrong? If the law is right, then does Wetterling believe same-sex couples don’t have a right to marry? If the law is wrong, would Wetterling actively seek recognition of same-sex marriages?

Of course, Wetterling has the right not to address those questions. But if I were a Democrat, especially a gay or lesbian Democrat, I would want to know the answer. The same-sex marriage issue is on the table, and while people want to dismiss it as simply a wedge social issue, it is much more.

Where candidates stand on the same-sex marriage defines what they think about government’s authority to pass laws for maintaining an ordered society. How a candidate rationalizes his or her view tells us something about how they define discrimination and government’s role is combating it. For Democrats, the same-sex marriage issue further defines its candidates as either really standing up for a constituency (actively supporting same-sex marriage), or simply compromising the welfare of the gay and lesbian community for political expediency (no amendment, but no overt support for same-sex marriage).

It’s a real politics versus principles issue, which is why so many people are running from it.

Update: From last Friday's Pioneer Press and the careful what you wish for category --


Several large companies with operations in Massachusetts are informing employees with same-sex partners that they will lose those benefits in the near future. About 1 in 3 Fortune 500 companies voluntarily offer domestic-partner benefits as a talent draw. With same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts, many of those companies are rescinding partnership benefits in that state, making their policies consistent for all unmarried couples.

Isn't that how markets are supposed to work? Now that same-sex couples have the legal option to marry, if they want the benefits, they have to make the commitment. If stable, committed relationships are good for society, then the market motivating same-sex couples to marry can only be a good thing.