It’s a fair question, and one that deserves a serious answer.
P.J. O’Rourke, a man whose writings have greatly influenced me, once pointed out that “pure” democracies tend to last about as long as it takes 51% of the people to realize that they can freely screw the other 49% at will. He’s quite right, and for that reason I am profoundly greatful that our Founding Fathers set up a representative democratic republic, with certain fundamental rights recognized and safeguards set up for the protection of the minority.
That being said, I still believe that in matters of purely social import, where the acceptance by the majority is a key element, a public referendum is the best way to go.
When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court first imposed gay marriage on the state, I predicted at the time that there would be a backlash effect. And when mayors in New York and California started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in clear violation of existing laws, I was even more confident that would happen.
And it did.
I sincerely believe that a government-sanctioned legal bond between two consenting adults of the same sex would be, overall, A Good Thing for our society, and believe that it is going to happen some day. Whether it is called “marriage,” “civil union,” or “hroffelnitz” doesn’t matter to me a whit — these relationships are very real, and are here to stay. Society should recognize them and welcome them as a source of much-needed stability in our culture.
But a bare majority of a panel of seven judges in one state hardly constitutes “public acceptance.” How this change comes about is just as important as the change itself.
I don’t know why I expected more from the state that gave us John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Michael Dukakis.