TCS Daily


Ahnold Schwarzen-Gay-Hater?

By Ryan H. Sager - September 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Opponents of same-sex marriage may claim it as a victory: Ahnold terminates gay marriage in California. Deep down, however, these folks know that this time it's not the Governator saying "I'll be back." It's the people who believe that gay couples should be afforded the same legal rights as straight couples.

On Tuesday, California's Legislature made history by becoming the first in the country to pass a bill legalizing gay marriage without being forced to do so at the butt of a gavel (as was the case when the Massachusetts court issued its order). The state's Assembly, following the lead of the Senate, passed a bill changing the definition of marriage in the Golden State to a "civil contract between two persons" instead of a "civil contract between a man and a woman."

Schwarzenegger says he is going to veto the bill, in order to defer to the courts (an odd position for a conservative to take in this debate) and the will of the people as expressed in 2000 -- when they approved Proposition 22, stating that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.

Here's the catch, though. Californians may have rejected gay marriage in 2000, but the Legislature's change of attitude is no grand conspiracy as some conservatives in the state would charge. "The only word I can see here is prostitution," the president of the Campaign for Children and Families, Randy Thomasson, told The Los Angeles Times. "Instead of obeying the voters and the Constitution, the Democratic politicians have prostituted themselves to the homosexual marriage agenda."

But is responding to a shift in public attitudes really what Thomasson means by prostitution? An August poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that likely voters are split 46 percent to 46 percent when asked, "Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married?"

In a similar vein, an April 2004 poll by the Los Angeles Times asked respondents to chose between these three options: 1) "Same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry"; 2) "Same-sex couples should be allowed to legally form civil unions, but not marry"; or 3) "Same-sex couples should not be allowed to either marry or form civil unions." Thirty-one percent said "marriage," 40 percent said "civil unions" and 25 percent said "neither."

The questions were phrased in a problematic way (how many of the people who said "civil unions" are actively opposed to marriage?), but an overwhelming majority, 71 percent, clearly favor strong legal protections for gay couples.

And, thus, a tricky question is beginning to haunt those who want to make sure homosexuals are never afforded the same rights in America as heterosexuals: When it's no longer the courts, but the elected representatives of the people, pushing gay marriage, how does one turn back the tide?

It barely caused a ripple, after all, when earlier this year Connecticut's Legislature passed a bill, which Gov. Jodi Rell signed, creating civil unions in that state. Much like California's bill, Connecticut's was historic for being the first of its kind passed in the absence of any judicial mandate.

Gay-marriage opponents hardly raised a peep at the national level. With no judges to demonize, they could hardly attack the entire populace of the Nutmeg State as a bunch of crazed, homosexual-agenda-loving Communists.

Schwarzenegger may even be doing the right thing in turning back the bill that's been sent to him -- it's difficult to say just what the Legislature's powers are in this case, given California's odd experiment with mixed, sort-of-representative-sort-of-direct democracy.

Yet it's crystal clear where public opinion is headed, both in California and nationwide. The younger the demographic polled, the more support is found for gay marriage and civil unions.

Really, what gay marriage opponents are looking to do is write anti-gay provisions into as many state constitutions as possible -- and maybe even into the federal Constitution -- before the people invested in the so-called "defense of marriage" all die off.

And, well, while we may not have a Living Constitution, constitutions govern the living. A last gasp of anti-gay animus threatens to rule us from the grave, but its time is running out.

Ryan Sager is a member of the editorial board of The New York Post. He also edits the blog Miscellaneous Objections and can be reached at editor@rhsager.com.

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