Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wisdom Of The Over-Educated.

Before 2008, California, much like the rest of the United States, limited marriage to different-sex partners. California followed much of human history in that regard. Marriage may have included multiple partners in some societies but its normative characteristic throughout history has been its heterosexual nature.

But earlier this year four California Supreme Court justices outvoted three other justices and held that it violates the California Constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Last month, 52 percent of California's voters passed Proposition 8, which overturned the decision of the four justices, and amended the Constitution to reinstate the normative definition of marriage as being a relationship between different-sex partners.

Because of the type of society we live in today, California's voters might not have the last word on the matter. The California Supreme Court will decide a case next year brought by same-sex marriage supporters who believe it violated the California Constitution to let the voters decide what marriage is.

Although California's Supreme Court has not been asked to decide this issue, some believe the vote violated the principle of freedom from the establishment of religion. For instance, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone:
"Proposition 8 was enacted by a vote of 52% to 48%. Those identifying themselves as Evangelicals, however, supported Proposition 8 by a margin of 81% to 19%, and those who say they attend church services weekly supported Proposition 8 by a vote of 84% to 16%. Non-Christians, by the way, opposed Proposition 8 by a margin 85% to 15% and those who do not attend church regularly opposed Proposition 8 by a vote of 83% to 17%.

"What this tells us, quite strikingly, is that Proposition 8 was a highly successful effort of a particular religious group to conscript the power of the state to impose their religious beliefs on their fellow citizens, whether or not those citizens share those beliefs. This is a serious threat to a free society committed to the principle of separation of church and state." (Here.)
That's right. The decision of the voters in California to return marriage to its normative definition as a relationship involving different-sex partners is a threat to a free society. Letting four judges change the definition of marriage for 37 million Californians? No threat to a free society at all. Let's hear it for the wisdom of higher education.

Rather than seeking to impose their religious views on others, it's more likely that California's voters decided marriage should reflect certain biological facts about human reproduction and childood development. Humans reproduce sexually and children are dependent on their parents for years. Marriage helps to ensure that a child's family will, in most circumstances, include his or her mother and father by binding the parents to each other and their children through a public, legal commitment.

As to whether the decision of California's voters to return marriage to its normative definition is a threat to a free society, Abraham Lincoln's words from 147 years ago about letting the Supreme Court decide certain policy matters have resonance today.
"At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal." (Here.)
-tdr

Republished twice (a record!) to fix typos: missing words.

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