Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sullivan Finally Gets It

In a post early Wednesday morning, Andrew Sullivan had this to say about the relation between judicial activism and gay marriage:

I don't believe that we should give up or change the fight for marriage equality. But I do think it behooves people like me to listen to what the other side is saying. I'm struck by how many of you have told me that your real objection is not with the issue of marriage equality itself, but by the means of achieving it. Court-imposed mandates rub people the wrong way, even those who support including gay couples within the family structure. Extra-legal tactics like Gavin Newsom's particularly rankle. I wasn't sanguine about this at the time but minimized it because I was so swept up in the emotion of seeing gay couples finally getting the respect they deserve. I should have been stricter in opposing Newsom's grandstanding. I'll have more to say in a forthcoming TNR piece. But it's important to hear what others who disagree with me are saying. I'm trying harder.
Exactly. The rule of law should not be abrogated no matter how worthy the cause. Some of us tried to explain this to Sullivan at the time, but he brushed it aside. I am glad to see that he now admits the error. Time will tell if he sticks with this committment, but we all get overcome by our passions from time to time, so I am willing to cut him a little slack.

Of course, there are some people who do not think that judicial activism is the main problem here and would be perfectly willing to use it to further their conservative agenda if they could get away with it. But I don't consider such people to be truly conservative, just radical in a different direction.

And finally, the question of whether public acknowledgment of homosexuality is actually good for society (or for homosexuals themselves) is completely different. Sullivan's position is based on the assumption that homosexuals are in some sense born that way, so his comparison to black civil rights movements follows naturally. However, if you reject that premise (as I do) then the notion that gay marriage is a civil right collapses. But I think that is a case that should be made by persuasion, not force.

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