"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

By Request: My Opinion On Gay Marriage News

Yarwood asked for it, so here's my response to this week's big legal/political news out of California:

The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

The 4-3 ruling declared that the state Constitution protects a fundamental "right to marry" that extends equally to same-sex couples. It tossed a highly emotional issue into the election year while opening the way for tens of thousands of gay people to wed in California, starting as early as mid-June.


What I like about this is that the decision is broader than just gay marriage. It's gay anything. It's taking the moral high-ground of saying, "you can't stop people from doing X just because they're homosexuals." That's the right way to go, in my opinion.

This is going to move the ball forward and probably lead to more states doing likewise, which will lead to an inevitable showdown over whether homophobic states will be obliged to recognize marriages imported from more progressive climbs, and of course over how the federal hydra should react.

Personally, I think that the question over the magic word "marriage" may be a sticky wicket, and I'd be in favor of some kind of national normalization of the financial and legal aspects -- which is historically what it's all about, let's not forget -- and a decoupling of the State from the religious, spiritual or moral dimension of things. Any couple of consenting adults aught to be able to make this kind of union, and I think it's right and good that we encourage this as a society by recognizing special rights, providing tax incentives, etc. Beyond that, the government shouldn't have much to say about it.

Nomenclature shouldn't matter as long as the rights conferred are equal. Note I'm not suggesting "separate but equal" viz marriage for straights, civil-unions for gays. I'm saying ideally the state is a secular entity, and all unions would be for legal purposes to be civil. "Marriage" at that point would become the exclusive province of whatever church, coven, swami or synagogue you subscribe to, and we'd all join hands and sing cumbayah in pluralistic bliss. It's almost certainly going to be more messy than that, with much gnashing of teeth on all sides I'm sure, but c'est la vie. It's an emotional issue.

As to the electoral consequences -- anti-gay-marriage as an animating factor come November -- I'm not too worried in the short-term, and actively optimistic in the longer. This doesn't for a second put California in play, and I tend to think that Bush/Cheney '04 extracted most of the political capital from the issue on that cycle. It's done what it can in the states where it could for the right, and the generational trending here is clear: the United States will be a nation that tolerates homosexuality as a normal facet of human behavior. Backlash against the public presence of gays is a declining political resource, and energy around promoting equal rights is on the rise. In three to five cycles, there will be electoral force-multiplier effects in overturning the same state bans that the GOP rode in '04 as part of their national strategy.

In short, like with a lot of the core Progressive issues -- ending the war and emerging as a post-imperialist nation, getting serious about global warming/energy, and establishing true universal health care -- this is both an issue worth fighting over, and one we're likely to win on going forward. It's not often that rightness and expediency commingle in politics, but it sure is nice when it happens.

UPDATE: Bowers on the more general progressive realignment.