So, how would you have voted?
I’m not sure if a public vote on the definition of marriage would have been as divisive as the Massachusetts State Legislature apparently feared, but it would have been interesting to see how many opponents of the 2003 Goodridge decision would have ultimately come around to voting in favor of preserving same-sex marriage in November 2008.
As a critic of what I believed to be the judicial activism of the Goodridge decision, I admit that my 2008 vote, if permitted by the legislature, would have been based on bias. However, it’s not the kind of bias you might think.
This month marks the four-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, a ruling that declared unconstitutional an anti-sodomy law that specifically targeted homosexual behavior. A number of conservatives found the ruling upsetting. Me? I never understood what the big deal was.
I am untroubled by what consenting adults do sexually on their own time and in their own homes, so long as it does not involve force and/or exploitation. Furthermore, I believe that there are a great many loving, committed homosexual couples whose relationships deserve legal recognition and status, and that such status can be provided in a way that will not allow for the future recognition of polygamous or incestuous relationships.
The Goodridge ruling irritated me on judicial-restraint grounds, but I certainly understood the strong desire of the majority judges of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to confer legal status upon committed gay and lesbian couples. If the sole option on the November 2008 ballot was to either grant or deny the legal status of marriage to same-sex couples, I would have voted to provide marriage status.
I know that I am “old-fashioned” in the sense that I would prefer the legislative/democratic enactment of civil unions to the actual redefinition of the historical and traditional concept of marriage. However, if the choice at the ballot box was between equality for same-sex couples–even at the cost of altering the time-honored definition of marriage–and de facto second-class citizenship for gay couples, I would have chosen the former.
I’ve wondered if my original opposition to Goodridge reflected unintended homophobia, and I do wonder if my willingness to vote in favor of “democratic” same-sex marriage reflects unintended liberalism. It seems likely that the gay-marriage war in this state won’t have a sequel–but if it does, I’ll vote to say, “Of course gays and lesbians are equal!”