The problem with the gay marriage issue

Thomas Sowell

3/2/2004 12:00:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

The problem with the "gay marriage" issue is that the more fundamental issue is not gay marriage. The real issue is who should decide such issues -- that is, what kind of country and what kind of government do we have or want to have?

What does democracy mean if any headstrong minority can violate the laws passed by a majority and enshrined in centuries of legal precedents?

Some headstrong minorities have taken to the streets and some have violated the rule of law in the very courts of law, while wearing their judicial robes. In San Francisco, a mayor is openly defying state law, and both the judges and the state attorney general are too scared to do anything, for fear of angering homosexual voters.

Even those who incessantly repeat the mantra of "diversity" do not follow up the logical implications of that diversity. A diverse society can degenerate into a fragmented society and an internally warring society unless the various groups and interests agree to respect some over-arching principles and authority.

The history of the human race around the world shows how hard it is to create and maintain a national unity when different segments of the society think that what they want over-rides what everyone else wants and justifies violating the very accord that makes a society possible.

Race riots, military coups, anarchy and civil wars have erupted again and again, for centuries on end and in countries around the world, because some group decided that what it wanted was all that mattered. It has happened from the Balkans to Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Rwanda and a seemingly endless list of others.

History has told us repeatedly what is at the end of that road -- and we don't need to go there.

Gay marriage is an issue solely because a few headstrong judges in Massachusetts and an opportunistic mayor in San Francisco decided that they were above the law. Even in two ultra-liberal states like California and Massachusetts, the voters do not want gay marriage.

To those for whom their own goals over-ride everything else, this just means that the voters and the law must be disregarded. But if those on the left feel free to violate the law, why not those on the right? And where does that lead?

After years of tolerating lawlessness and violence by liberal and radical groups, especially since the 1960s, some were shocked when someone on the other end of the spectrum bombed a building in Oklahoma City.

Some blamed it on conservative talk radio -- which neither advocated nor condoned such acts -- while remaining utterly silent about the liberal media's sympathetic treatment of lawlessness and violence by those espousing the causes of the left. The New York Times, for example, ran a sympathetic account of one of the radical domestic bombers of the past on the very day when a more horrendous act of violence occurred -- September 11, 2001.

Gay marriage is not a local issue but a national issue because maintaining the rule of law -- or what is left of it -- is a national issue of historic importance if we are not to see America degenerate into the world's largest banana republic, or worse.

The time is long overdue to start impeaching judges who think their job is to veto laws they don't like or condone lawlessness that they agree with. The time is also long overdue to re-examine lifetime appointments of judges, which allows them to act like little tin gods, at the expense of our freedom and the country's elected government.

An independent judiciary does not mean judges independent of the Constitution from which they derive their power or independent of the laws that they are sworn to uphold.

When voters go to the polls this November, they need to consider not only what particular candidates will do in office but, at the federal level especially, what kinds of judges those candidates will appoint or confirm. There is no point complaining about judges -- or about taxes or any other laws or policies -- if you go into that voting booth on election day and vote on the basis of how candidates look or talk.