Thomas Sowell

Few issues have produced as much confused thinking as the "gay marriage" issue.

There is, for example, the argument that the government has no business getting involved with marriage in the first place. That is a personal relation, the argument goes.

Love affairs are personal relations. Marriage is a legal relation. To say that government should not get involved in legal relations is to say that government has no business governing.

Homosexuals were on their strongest ground when they said that what happens between "consenting adults" in private is none of the government's business. But now gay activists are taking the opposite view, that it is government's business -- and that government has an obligation to give its approval.

Then there are the strained analogies with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King challenged the racial laws of their time. So, the argument goes, what is wrong with Massachusetts judges and the mayor of San Francisco challenging laws that they consider unjust today?

First of all, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were private citizens and they did not put themselves above the law. On the contrary, they submitted to arrest in order to gain the public support needed to change the laws.

As private citizens, neither Mrs. Parks nor Dr. King wielded the power of government. Their situation was very different from that of public officials who use the power delegated to them through the framework of law to betray that framework itself, which they swore to uphold as a condition of receiving their power.

The real analogy would be to Governor George Wallace, who defied the law by trying to prevent black students from being enrolled in the University of Alabama under a court order.

After Wallace was no longer governor, he was within his rights to argue for racial segregation, just as civil rights leaders argued against it. But, using the powers of his office as governor to defy the law was a violation of his oath.

If judges of the Massachusetts Supreme Court or the mayor of San Francisco want to resign their jobs and start advocating gay marriage, they have every right to do so. But that is wholly different from using the authority delegated to them under the law to subvert the law.

Gay rights activists argue that activist judges have overturned unjust laws in the past and that society is better off for it. The argument that some good has come from some unlawful acts in the past is hardly a basis for accepting unlawful acts in general.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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