Alex Massie

As Iowa and Vermont go, so goes the United States?

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This week the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld same-sex marriage and the Vermont legislature has overturned a gubernatorial veto and recognised gay marriage. Meanwhile, the District of Columbia's city council voted unanimously to reognise gay marriages in DC, regardless of the state in which the ceremony took place. Commenting on this Rod Dreher writes:

Gay marriage supporters will get it democratically if they can, but if they can't, they'll have it imposed on unwilling polities by the judiciary.

It is increasingly obvious that the US Supreme Court is going to have to rule on this matter soon. It is an untenable situation for a same-sex couple to be married in Vermont and Massachusetts and Iowa, but not in Texas, Nevada and Montana. I believe SCOTUS will constitutionalize gay marriage, and that being the case, it might be better for my side if it gets done sooner rather than later. If done sooner, there might still be enough backlash left in the American people to get a constitutional amendment passed erecting a high barrier or protection around religious institutions. Thoughts?

The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right... Even political rights, likes the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.

But what about tradition and procreation? Well, times change and tradition evolves as our views of heterosexual marriage clearly demonstrate. As for procreation: when did having children become the sole or defining characteristic of marriage? A characteristic, perhaps, but hardly a necessary one or sufficient to somehow render any childless marriage counterfeit. In any case, countless gay couples have lived their lives as though they were married and it puzzles me that granting them legal protections is anything other than a small, but important, step forward for a certain kind of humane decency and respect.

None of this means that religious folk need recognise or be happy with gay marriage themselves. But no-one, I think, expects the Roman Catholic church to open its doors to gay marriages any time soon. (Correct me if I'm wrong on this, please). So what? It doesn't seem too hard to differentiate between a religious sacrament (for those that care about them things) and a civil contract. Nor does recognising the latter mean that churches must recognise the marriage any more than it seems to me that they need recognise a heterosexual wedding performed by a civil servent. 

The idea that permitting a tiny number of people to marry one another is likely to be the tipping point that finally destroys the institution of marriage seems to grant enormous power and influence to gay couples. I confess I find this improbable. No-one is forcing Rod to be happy with same-sex marriage, merely that the state grant certain right and responsibilities to those who marry one another under a civil, not a religious, blessing.

And if Federalism means anything, it means embracing the idea of live and let live.This may be especially true when the matters being legislated upon are controversial and arouse fierce passions. There's virtue in a state-by-state and incremental approach. And of course, states may also say no, even if one might prefer them to legislate otherwise. 

Rod finds a silver lining in SCOTUS endorsing gay marriage, but I'm not sure he's right to do so. A backlash against the Court seems just as likely to repeat the errors of past culture wars. Granted, as Rod would agree himself, there's some difference between Christian traditionalists and the Republican party, but a backlash against gay marriage and the Court's endorsement of the notion that homosexuals are also entitled to the protections guaranteed by the 14th Amendment is likely to drive moderates away from frenzied conservative rump while further poisoning the GOP brand amongst socially-liberal voters under the age of 40.

Meanwhile, last time I checked, the sky had still not fallen in any of the countries that have recognised same-sex marriage or granted homosexual couples the same civil marriage rights as heterosexual couples.Tomorrow, of course, is a new day and a new chance for the sky to collapse, so you never know...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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