Monday, March 2, 2009

Prop 8 Revisited


"Legal experts say Proposition 8, which won 52 percent of the vote, would almost certainly stand if not for one notable fact: the marriage amendment represents the first time in California history that the constitution was changed at the ballot box to deprive a protected minority group of a right expressly carved out by the court."

Prop 8 is back in the Supreme Court. Hopefully the Judges will overturn Prop 8.
Prop 8 revisited.

25 comments:

Big Myk said...

I'm not really up on the relative merits of the legal arguments in the challenge to Prop 8, but I wonder as a tactical matter whether striking down Prop 8 is a good idea.

Some time ago Jonathan Rauch had a piece in the Atlantic Monthly called "A Separate Peace" in which he suggested that, if we keep the gay marriage issue in the state lagislatures and out of the courts, we'll have a much better chance of reaching something like a national concensus on the issue -- which in all likelihood will permit gays to marry.

He pointed out how pre-empting a national discussion on abortion by Roe v. Wade short circuited the political process and led to a standoff headed up by extremeists on both sides:

"Abortion started in the state legislatures, where it was sometimes contentious but hardly the stuff of a nationwide culture war. Neither party’s national political platform had an abortion plank until 1976. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some liberal-minded states began easing restrictive abortion laws. When the Supreme Court nationalized the issue, in 1973, it short-circuited a debate that was only just getting started.

"By doing that, it moved abortion out of the realm of normal politics, which cuts deals and develops consensus, and into the realm of protest politics, which rejects compromise and fosters radicalism. Outraged abortion opponents mobilized; alarmed abortion-rights advocates countermobilized; the political parties migrated to extreme positions and entrenched themselves there; the Supreme Court became a punching bag; and abortion became an indigestible mass in the pit of the country’s political stomach."

I think we should trust the political process and the basic goodness of the American people. It may take longer to get initial results and there may be compromise along the way, but ultimately gay marriage will end up on much firmer foundations if we do it by the democratic process than by Court fiat.

Peter H of Lebo said...

I will have to respectfully disagree with Jonathan Rauch. Rauch's comparison of Gay Marriage to abortion is a bit of a stretch, dealing with the definition of life and two dudes wanting Federal and State rights that have been denied based on sexual orientation. Though, with the abortion issue the Roe case sped up what the nation was going to reach eventually and bypassing the long process of compromise which saved thousands upon thousands of women (I am biased however I tend to favor saving lives over the wait for consensus). "we should trust the political process" I am trusting the courts to protect minorities rights when the majority fails. "there may be compromise along the way" Compromises when dealing with Civil Rights is absurd, for example we should keep part of segregation (compromise) based on race thus letting all parties involve gets something (unfortunately the minorities still lose everything). I believe that Gay Marriage will eventually become available for all and that it will become a shame of America's past but so far legislation has failed big time as seen with the Senate 85-14 House 342-67 passing of the Marriage Defense Act. Direct Democracy, legislation, does not work when the majority will continue to believe that Gay sex is gross. Gays should not have to wait for the majority to get over its grossed out feels of gay sex.

Big Myk said...

I understand that justice delayed is justice denied. But you ought to be clear on what you are sacrificing to achieve your ends. Rauch ends his article as follows:

"Although I bow to no one in my support for gay marriage—society needs more marriages, not fewer, and gay couples need the protections and obligations of marriage, and gay individuals need the hope and promise of marriage—the last few years have provided a potent demonstration of the power of moral pluralism to act as a political shock absorber. Even moral absolutists—people who believe gay marriage is a basic human right or, for that matter, people who believe abortion is murder—should grudgingly support pluralism, because it makes the world safe for their moral activism by keeping the cultural peace."

Peter Nascenzi said...

I have to agree with Rauch's assessment of comparing abortion to the issue of gay marriage. Most pro-choice organizations say the debate is over women's rights; while most pro-choice organizations say the debate is over when life begins. Compare that to the major arguments of the two Prop. 8 camps: those against it say the debate is over civil rights, while those for it say the debate is over the definition of a marriage.

In both cases, you won't get anywhere until you agree what the debate is before you start having it.

Peter H of Lebo said...
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Peter H of Lebo said...

Rauch's argument is simple, an argument for inaction in the name waiting for people to change their mind. People are either convince or not debating. Debates and moral pluralism is irrelevant and quite frankly wrong when a basic human right is infringed, the right of equality.

Andrew Sullivan writes on his blog-
A reader writes:
I've read your many posts advocating against the judicial route and instead urging for patience for the eventual day when the majority will grant marriage rights to same-sex couples via the ballot box after gay people move in next door and show the bigots what fine, upstanding people gay people really are. And after yesterday's post, I'm afraid I must bring into question your ability to grasp the perspective of what it means to be a part of a historically oppressed people. As a (hetero) Jew, I was raised with the truth that we Jews have been and will always be a tiny minority.

As a gay adult, you have that understanding to be sure - but the culture you were brought up in, and were always a part of, was the majority culture. Do you really get it that fundamental (as we lawyers put it) human rights are not granted by the majority, but are always there, hopefully someday to be revealed by an enlightened and brave judiciary? If Jews had to wait for the ballot box, there would be no Jews.
I am very thankful that in order for the people to use the power of the federal government to marginalize me it would take two-thirds of both houses and three-quarters of the states. You are incorrect if you believe that the struggle to achieve same-sex marriage rights should be a primarily political one based on a campaign of persuasion (although I wholeheartedly agree with you that we have the better arguments). It is certainly myopic of you to chastise the judicial (and judicious) efforts to bring gay people into the fundamental rights club. And you ask: "Who wants the critical moment in the securing of marriage rights to be imposed by a court against a clear majority vote of the citizens?" I answer this way - I'd take my fundamental rights any way I can get it, just like the women, the black people, and the Jews did it.

Big Myk said...

First off, both Jonathan Rauch and Andrew Sullivan are gay? Does the Atlantic Monthly have any straight writers on its staff anymore?

Also, Peter N.'s point about how people tend to define the issue in a way that makes their answer the obviously correct one is worth noting. Certainly, the abortion debate is one of the most pointed examples of this. Both sides speak past each other without any acknowledgement of anybody else's arguments.

But it's certainly not limited to abortion or even gay marriage. During the civil rights era, the debate was over the civil rights of black Americans vs. the individual's right of association and the sanctity of private enterprise in the face of federal interference. Said Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964: "The two portions of this bill to which I have constantly and consistently voiced objections . . . are those which would embark the Federal government on a regulatory course of action with regard to private enterprise in the area of so-called 'public accommodations' and in the area of employment - to be more specific, Titles II and VII of the bill."

Speaking of the civil rights era, I thought Peter of Lebo was going to respond to my earlier comment by dredging up Martin Luther King's letter from a Birmingham jail, responding to a letter by several Alabama clergymen where they stated, "We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely."

King gave them a stinging response. In particular, he criticized the "white moderate" "who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.'

Having made your argument for you, let me respond by saying that, while civil rights got some critical boosts from the courts, most of the movement battles were fought in Congress and state legislatures, producing laws like the 1964 civil rights act and the voting rights act. My bet is that, if the civil rights movement had to rely solely on court decisions, Obama would not be president today.

james said...

Myk-

Plenty of civil rights were established through executive and judicial means: probably the only two Supreme Court cases the average college grad can name is Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. President Johnson signed an Executive Order to enforce affirmative action. And even though the Civil Rights Act was passed in Congress, it was hardly the result of a national consensus. Presidents had to mobilize troops against their own citizens to enforce the law- hardly the civilized end to a reasoned debate.

I do understand that it is preferable to have a stamp of majority approval on a minority's rights. I would have been even more delighted on November 5th to see Americans voting for a civil right rather than taking it away. But the result of the vote does not change the fact that Prop 8 is wrong. I always cringe when I hear people advocating patience w/r/t civil rights for the sake of long-term strategy. I may be wrong, but ten years from now I don't think the Mormon who gave thousands of dollars to "Yes on 8" will re-weigh the evidence for and against gay marriage and come to a different conclusion. The wait-for-a-majority-stamp-of-approval argument is basically saying "Let's wait for the more tolerant younger generation to turn 18, then I can take refuge in the comfortable moral majority". I'm pretty sure I'm straw-manning you here, but I think such an argument is rather spineless and panders to the loudest, most divisive elements in civilized society.

Rather than wait for those perpetrating an injustice to wake up and listen to the evidence, I think we should stand up and strike down injustice as soon as we see it. Argumentum ad populum: consensus has no bearing on truth.

James R Harvey said...

What I find interesting here is that the Platonist is seeking a very human definition of the question (congrats Peter N.), while the one who argued an hour against the Plantonic view says "consensus has no bearing on truth."

I know, I know. Peter N. doesn't really believe "language is the house of being" and James (hopefully) doesn't really believe that there is a Truth out there we must glimpse, but I found it amusingly ironic nonetheless.

Big Myk said...

James the Younger -- You give away much of your argument by citing Plessy and Brown in the same sentence. Brown essentially did no more than correct the decision in Plessy, which had held the "separate but equal" satisfied the requirements of equal protection. Brown rejected this. So, I'd call that a wash on the judicial activism chart.

Beyond that, you have indeed created a straw man -- I have never advocated consensus, just democracy. We may need to send in the federal troops, but when a reform has the imprimatur of the legislature, it adds a certain moral force to it that court decisions lack. Without it, you're left with Roe v. Wade, where nothing has really been settled, and which hangs on the vote of the next appointed supreme court justice.

You miss an important point, and this goes back to our discussion of Gandhi and nonviolence. You want certain ends, without regard to the means. But, ultimately, the means participate in the ends. Both the US and Canada achieved independence from England. I suspect that the means by which we achieved independence stamped us with a certain national character which now sends us into Iraq on a fool's errand.

You are like Roper in "A Man for All Seasons" who would use any means to get after the Devil (name any evil here), including cutting down the laws of England. Moore gives the following response:

"Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

And I'd give the anti-gay forces the benefit of the democratic process. Without it, who knows, the court may start striking down minimum wage laws.

Peter H of Lebo said...

Myk- Should the institutions of our Democracy standby and not do their job? Legislation was used to curtail civil rights. Court are in place to make sure the laws are constitutional. Prop 8 is not constitutional, Obama (who is not for gay marriage, a gripe I have against him) stated the obivious "when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that's not what America's about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don't contract them.".

Myk you argue that James and I do not care about the means to achieve the end. I fail to see that my hoping that institutions put in place to make sure laws do not infringe on civil rights do their job as not caring about the means. Your argument that "legislation adds a certain moral force to it" is shallow chicken-shit excuse to maintain the status quo- Prop 8 now contains a moral force behind it because it was passed through legislation!? Court decisions, Legislation, Executive orders, all institutions in place to make sure our democracy upholds that We are all Equal and should be treated as such. When one arm of our democracy infringes on civil rights, it is the duty of the others to correct it.

Myk you argue "My bet is that, if the civil rights movement had to rely solely on court decisions, Obama would not be president today." I would argue that without Brown, Civil Rights Act, Loving, Eisenhower executive orders Obama would not be president today. I have never argued that courts should be the sole means to which gays will achieve equal civil rights however in the case of prop 8 it is the duty of court to overturn unconstitutional amendment. The Black Civil Rights movement pursued all avenues of democracy to achieve its ends. I believe the Gay Civil Rights movement should be afford the same right to do so.

Also explain to me please how the courts could argue convincingly that the minimum wage laws are unconstitutional.

Big Myk said...

"Also explain to me please how the courts could argue convincingly that the minimum wage laws are unconstitutional."

Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 25 S.Ct. 539, 49 L.Ed. 937 (1905), finding New York State's maximum-hours law for bakers “unreasonable and entirely arbitrary." Adkins v. Children's Hospital of D.C., 261 U.S. 525, 559, 43 S.Ct. 394, 401-402, 67 L.Ed. 785 (1923), holding a minimum-wage law "so clearly the product of a naked, arbitrary exercise of power that it cannot be allowed to stand under the Constitution of the United States."

You hand power over to the court at your own peril.

Peter H of Lebo said...

Never argue with a lawyer, however those rulings were 1905 and 1923, same should be said about legislation (18th amendment (1923) repealed about the same time as 1923 and 05 rulings were overturned), I hand my power over to representatives and am powerless against majority-wielding crazy christian fundamentalist. I say Democracy is at peril when an arm of democracy acting unjustly is allowed to go unchecked. You hold legislation to a higher pedestal-that it can only be corrected by further legislation- ironically how does the solution of a problem come from the problem.

James R Harvey said...

I'm beginning to catch Myk's drift. The constitution will soon be like the Bible. Judges will no longer be able to take it literally, but try to determine what the writers were trying to say, or, better yet, what they would say if they were alive today.

Peter H of Lebo said...

James R-
I am really terrible at discerning internet sarcasm/tongue in cheek comments so sorry if I misconstrued your comment. The Constitution is like the Bible in that it is often interpreted (used as a guide) to determine the correct course of action in the face of new challenges (As with the Constitution the Bible acted as a Law guide for Jews such as "If anyone, even your own family suggests worshiping another God, kill them. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)"). Unlike the Bible the Constitution is not written by a collection of 3000 year old mystic Jews (instead by 300 year old rich humanistic white British men).

Ideas specifically written into the Constitution can be taken literally such as "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" (self-explanatory, except I guess for cases defining marriage by certain sects of Christianity's standards(DOMA)), however much needs to be interpreted. I don't think a four page document can specifically dictate the exact action government should take in every circumstance. The Constitution was created as a flexible open document as illustrate by defining Congress powers "The Congress shall have power... To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." "necessary and proper" seems up for interpretation.

America has always tried to determine how the founders would react to new challenges, we have even fought a Civil War over its interpretation. Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus, FDR created Japanese internment camps, Congress passed New Deal acts and DOMA, Warren ruling in Brown- all interpretations based on the Constitution.

The three branches of government are continually interpreting their powers (often misusing them). No one branch has a higher moral force behind it, as they are all human institutions and thus susceptible to tyranny. They each have a role to keep the other branches in check while maintaining the one basic human right that We are all equal. Prop 8 infringes that right-stating that Gay couple are not equal to that of Hetero because of their sexual orientation and therefore should not be afforded the right to marry in the eyes of the state. Therefore I have no hesitation for Prop 8 being overturned in the court because it is doing its duty of protecting Civil Rights.

James R Harvey said...

No, you were spot on. I tried to be somewhat amusing but was mostly serious. The point, as you gleaned, was that as we get farther and farther away from the society of the founding fathers, the Constitution will have less and less appropriateness. As I think Myk has been hinting, the sliding scale of democracy/congress becomes more important as you get farther away from 'old' dictates.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating either way (courts or legislation) with Prop 8. All I'm saying is be more wary of laws than consensus.

Put another way, in one thousand years or 10 thousand years what do you think marriage will look like and what will be a individual's civil rights under it. Right! I have no idea either.

Peter H of Lebo said...

"sliding scale of democracy/congress becomes more important as you get farther away from 'old' dictates"- I guess we differ on views- I believe our Democracy is not Congress. I believe that Congress is no more or less important than the Judiciary or Executive branch. I contend that the legislation body is as easily susceptible to tyranny as the other branches. I am not sure how the idea that majority rule somehow immune to tyranny and incorruptible. This idea is dangerous because majority rulings now has (as Myk termed it) higher moral authority to justify curtailing minority's rights. Our Democracy (one of the freest flexible governments in the world) depends on each Branch to do its job in preventing tyranny. Our constitution is as important today as it was when it was first inked. A document based on protecting the idea that everyone is equal will never be dated. Without the Constitution the United States could be like the UN, France and Germany curtailing freedom of speech whenever they deem necessary.

"one thousand years or 10 thousand years what do you think marriage will look like and what will be a individual's civil rights under it. Right! I have no idea either." This has absolutely no bearing on my argument. I am not arguing about what marriage should or will or what rights are include. By answering this one question you will understand my argument. Is the state/federal government treating homosexual couples equal to that of heterosexual couples? If you answer no, it is the duty of government (all of the government) (protecting the idea of equality) to act. If you answer yes, I can name you 1,139 reasons as to why you are wrong.

James R Harvey said...

I think the question we were asking (actually, the old question) is: "Should the state/federal government be treating homosexual couples equal to that of heterosexual couples (after they have declared and been properly witnessed that they will remain faithful until death.)? (Boy, I wish I could make that more succinct.)

But the current question is "if you believe the first question is true, what are good ways to achieve this?"

(But I'm not really adding anything to the discussion.)

Peter H of Lebo said...

James R - "after they have declared and been properly witnessed that they will remain faithful until death" appears no where in the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO). That is not a requirement of marriage. Of course the state/federal government should be treating homosexual couples equal to that of heterosexual couples. "Marriage" in the eyes of the government is how to deal with couples who do not share blood relations who want to become a new family. Couples who would be viewed as two strangers use marriage to tell the state they are a new family-family trumping the biological family. For instance marriage allows non-biological (the spouse) person to make medical decisions concerning the other partner instead of injured partner's biological family. The Right of Marriage is very important for the Government to protect families who are based on non-biological relationship aka every married couple (though not gay couples married in Mass. or Conn. because of their sexual orientation).

The Government does not care if you are faithful or not (your God might). Nor do they care if you reproduce or whether or not you have male or female genitalia. The Government is recognizing a family not based on biological measures but a federal/state contract. The Government is preventing the recognition of Gay couples as a family due to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"if you believe the first question is true, what are good ways to achieve this?" Give Gay couples the Right of Marriage and if an avenue of democracy denies an obvious Civil Right use other avenues until the injustice is righted. If the Government continues to fail it is no longer working and should be changed or replaced.

James R Harvey said...

Hmm...I just took it from what I have heard at all the marriages I have attended. Oh, well, I guess marriage, like most institutions is constantly changing. We need to keep changing the laws to keep up.

Ah! Now you are coming over to my way of thinking. Democracy is just not working. It should be replaced.

Peter H of Lebo said...

Name a better Government (other than benevolent dictator) and I may listen(I am pretty confident that Democracy (framed by humanistic founders) is the best but my narrow mindedness could be blinding me).

"marriage, like most institutions is constantly changing. We need to keep changing the laws to keep up." The Right of Marriage has not changed. The rights and benefits have remained constant-property, tax compensation, immigration marriage, medical decisions are the same as they were 20 years ago. The rights and benefits are already in place-the only thing needed to be changed is the discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Big Myk said...

People have been characterizing my position here, which seems to obscure more than clarify.

My first and main point is that, if you want get the courts to initiate social change, fine, you'll allowed to do that, but just be aware that this route has its costs -- which may come around and bit you in the butt later on. To have the court decide an issue on which the country is so clearly divided is only going to further alienate the opposition and give it a lot of ammunition top promote its cause. It allows the right to paint itself as victim instead of the gay couple who can't get married. People will feel ill used, and rightfully so. In this case, the Prop 8 people played by the rules, and won fair and square, and now we're asking some unelected star chamber to force things down their throat. (No doubt it’s all part of the big eastern liberal-media conspiracy).

Court decisions are polarizing and make any hope a creating a majority even more remote. They remove the democratic give-and-take from the process and take away all penalty for extremism. Courts can only say yes or no, they can’t compromise. For them, it's a zero-sum game.

I'm not saying that these issues should never be brought to the Court. Brown v. Board, after all, broke this huge civil rights logjam. I'm just saying, think about it.

And then I said something else: once you start giving a lot of power to an unelected body which does not have to answer to the people, you're liable to get all kinds of unpredictable results.

I'm not sure what Jim means, but I don't think I ever meant to say that the constitution should be interpreted like the Bible. The Bible is a novel; or a collection of short stories, or something. It’s literature. Not so, the constitution. And, I don't think it's helpful to try to imagine what the founders would say if they were here today. One, we'll never know the answer to that question, so no reason to ask it. Second, when the founders used words like "due process" or "equal protection" or "cruel and unusual punishment" they were deliberately creating areas for which the courts would later fill in the content. Obviously, the constitution has survived this long because of a certain degree of flexibility.

Finally, I want to take issue with this notion everyone seems to have that leaving things up to the democratic process is somehow a passive thing -- that we have to wait around for 50% +1 people decide to support gay marriage. If anything is passive, it's hiring a bunch of lawyers and letting them do your work for you. Letting the democratic process work means striving like crazy to change the hearts and minds of others. Back in the day, opposition to segregation and the war was essentially about democratic change. There were sin-ins, freedom rides, demonstrations – all designed to convince people to change their minds. Eventually, America got the message. Civil rights legislation was passed and we pulled out of Vietnam.

And, as we now know from the movie, Harvey Milk didn’t go running to the courts whenever he was unhappy with things. He used the democratic process, and won.

james said...
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james said...

Myk-

I'm picking up what you're putting down. You're right: I would rather have equal rights set in stone than to have them established and reversed based on unelected judges' temperaments.

Here's what bothers me. When it comes to civil rights my first concern isn't alienating opposition, because opposition will always be there to debate. More importantly, the opposition- despite their wails that granting gays equal federal rights will ruin society or whatever- is not the aggrieved party. I just don't believe that the method by which a controversial law is passed has any influence on people's attitudes toward it (Well, maybe a real little bit). You brought up this particular idea about offending people in your MLK example, but seem content to let it rest.

I see your point about the perils of judicial activism, but I guess I'm not convinced that segregation laws wouldn't have taken root if only Homer Plessy hadn't decided to take his case to the Supreme Court. And ultimately, the court was responsible for striking down much of America's established legislation on race. I always thought the court should be used as a check against laws that infringe on the rights of others, but I do see why it may not be the best long-term strategy.

Lastly, I just need to point out that this particular debate differs from abortion in an important aspect: there are exactly no good arguments against gay marriage. There just isn't a shred of evidence to support Yes on 8. Zero reasons. Nada.

Defining when life starts, or the circumstances in which a fetus might need to be sacrificed for the health of the mother- yeah, there's room for debate there. If abortion had been settled in legislature, the debate would be maybe- just maybe- an iota less contentious and divisive than it is now. Abortion would no longer be used as a political wedge issue, but the passion people feel about the topic wouldn't cool. You'd have Planned Parenthood spiriting young girls out of Alabama to have their abortions in New York (further dividing the south from those elitist-gay-Jewish-liberal-yuppie Manhattanites), or in a ship anchored in the Gulf of Mexico. Established legislation be damned- people would still be pissed off at each other in weird new circumstances.

I was perhaps a bit rash when I said the democratic process could be passive, but it is slow as hell. Andrew Sullivan argues that capitalism was the greatest and fastest impetus for establishing gays rights. I just prefer the position that it's best take every avenue available to stop injustice, even the willy-nilly ones. Though, again, I see your point about the long-term.

In conclusion, this is why I'd be a terrible, terrible politician.

Big Myk said...

I guess that I didn't quite say what I meant about alienating the opposition. I agree, as for the crazy lunatic fringe, you ain't never gonna convince them of anything ("You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers"), and who cares about them. But, if you can, you want to marginalize them. Orville Faubus is not a revered name of American history. Anita Bryant is now looked upon as some kind of joke or an ogre.

But most of the rest of America doesn't really have strong feelings one way or another. When I was in college, I cared about the war, about poverty and about race, but I didn't really give much thought at all to gay rights. It's was, like, gays are just this little group who are a little too weird to get to upset about their treatment. I think that it's fair to say my opinion has changed. So, it's not the crazies I care about, but their ability to generate sympathy for their cause that worries me when we start seeing court orders.

I do agree with you that there are exactly zero good arguments against gay marriage (unless you count angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin type arguments). The opposition is totally irrational, like oppostion to national health care and the war in Iraq.

Jonathan Rauch -- remember him -- argues that conservatives who want to strengthen the family should support gay marriage.

[Marriage] is a fantastically fruitful bargain. Marriage makes you, on average, healthier, happier and wealthier. If you are a couple raising kids, marrying is likely to make them healthier, happier and wealthier, too. Marriage is our first and best line of defense against financial, medical and emotional meltdown. It provides domesticity and a safe harbor for sex. It stabilizes communities by formalizing responsibilities and creating kin networks. And its absence can be calamitous, whether in inner cities or gay ghettos.

In 2008, denying gay Americans the opportunity to marry is not only inhumane, it is unsustainable.