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October 24, 2006

SAM VENABLE has a very nice column on Tennessee's anti-gay-marriage amendment. Excerpt:

But no matter how the votes stack up for one candidate over another, there's one facet of the 2006 campaign that historians will study long after we're all in the bone yard:

It's how Tennesseans reacted to the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

I hope this measure fails. I certainly will vote against it. It's as wrong as those antiquated laws forbidding interracial unions.

It doesn't take a genius to realize this is a hot-button issue politicians dearly love. But that's what I find so intriguing. This proposal oughta be hands-off for die-hard liberals and die-hard conservatives alike.

Liberals should view a ban on gay marriage as mean-spirited and discriminatory. Conservatives should view it as intrusion by the government into citizens' private lives.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Reader Steve Galbraith writes:

You got me on this one. How is not having the government recognize gay marriage as being equivalent to a heterosexual marriage intruding into someone's private life? Who's private life is being affected?

If the government simpy says, "You may marry whomever you want, we just won't recognize it", the state is simply staying out of private matters.

If on the other hand government recognizes same-sex marriage, isn't that bringing a private matter into the public sphere? Isn't it taking a private matter - gay marriage - and having the state regulate that relationship?

I'm essentially agnostic on this issue. Were it up for vote in a statewide referendum, I'd probably vote in favor of it. But it does seem to me that in doing so I would be using state coercion to force those who didn't recognize it as a lawful marriage to do just that.

Recall Berlin's negative and positive liberties. Isn't having the state recognize marriage an example of positive liberty - a dangerous state action - as opposed to a negative action.

Well, ideally I'd take the state out of the marriage business entirely and make it a matter of contract. But if the state is in the business of recognizing marriages I think it needs a good reason to discriminate. That some people say "Yuk" is, as with Leon Kass's concerns about science, not a good enough reason in my opinion.

That said, I think it's a terrible mistake to call those who oppose gay marriage "bigots" and the like, given that the majority of Americans feel that way. I think that attitudes will change with time, and that's why I'm against efforts to lock-in current attitudes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve White emails:

On your post concerning the Tennessee 'anti-gay' marriage amendment: perhaps these amendments wouldn't be so popular, passing with 70 to 75% of the popular vote in states that have had referendums, if the people of said states could trust their courts not to intervene. Given the notoriety attached to states where a district or supreme court has suddenly discovered a right for gays to marry, a fair number of voters may have decided that it is they or their legislators who will make this decision in their states and not their courts, thankyouverymuch.

Well, there has been some judicial activism here, but not that much. And these amendments don't simply restrict change to the legislative realm -- they generally ban it, period.

Meanwhile, reader Phil Connors has lots of unpleasant things to say, and also thinks he's "outing" me:

Is "Helen" an ironic nickname for some guy named Allen?

No, I like football and girls. But somebody could do something with that idea. Take it away, Frank J.!

MORE: And, in fact, Frank J. springs to my defense: "I'd say there's at least a 48% chance that Glenn Reynolds isn't gay, which is good enough to put this rumor to rest."

So there.