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March 8, 2004

Another Mayor Who Would Be King and an Amendment That Would Be Overthrown

Here's another item for the "forcing gay marriage to cross borders" file:

Six same-sex couples filed a lawsuit Monday seeking the right to get married after they were refused marriage licenses by a sympathetic public official, as [Seattle] mayor [Greg Nickels] ordered the city to recognize the marriages of gay city employees who tie the knot elsewhere.

But that's not all:

He also proposed an ordinance to extend protections for gay married couples throughout the city.

Nickels also said he'll ask the City Council to protect gay married couples throughout the city from discrimination in employment, housing or the use of parks or other city facilities. If the council approves the ordinance, it also would require contractors doing business with the city to recognize gay marriages among their own employees.

Mayor Nickels is giving us all a sneak preview of the next steps. (And who comes after private businesses?) Although some on both sides might think the legitimacy of the mayor's actions honestly debatable, there's a pretty significant problem:

State lawmakers passed a "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1998, making Washington one of 38 states defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Gov. Gary Locke vetoed the law, but lawmakers overrode the veto.

The bottom line is that the elite class has decided that it wants this cutting-edge social policy and will push it through any means possible — whether that possibility is a matter of law or of raw power. That's what makes this so thorough a manifestation of the culture war. If the public finds a way, through the legitimate exercise of legal and Constitutional processes, to rebuff even this narrow representative movement of a larger coup, a major step will have been taken back toward civil sanity. If not, the opposite will be true.

As if to add an exclamation point to the tacit statement of how much effort will be expended pushing gay marriage, the Providence Journal today ran an AP report on the topic in its business section. The article is about the inconveniences of establishing full legal ties without marriage. Conspicuously absent from the 950-word piece is any perspective on how many couples this problem affects.

Of course, it wouldn't be a culture war if one side were entirely silenced, and Jeff Jacoby leveraged his column in the Boston Globe to uphold the right side. After offering some historical perspective on the "lunch counter" civil rights claims, Jacoby writes:

The marriage radicals, on the other hand, seek to restore nothing. They have not been deprived of the right to marry -- only of the right to insist that a single-sex union is a "marriage." They cloak their demands in the language of civil rights because it sounds so much better than the truth: They don't want to accept or reject marriage on the same terms that it is available to everyone else. They want it on entirely new terms. They want it to be given a meaning it has never before had, and they prefer that it be done undemocratically -- by judicial fiat, for example, or by mayors flouting the law. Whatever else that may be, it isn't civil rights. But dare to speak against it, and you are no better than Bull Connor.

I, for one, am heartened to have Jacoby pulling for traditional marriage. Unfortunately, I'm disheartened by the work that lays ahead of us, even among our own ranks. Following the National Review editorial that I addressed on Saturday, John Hawkins throws his support behind the Orrin Hatch marriage amendment as a fallback, on the assumption that it certainly could be passed. I'm not so sure about that, nor am I enthusiastic about this amendment's being out there as an alternative.

Unlike the folks over at NR, I don't think Hatch's amendment holds the line more strongly than tweezers where a monkey wrench is needed. I see nothing in it to fulfill its promise that state judiciaries will be out of the gay marriage business, nor am I optimistic that the Supreme Court would find it sufficiently clear as to discourage clever maneuvers to undermine it. Moreover, with the Hatch amendment out there as a false compromise, citizens and legislators who are on the fence will have less incentive to really consider the issue and discover why the FMA as proposed is so necessary.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 8, 2004 8:04 PM
Marriage & Family