It seems common among a certain class of people, specifically those involved in politics, to ask a question until they get the answer they require. For example, the British government is currently looking to move the country into monetary union with the EU. There is no doubt that, if the public says ‘no’, they will be back in a few years time (assuming it’s the same government) to ask again, and again, until they have the ‘yes’ they want, at which point the people will have spoken and the issue will be closed.
I was reminded of this because of the discussion of a constitutional amendment here in Minnesota (and a similar debate nationwide) to ban ‘gay marriage’. Lawmakers are looking to let the electorate vote on the following addition to the constitution:
“Only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota. Any other relationship shall not be recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent.”
In my less balanced moments I feel like there should be a clause in there along the lines of “…because we hate gays”, but we’ll let that go for now. My concern is that we’re being asked a loaded question. or more particularly, we’re being asked half a question. The actual vote will be “Do you want that text in the constitution, yes or no?” That just addresses the relatively narrow issue that the Christian right and others are raising. If the vote is yes, then we’ve made a decision (for good or bad). But if the vote is no, we haven’t made a decision, we’ve just deferred it. So the same vote can be tabled again, and the courts can start their judicial activism, and same-sex couples are still left in limbo.
What the vote should actually be, IF we really want to make a decision, is something like:
___ Marriage should be between one man and one woman (because we hate gays)
___ Marriage should not be defined by the constitution
___ Marriage should be between 2 people of any gender who can demonstrate a loving commitment to each other.
Notice that I’ve actually made the definition of marriage more strict than it currently is in that third option; I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to work out how to make that quantifiable, but at least you can’t say I’m anti-marriage.
Whichever option is chosen, the people can make a choice. There’s nothing to stop the legislature from raising the issue again as soon as they can of course, but that’s OK, this is a democracy and they are entitled to. But at least they’ll be doing so knowing that the majority chose a certain course last time.