Saturday, February 21, 2004

Crotch Inspection

I agree with Matt that mandatory pelvic exams for the purposes of sex determination would make for a wonderful judicial order in San Francisco.

As for Josh Marshall's comments on the whole thing - I just don't think they really add anything of substance to the debate. For better or for worse, the Mass. Supreme Court has to a great degree taken the Civil Union Issue Dodge off the table. More generally, it's just time for Democrats to stop being on the defensive on culture war issues. They're on what conventional wisdom and our news media like to pretend is the losing side of these wars no matter what they do. We're the party of homosexuality, abortion, pre-marital sex, adultery, and divorce, and that's going to be true no matter how many anti-equal rights positions we take or how many Republicans get caught with their genitals being where they aren't supposed to be. And, frankly, no matter what people think of most of those things in the abstract, I don't think people want to criminalize adultery. Lots of people have pre-marital sex. Few really want to get rid of no-fault divorce laws. So, despite all the pretending that we're a conservative country on social issues, once you strip away the preachy BS it's basically a bunch of crap. It's been a long time since there's been much public shaming of adulterers or social ostracism of divorcees, outside tight-knit communities of church-goers.

It's much easier to take a strong, simple, if partially unpopular decision than a complicated, nuanced, and muddled position. Is John Kerry supporting "civil unions" but not "equal marriage rights" really going to win him any votes? Is he going to be able to sweep the issue under the rug by having to clarify, regularly, precisely which wording of which constitutional amendment in which state he would support or be against? Is he going to be able to explain with any clarity just what the hell the difference between "marriage" and "civil union" is, other than, you know, one is called "marriage" and one is called "civil union?" And, at the end of the day, does it make a damn bit of difference what it's called? If so, why?

At some point these issues require some courageous moral leadership. These issues are moving much faster than the national politicians, and they've lost control of them. I don't for a second believe that "gay marriage" is particularly popular nationally, but nor do I believe that most people give a damn either. The people who really care aren't going to vote for Democrats anyway. If by some bizarre miracle the US Supreme Court issued a ruling tomorrow mandating states provide for equal marriage rites, there'd be about a week of controversy and then most people would realize it didn't affect them one little bit and they'd move on to other things.

Lyndon Johnson didn't create the Civil Rights movement, and I'm not sure he cared much for it, but at some point he managed to push through legislation which was almost unimaginably far-reaching. He saw where things were headed, and saw what needed to be done and he did it.