Hey kids, here's a fun fact. People actually vote for shit other than the president sometimes. On the rarest of occasions, it's something useful, like a dog-catcher. Most of the time, it's worthless crap like Representatives or anything involving a state congress. Mayors don't do shit unless a building falls down or levees break. Sometimes it'll be middle-of-the-road and you get to vote for a Senator, mostly useless, but in a pinch, you still want the dogcatcher. (Short aside to Obama: I won't be voting for you this year, because I live in Illinois and it'll just be drowned in a sea of blue, but I justify this by reminding you that I put you in congress four years ago. No need to thank me.) There really is only one reason to pay attention to the "other shit" during election season, and that reason is the referendum.
Perhaps you've never heard of the referendum. To be honest, I became aware of its existence at the age of 17, a time when I was already taught the minimum age for holding a national public office, how long their term is, campaign finance rules, half of the constitutional amendments and bunch of other junk that I forgot five minutes after the test. The concept of a referendum was unheard of to me. (Maybe it still is to you, friendly reader. A referendum is basically a citizen's chance to act like a congressperson for a day, voting directly on a bill in a "yea/nay" fashion.)
Now, in Callyfornea, there's a referendum of particular interest about to be voted on. The name is "Proposition 8" (referendums have boring names). It's particularly interesting because it repeals the right of gay couples to be married, which, hopefully you know, has been legal in California for about 5 months now. It's like the right to gay marriage was burning a hole in their pocket or something.
A bit of history of the right in question. Que Schoolhouse Rock music please. Gay marriage was banned a while back in another referendum called Proposition 22. The right to gay marriage started out in the state congress and a bicameral passage a few years ago (I am, by the way, not referencing the research I've done about this because I'm lazy, as always. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on anything.) After it got passed, it was vetoed by a Mister Governator. Twice. In May, however, the state Supreme Court of California declared that Proposition 22 was unconstitutional, because it violated that obligatory clause in every state constitution about equal rights for everyone. Go obligatory clause!
And I suppose you can see where this is going, a brand new referendum is going out now, Prop 8, that intends to overturn the overturning of Proposition 22. Got that? It makes dudes marrying dudes illegal again.
There is no doubt in my mind that making gay marriage legal is the best thing we can do as a country. And I did choose the word "best" arbitrarily, either. I get the feeling that twenty, thirty, fifty years in the future, we're going to be really embarrassed at the way we denied homosexuals the right to marry for so long and so ardently. Kinda like how the years that we desegregated schools and gave women the right to vote and abolished slavery aren't as far away from 2008 as we think they should be.
Regardless, that's not the issue at hand. The question that plagues me is what was the most just way of going about this gay marriage thing. By my count, there are four methods of legislation that went into this: the referendums, the congressional bill, the vetoing by the Governor, and the Supreme Court ruling.
Really though, choosing the most democratic method is easy enough; it's the referendums. Dare I say that voting on a referendum is more democratic than voting for president.
But here's the thing though, it was a referendum that institutionalized this atrocious discrimination in the first place. And, the way things are looking now, it is another referendum that will continue it.
When the Governator vetoed the bill passed by the Calif. state congress, he stated something along the lines that the government should not make a ruling on this, and then mumbled something about the constitution in his wacky accent. In case you haven't heard, any political figure on the national level has played this routine innumerable times. They all say that it's not a decision for the national government to make, and it should be left to the states. When left to the states, they say that it's not for the states to decide, but should be left up to...what? I have no idea.
Can we promptly dispell with the theory that legalizing gay marriage is somehow impeded on the rights of the church. Allowing something and mandating it are too completely different things. Churches have refused marriages before on grounds not based on homosexuality, and nobody cried discrimination there. If churches still wish to only perform man-woman marriages, that's their business and their embarrassment. Besides, there is always somebody around who will perform a marriage. It sure as hell doesn't have to be a church.
And, while I'm ranting, don't let any conservative tell you this gay marriage fiasco is somehow the fault of "a handful of activist judges" (I'm looking at you Limbaugh. Yes, you.) The citizens of Calif. elected their representatives and senators to do their job and they did. It was one man who vetoed that voice.
The question then becomes, did the state Supreme Court do the right thing? Let's assume for the sake of argument that Proposition 22 was 100% wrong, and overturning it was 100% good. Has the Supreme Court done the right thing by overturning a referendum, the direct voice of the people for the sake of good? If something is performed in the most democratic way possible, does that make it exempt from any other kind of legislation?
I don't suppose I have an answer to that question. I can actually make a good argument for both. And after dedicated only 15 minutes of thought to the subject, it's easy to see that there will never actually be a good answer for this. Somebody will always get screwed.
There is a good thing though: I, or anybody else, won't have to make the decision of whether the actions of the Calif. state Supreme Court were just or not. The Proposition 8 vote takes place in November and luckily (against the odds) the people of California will do the right thing. And, if we're really lucky, luckier than we ever though we could, we'll never have to deal with this question ever again. This is another reason why it's important to have a well-informed and conscious citizenry.
(Google's thoughts on the matter)