My local newspaper, the News & Observer of Raleigh, today proffered another story on the upcoming marriage-amendment referendum in North Carolina. This piece was penned in the context of pending pro same-sex marriage legislation in Maryland and Washington State. The underlying theme is that North Carolina is bucking a national trend in putting a traditional marriage amendment on the ballot in May.
A key point that wasn't emphasized in the N&O story, however, is the method by which same-sex marriage is meeting success in these states. Currently, six states (plus the District of Columbia) issue marriage licenses for homosexual couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. Massachusetts, Iowa, and Connecticut do so through judicial ruling; neither lawmakers through legislation or the people through referenda have had a direct say.
New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont have OK'ed same-sex marriage through legislation. In two cases, the final vote was narrow — New Hampshire, 198-176 in the House, 14-10 in the Senate; New York, 80-63 in the lower house, 33-29 in the Senate. In Vermont, the winning margin was more significant: 100-49 in the House and 23-5 in the Senate.
In contrast, traditional marriage amendments have passed by popular vote in nearly two-thirds of the 50 states. The largest margin of victory was Mississippi (86 percent). California and South Dakota had the narrowest winning margins at 52 percent each. The average victory percentage is in the mid-60s.
Supporters of same-sex marriage argue that the national tide is swiftly turning on the issue. Recent polling indicates that they are correct. But in fairness, it's important to point out that traditional marriage has been tested in 31 states through a popular vote and stood up every time. In contrast, an initiative to legalize same-sex marriage hasn't once appeared on a statewide ballot. The only successes have come through judicial intervention or direct legislation.
The N&O — and left-of-center journalism in general — would have framed the story much differently if the situation were reversed: 31 states had legalized same-sex marriage through popular vote, and only six had banned same-sex marriage through judicial or legislative action. In that case, the N&O would have called it a few states squawking against the overwhelming will of the people. But because the scenario is the other way around, it's a national tide.
Regardless of what one believes about the morality or immorality of same-sex marriage (or government's role in marriage to begin with), freedom lovers can agree that it's far better for these issues to be hashed out through a direct vote of the people or direct act of the legislature. That lends credence to the argument made by same-sex marriage foes in North Carolina who say it's far better for voters to decide the issue — either pro or con — than for a judge or panel of judges to do so.
As to the argument frequently invoked by same-sex marriage supporters — that a majority shouldn't vote on the rights of a minority — I point to the unborn child. What right is more fundamental than a right to life? Yet for 40 years, liberals have doggedly defended the notion that a woman's right to her own body supersedes the unborn child's right to life. There is no better example of a majority squashing the rights of a silent — and helpless — minority.
Update: Ding me for not doing enough Google research before posting this. It turns out that Washington State legalized same-sex marriage in mid-February after Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill into law. So that makes seven states that have legalized same-sex nuptials.