On Nov. 4, 2008, the people of California, Florida and Arizona joined the ranks of the nearly 40 of the United States that have outlawed same-sex marriage either by amending their respective state constitutions or by passing appropriate legislation.
The three states mentioned above amended their state constitutions by the following margins: California (52%), Arizona (56%) and Florida (62%).
The results in California are causing the most controversy. Why? First, because same-sex marriages were already being performed in that state since June because the California Supreme Court refused to delay their ruling until the people could vote in November. Second, California is a much more liberal state culturally than either Arizona or Florida.
Now we are witnessing the spectacle of same-sex marriage advocates going before the California Supreme Court in attempts to convince them to overturn the people’s choice to amend their state’s constitution. The legal theory in America and in the states that make up our Union has been that the ultimate authority in the law is the constitution, not the judges’ interpretation of that constitution. When the people disagree with judges’ interpretation of the constitution, both our Federal Constitution and the various state constitutions furnish the people with a way to give the judges further instruction on how they would be governed–the amendment process.
A majority of Californians have exercised that right and have amended their constitution to define marriage with great specificity and precision as being only between a man and a woman–no same-sex marriage and no polygamy. If the California Supreme Court were to now attempt to nullify what the people have chosen to do through an expression of their sovereign will, they will have attempted to usurp the sovereignty of government “of the people, by the people and for the people” and to replace it with government “of the judges, by the judges and for the judges.”
I would urge the members of the California Supreme Court to read the text of the Declaration of Independence with great care, specifically these words: “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” (emphasis added).
If the California Supreme Court does not acknowledge its obligation to submit its collective judgment to a constitutional amendment passed by the people, then the democratic freedom reserved to the sovereignty of the people will have perished in California.
Social conservatives and defenders of traditional marriage won tremendous strategic victories in ballot initiatives on Nov. 4. First and foremost, the defenders of traditional marriage overturned the California Supreme Court’s legalization last June of same-sex marriage.
Despite being outspent nearly 2 to1 and having to overcome California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s arbitrary decision to rewrite the original ballot language of Proposition 8 in a way calculated to present it in the most negative light possible, the proponents of traditional marriage won by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.
Given the demographics of California, traditional marriage advocates would be justified in concluding that if they can prevail in California, they can prevail anywhere in the United States when the issue is put directly to the people to decide.
Traditional marriage also won an impressive victory in Florida. That state’s traditional marriage advocates had a particularly difficult barrier to overcome–a state requirement that any constitutional amendment garner a minimum of 60 percent of the vote. In fact, the opponents of same-sex marriage exceeded that legal hurdle by gaining a 62 percent to 38 percent victory in spite of being outspent 3 to 1 by their opponents.
In Arizona, the only state that has ever voted down a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman (in a very close vote in 2006), traditional marriage advocates returned this election cycle with an amendment which contained much clearer language. The result–the passage of a state constitutional amendment by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin, which not only defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman, but also prohibits Arizona from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Why did the defense of traditional marriage win such strong victories in states as diverse as California and Florida? One reason is that turnout increased substantially among the African-American population as they came out to vote for Barack Obama. In California, 70 percent of African-Americans voted for Proposition 8 (outlawing same-sex marriage) and 71 percent of black voters supported traditional marriage in Florida.
Ironically, the Obama-inspired surge of black voters helped pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in two states carried by Sen. Obama–California and Florida.
All Americans should take great pride and satisfaction in the election of an African-American as president of the United States. Given our nation’s tragic racial history, it says something noble and fine about America that Barack Obama, both a product of a biracial marriage and the son of a Kenyan father, could be elected to the highest political office in the land. I do not believe that there is another country on the face of the planet where such a thing could happen.
Every one of us should pause to give thanks that we have the privilege and great good fortune to call ourselves Americans and that we get to live out our lives in this great “opportunity democracy” where we truly do believe that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The great American story has been our struggle to extend the promises of our founding documents (Declaration of Independence) to an ever greater circle of our society.
Whether someone voted for President-elect Obama or not, we can all agree that with his election, our nation has taken a giant step forward in delivering on the promise of a nation “with liberty and justice for all.”
God bless America!