Democracy is Dangerous [LINK]
I just got a similar letter published, so I don't expect this one to make it in. This concerns a Massachusetts initiative to get a ballot question in 2008 that, if passed, would establish a constitutional amendment banning any new gay marriages. For the question to appear on the ballot, it must gather support from at least 25 percent of one legislature, then again from the next sitting. The first one just adjourned without voting on either the gay marriage amendment or another one establishing health care rights, effectively shit-canning them. Governor Romney, who of course is seeking the presidency, is leading an effort to get the state Supreme Court to either force the legislature to vote on it, or to get it placed on the ballot regardless. This is the same Court, of course, that established gay marriage in the first place, and in response to which the amendment is posed. What an exciting state I live in!
While there may be good reasons to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, they are too often obscured by poor ones.
Kevin Anderton worries that a political campaign over a future ballot question will result in unseemly and perhaps dishonest political ads, much as we recently saw in the far less consequential battle over the sale of wine. While I don't doubt such an outcome, his argument would essentially prevent us from settling any contentious issue within the democratic arena, since it would likely attract misinformation and demagoguery. Similarly, to point out that "only a fraction of eligible voters turn out" for elections is to complain about democracy itself, not its application to the issue of gay marriage. If more people were to vote on the question, would that be better?
Mr. Anderton also expresses concern that "citizens aren't sworn to uphold the constitution, let alone understand it." Again, this is an argument against any popular effort to amend our constitution. For voters to be experts on the current state of the constitution is also irrelevant if the whole point of the amendment process is to alter it.
Anderton also asks rhetorically: "when was the last instance in which we broadened civil rights by a popular vote?" This is rather amusing considering that the other proposed amendment recently squelched by the legislature would recognize citizens' right to affordable health care.