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"How to lose the Culture Wars" (The Economist) [View All]

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Catchawave Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-04-06 08:58 AM
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"How to lose the Culture Wars" (The Economist)
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There is no sure way to win the marriage wars. But there is one sure way to lose them: ignore the fact that most people are ambivalent about gay rights, and come across as ideological bully-boys. This is exactly what the right of the Republican Party is doing at the moment. Mr Frist et al are not only trying to amend a document that most Americans believe should be amended only in the most dire circumstances; they are trying to inject the federal government into an issue that has traditionally been decided by state governments.
The strategy of using federal courts is a disaster in the makinga guarantee that America will be divided over gay marriage just as deeply as it is over abortion. Some gay activists argue that the best way to get around this problem is to focus on state courts, introducing gay marriage in liberal states like Massachusetts and avoiding conservative ones. But an even better way is to focus on legislatures. The best model for gay-rights activists should be California, where both houses approved a gay-rights bill without pressure from the courts, rather than Massachusetts, where marriage rights were conjured up by a handful of judges. Activists may complain that the legislative road is strewn with landmines: Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the California law. But surely these mines are less lethal than those on the judicial road, as supporters of abortion rights have discovered. Activists may also complain that majorities of people are against marriage rights. But opinion is moving in their direction: the proportion of people who support gay marriage has risen by 12 points to 39% since 1996, according to Gallup.

A country as big and diverse as the United States is wise to leave as many intimate moral questions as possible, from the regulation of marijuana to the regulation of marriage, to the states and to their legislatures. Relying on judges rather than democratic debate risks creating a permanent culture war. The good news for America is that it has the constitutional machinery to keep the marriage wars under controland enough people on both sides who realise that the best way to lose the argument is to overplay their hands. The FMA will certainly not get the two-thirds majority in the Senate that it needs to have a chance of passing.

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