So Virginia’s new attorney general, Mark Herring, has announced he will not defend his state’s ban on gay marriage. He has made a personal journey and concluded that doing so would be inconsistent with constitutional guarantees and common decency. He cited Loving v Virginia as precedent, saying basically that the Supreme Court did not declare that blacks and whites had the freedom to marry, but that people do. As far as Mr. Herring is concerned, gays are people. First.
Good for him. I suspect this is an issue that has arrived. More and more states are reviewing the legality of such bans and finding that, ethically and morally, they do not stand up, personal prejudice notwithstanding. You have to designate certain folks as Not People for the purposes of maintaining such restraints and the problem with that—philosophy 101—is the lack of any kind of nonsubjective criteria. In other words, just ’cause you don’t like somethin’ don’t mean you get to outlaw it.
You would think this would just be common sense, not controversial, but the problem for some folks is that they can’t separate personal reaction from public policy. They look at something that bothers them and never once question the fact that maybe the problem is theirs, not the thing they find objectionable. It seems silly to have to point this out to supposedly grown people, but if I’ve come to any realization about so-called Adulthood it’s that it also has no basis in objective reality. Many adults are just kids with a little power and “rights.” Somewhere along the way, maturity eluded them. They insist publicly that “those people” should take responsibility for their own lives (over whatever issue happens to be at hand) and then impose laws, if they can, to make it harder if not impossible for such an outcome. What they really mean is that “those people” should conform to expectations—their expectations—and change to suit common sensibilities.
Which clearly, in this case, are not so common anymore. I think it’s fair to say that public opinion has turned and those who are still acting under the assumption that the majority of their fellow citizens agree with them that homosexuality is a “sin” and gay marriage will damage the country are increasingly in the minority. As their numbers shrink, though, they get louder. Judging by the decibel level one might think they still represent the majority.
It fascinates me, though, how certain folks insist on freedom to live as they choose and then try to deny others the same right, as if freedom is a small pie that has to be sliced carefully. Give too much to one, it leaves less for others. This has always been a common belief, evidently, judging by the way people act and talk, and has always been a lie. But then, they aren’t insisting on freedom—not really. They’re insisting on preferred form. (It has always puzzled me how someone in, say, a small country far away can look the camera in the eye and declare that he is fighting for freedom and then turn around and deny freedom to half the population of his country—women. Clearly this is not freedom being defended but a presumed right to observe lifestyle choices which include oppression. Freedom is a much misused term.) Such folks, when pressed, will deny reality like a mental contortionist in order to have their way.
Well, good for Mr. Herring, and good luck. Virginia is the seat of paradox, the home of Jefferson and Madison and yet at one time the state with the largest number of slaves. Few places represent such extremes so vividly, between ideals and practice. It’s nice to see a move toward bringing the two closer in line.