Vermont, D.C. Gay Marriage Decisions Give Conservatives Reason for Hope, Fear

Conservatives have reasons to be pleased and fearful regarding Vermont and the D.C. Council


By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Vermont and the District of Columbia made significant moves regarding gay marriage yesterday, ones that open new fronts in the ongoing culture skirmishes on the issue. And the two fronts give social conservatives something to fear and something to relish.

First the fear. Vermont's surprising move to approve gay marriage was not the work of unelected judges or judicial activism. It was elected representatives at work, presumably doing the will of the people. This is a new development in the gay marriage struggle and takes a rhetorical weapon out of the social conservative arsenal.

As Newt Gingrich observed (h/t to GOP12):

"The people of Vermont have every right to elect the legislators they want and if they disagree with this decision they have every right to replace them and so it is the people's branch overriding the governor, who's elected, and it's not an isolated imposition by the elite."

He added: "Even for people who don't agree with the outcome, it's a much better process."

Newt's right-it is a better process, though I have no problem using the courts to correct injustice if our elected representatives are unwilling to do so. Hot Air's Allahpundit is simply befuddled recounting the decision (h/t Ben Smith):

Normally this is where I'd gauge whether a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision is feasible or not, but since Vermont's gone off-script I'm without an angle here.

Allahpundit has thrown the question to readers, running a poll of whether they approve, disapprove but accept it (Vermont can do what it wants), or think it signals a need for a federal anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution. As of this writing, those approving have a clear plurality (47 percent of 2,260 votes cast) in this very unscientific poll, with disapproving acceptance following with 30 percent and the constitutional amenders (constitutional dead-enders?) only pulling 20 percent. ( TNR's Chris Orr may have put his finger on the scale in this—again—unscientific poll.)

Of course, as I suggested last week, the gay marriage wars will have big political implications. Mike Huckabee especially is working to capitalize on it, regardless of whether it was a legislature or courts. An activist group called the National Organization for Marriage is plunking down $1.5 million to run ads opposing gay marriage in other states currently considering similar measures.

And the D.C. City Council might have given the social conservatives the kind of opening that they will relish when it voted unanimously Tuesday to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Soon the council is going to consider a full-fledged gay marriage bill.

Why should conservatives be excited? Because everything the D.C. Council does is subject to review by Congress, meaning that whatever legislation it does pass regarding gay marriage gives the social conservative forces on the Hill an excuse to make same-sex marriage a federal issue. Granted Congress would likely only consider something pertaining to D.C., but it would force members back onto the record on the issue—giving conservatives something brandish.

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