The impact of Friday’s unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to allow gays and lesbians to marry is impossible to understate. It’s a direct blow to the anti-gay lobby, a rebuke of social conservatism and a game-changing alteration of not only the physical map of gay rights, but America’s own psychic perception of where it stands on gay marriage. The religious right knows it, too. Our favorite knee-jerk conservative, Rod Dreher, writes that while having lunch with a lawyer friend of his, the “lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race,” then “it will be very hard to be a public Christian.” Dreher added that “to do so would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views.”
Rod Dreher is basically an idiot. The strongest argument he can muster against giving gays and lesbians equal rights is that it will make it harder for bigots to act like racists. Dreher and his ilk are everywhere, whether they’re out marching with Fred Phelps or listening to Mike Huckabee equate gay relationships with bestiality.
Most of the time we make rational arguments to counter the intolerant opinions of these people, but the reality is, these people are uneducated morons.
This is why the Iowa decision is such a thing of beauty. The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court were not content to find some legal process issue to grant gay marriage– they addressed the moron’s arguments head on and debunked them thoroughly. “Gay marriage is dangerous to children?” Nope. “Gay marriage infringes on straight marriage?” Um, no. “Tradition trumps equality?” Buzz off.
Of course, the morons counter that the Supreme Court has invalidated the will of the people, that they are “activists” who are shoving gay marriage down the throats of people who are unwilling to tolerate the idea– and for those who aren’t ready for the idea of two men or two women making a public lifelong commitment to each other, they’re absolutely right; that’s precisely what the court did.
Even more so than the fact that the decision allows gay marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision is a vindication of our idiot-proof democracy.
“Idiot-proof” sounds like a glib term, but that’s precisely what the Founders were intending when they crafted the Constitution. It’s easy to forget in an age where the opinion of the common man, be it a plumber from Ohio or the tween dialing 500 times for their favorite American Idol, is held as a sacrosanct virtue, but our government is structured in a way that takes a very dim view of the average American. There’s good reason for this; most of of us are totally unqualified to make decisions for each other.
Put it this way, if I could rule the country, we would be spending vast amounts of money on high-speed rail projects, the death-penalty would be abolished and you would fall asleep each night with a speaker under your pillow playing recordings of Neil Patrick Harris reading the latest posts on Queerty. This would be a rocking world for me, but probably not for most Americans.
Instead, we rely on others to make the big decisions for us– and we leave the biggest decisions to the judiciary branch. It’s been in vogue the last 40 years to disparage the influence of judges. Legislators tried to hem in judges with mandatory sentencing laws and in the court of public opinion, there’s nothing worse than an ‘activist judge’. It wasn’t always this way and in recent years the courts have pushed back against Bush-era rulings aimed to strip the judiciary of its power.
The Iowa ruling isn’t only a rebuke of social conservatism, but also a reaffirmation of the court’s ability to weigh in on big issues, to take in the 10,000 foot view and to shape policy. It’s a system of checks and balances for a reason, after all. Judges are not perfect and are prone to making bone-headed decisions as the rest of us, but we hire them (indirectly through legislators) to weigh in on issues of life or death, freedom and equality, fairness and access. When it comes to issues of social justice, executives and legislators historically have shown little backbone– they have constituents after all, but the courts have come through time and again.
That’s the beauty of our idiot-proof democracy and when it is thrown out of balance, the entire nation suffers. There’s a chorus of folks calling for our nation’s judges to but out of the country’s business. It’s time for those who care about the rights of minorities– be they gays and lesbians or homeowners buying unscrupulous insurance policies — to stand up for the courts.