Thoughts on Prop 8

Despite my ambivalence on the outcome of Prop 8 in California, I am pleased at the means by which that outcome was determined. I truly believe issues such as gay marriage should be determined not by the courts but through the democratic process, whether that be by ballot initiative or legislative action.

I am ambivalent about the outcome because I haven’t fully reconciled the tension between liberty and virtue (order) that this issue aggravates. Anyone who knows anything about conservatism knows that the tension between liberty and virtue is the animating intellectual argument within the conservative movement. One that proves that there is no settled conservative “dogma.”

I tend to fall on the side that says committed homosexual couples deserve the same legal rights as married heterosexuals—visitation, medical decisions, property rights etc… Brian, Greg and I discussed this question over at The Conservative Refuge earlier this year.

However, my conservative temperament leads me to be skeptical of changing an institution that has shown throughout human history to be a fundamental building block of civilized society. I admit that I don’t think that gay marriage will doom the republic, but I will concede that I may very well be mistaken.

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A conundrum to be sure, one in which I suspect a few conservatives and some moderate liberals find themselves. This is why I think Jim Manzi’s call for subsidiarity or using federalism to allow states or even local jurisdictions decide the issue for themselves. Manzi also deftly notes that with different locales deciding for themselves we will have our own test laboratory to view how gay marriage will affect society. Massachusetts can be the test subject while say South Carolina is the control subject.

With proponents of gay marriage now purveying their own bigotry—see this disgusting anti-Prop 8 ad slandering Mormons—Manzi offers a smart political admonition to conservatives as to why subsidiarity is the best option:

Only about 30 percent of Americans support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Why don’t we try letting people live how they want to live, and let others try to impose uniform national rules on a heterogeneous population of 300 million people?

Imposing rules on how people should live there lives is, and has historically been, a progressive project. And, after all, aren’t conservatives supposed to be getting back to first principles? On this issue I can’t think of a better way for conservatives to move forward.

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