If Referendums Aren't the "Avenue to Equality" -- Why File Them? Why Poll?


William Yeomans, who served as Sen. Kennedy's chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has a rambling op-ed in Politico this morning entitled "Referendums Are Not the Avenue to Equality" where he tries to go after Gov. Christie for proposing to allow the people of New Jersey to decide the marriage debate.

Yeomans' argument can all be boiled down to one of his lines: "Subjecting the civil rights of a minority to a referendum in which the majority rules has never been a reliable solution."

The rest of his argument attempts to align Gov. Christie (unfairly) with those who opposed racial equality and desegregation for African Americans in the past -- a line of argument that gay marriage activists continue to put at the tip of their rhetorical battering ram against the commonsense definition of marriage.

But as our President Brian Brown reminded Evan Wolfson this week, the question of marriage boils down to precisely this: "Is there a civil right to redefining marriage?" I don't think so. Yeomans evidently does.

Two more obvious rebuttals to Yeomans' argument: if it is unfair to subject the "rights" of a minority to a referendum, why have gay marriage activists in Maine done precisely this? Demanding that the people of Maine vote on marriage again, having already rejected same-sex marriage a mere two years ago? Will Yeomans compare gay marriage activists in Maine to those who supported the continuation of Jim Crow? I doubt it.

Second point: if subjecting the "rights" of a minority to a free and fair vote of the people is always wrong, why do gay marriage activists continually cite polls claiming that a majority of people in a given state support redefining marriage? All of Yeomans historical examples claim that if the civil rights of African Americans were to be voted on for much of our history, they would lose at the ballot box. But gay marriage proponents want us to believe that a majority of people, say, in New Jersey, support their agenda. And these same activists won't allow the only "poll" our democracy proscribes -- the people voting -- to be registered. So why cite polls? It's like claiming there is no need to vote on a President every four years if Gallup says a majority of Americans support the incumbent the day before the election.

In the end, no amount of false historical comparisons that Yeomans strings together can overcome the obvious self-contradictions in his argument.