After a vehement floor debate in which legislators quoted the Pledge of Allegiance and accused each other of abusing moral principles, the state Assembly passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which recasts the definition of marriage as between “two persons,” not between a man and a woman. The state Senate passed the bill last week.
Without reference to my own views on the issue, this passage of a law allowing same sex marriage is a political mess. It would, in the normal course of things, be a thing to be celebrated that a legislature had made a decision instead of a court. And it might even be worth considering Edmund Burke’s statement that “your representative owes you, not his industry only, but judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion,” if it were merely a situation where some majority of Californians were opposing the measure in polls. But instead Californians actually decided the matter 5 short years ago at the polls and that is an entirely different matter.
I would not go so far as to say that a decision made by referendum or initiative should never be revisited, but for the elected representatives to cast aside a decision of the people so brazenly is a betrayal of the principles of government of, by and for the people. If they felt the issue needed to be revisited, given the fact that the law was passed directly by the people and such a short time ago, an appropriate approach would have been to place it again before the people and then use their bully pulpits to persuade the voters. If I were a California Assemblyman, I might be worried about the third part of the Populist prescription for direct democracy – recall.