Putting rights to a vote

Re “Marriage fight to be costly,” June 29

The article presents the traditional “both sides” of the issue.

However, regardless of how anyone feels about same-sex marriage, there are questions more critical to all of our rights that seem to be largely ignored amid all the controversy.

For example, are we really mature enough as voters to distinguish between something that truly harms society and something we merely dislike? Do we really want our civil rights to be subject to a popular vote? Is that what “will of the people” should mean in a democracy?


Susan J. Woolam


Re “Can California’s same-sex marriages be saved?” Opinion, June 30

Kenji Yoshino fails to cite a crucial court case. In 1964, Californians voted to repeal the Rumford Fair Housing Act (which passed in 1963). But the California Supreme Court ruled in Reitman vs. Mulkey (1966) that once rights were conferred, to take them away was a form of impermissible discrimination, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in 1967.


If voters in November 2008 try to repeal the state Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, that same court has a ready precedent to quash the current initiative.

Michael Haas

Los Angeles

Yoshino correctly observes that, should the anti-gay marriage amendment pass in November, such marriages performed before the election may cease to be recognized.


Still, Yoshino possibly overstates the case for his scenario. Constitutionally-based support for the right of gays and lesbians to wed stems not only from principles of equality but from the very fundamental nature of the right to marry that has long been recognized in U.S. jurisprudence.

Although the prospect of passing this amendment is troubling to many Californians, undoing the relationships already enjoying state sanction would significantly undermine due process, protected against state denial in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

If principles of due process of law would not allow the state to annul marriages performed under the “old rules,” -- when, for example, a ban on marriages between cousins is adopted, or when the age of consent to marry is raised -- why would the same principles not apply to legally performed marriages between same-sex couples?

Gayle Binion


Professor of

Political Science

UC Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara