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July 29, 2003

Backlash on Gay Rights Decision

My position against liberal judicial activism on the Court, including opposing last month's sodomy decision, dismays some progressives who think we should grab any win we can get.

But while I don't take any poll by itself too seriously, this USA TODAY poll showing backlash against gay rights is about what I expected:

Americans have become significantly less accepting of homosexuality since a Supreme Court decision that was hailed as clearing the way for new gay civil rights, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll has found. After several years of growing tolerance, the survey shows a return to a level of more traditional attitudes last seen in the mid-1990s.

Asked whether same-sex relations between consenting adults should be legal, 48% said yes; 46% said no. Before this month, support hadn't been that low since 1996.

In early May, support for legal relations reached a high of 60%-35%.

Here is the bad irony of the Supreme Court decision-- gay rights was winning on multiple issues with the broad support of the public in democratic forums. And that kind of win is the most dependable since it doesn't leave rights hostage to one or two judges dying and being replaced by neanderthals.

The Lawrence gay rights decision was bad for gay rights. It delivered little of substance on its own, given the general lack of enforcement of such sodomy laws, but is undermining public support for gay rights on more important, immediate issues that could be won politically.

Just a few other posts I did on this topic with fuller explanation:
Why Judicial Review is Bad
Consistency on Gay Rights
Sam H Response on Gay Rights

BTW there was a great pro-gay rights decision by the Second Circuit (New York Metro Appeals Court) late last week, but it was great because it was an act of judicial restraint upholding pro-gay rights legislation passed in Connecticut. The law there bans groups who discriminate against gays from having access to the state employees charitable giving program-- which means the Boy Scouts and other discriminatory groups don't qualify.

People may remember that a few years ago in the Dale decision, the Supreme Court struck down a New Jersey law that would have made the scouts anti-gay hiring policies illegal-- an act of conservative judicial activism that probably had far wider effects than the Texas decision would ever have. So the question in the wake of Dale was whether such discriminating groups could force governments to keep subsidizing them financially on constitutional grounds.

And the Second Circuit said no. So hurray for judicial restraint!

Posted by Nathan at July 29, 2003 06:46 AM