March 2, 2011

"Democracy" Is Whatever Gets the Special Interest Its Way

Justin Katz

One can only be grateful for the first word in Stephen Fortunato Jr.'s title of "retired Rhode Island Superior Court judge," given his recent equation of voters in voting booths to clansmen in sheets and, implicitly, voting to lynching. (It would seem that fears of a judicial oligarchy are hardly misplaced when the institution is or has been in the hands of such men.)

Even before the jurist slams down his over-sized gavel on the heads of the population whom he was once presumed to serve, though, Fortunato's reasoning is deeply flawed:

NOM's push to put the question of the gay unions on a ballot is a ploy to subvert the orderly workings of our democratic processes. Representatives are sent to the State House to exercise their good judgment after they have heard testimony and been lobbied by all sides. In a case such as gay marriage, testimony will be presented by advocates on both sides, including religious leaders, psychologists, constitutional scholars and statisticians, not to mention a few buffoons. These hearings and debates will be reported in the media, dissected and criticized. The legislators will vote on the issue and then face praise, rejection or indifference from their constituencies.

The anonymity of the ballot box on issues of fundamental rights permits no such discussion, and NOM has capitalized on this in the 30 states, including in supposedly tolerant California, where it has defeated gay-marriage referenda. The outcome has usually been different when the matter has been argued in open and transparent legislatures and courts.

The issue is not that arguments won't be aired in both cases. The distinction is that legislators draw all of the interest in the issue toward a limited number of politicians who will sit through some perfunctory hearings. In the case of a referendum, interested parties will make their arguments as broadly as possible — op-ed pages, television advertisements, and so on.

It's also interesting that Fortunato slips into passive voice when he writes that "representatives are sent to the State House." By whom? Well, presumably by the same voters whom he doesn't trust to vote on same-sex marriage. Of course, when electing a politician, the issue is never as clear as voting according to one's own opinion; not only are politicians able to triangulate across multiple issues, but there's a reason for cliches about dishonesty.

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What an imbecile! And this guy was actually a judge???
If that isn't evidence enough that those "Representatives sent to the State House to exercise their good judgment" actually DO NOT exercise good judgment and, in fact, have no clue what they are doing.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at March 2, 2011 12:55 PM

Justin --

Judge Fortunato served on the Superior Court, not (thanks be to God!) the Supreme Court.

Posted by: brassband at March 2, 2011 1:20 PM

Perhaps he is afraid to admit that the representatives are sent, not by the voters, but by the special interests.

I think that a large reason for the high level of apathy and low voter turnout in Rhode Island is that people feel helpless against the financial power of special interests and the venal corruption of so many of those who have run for office in this state's colorful history.

Posted by: BobN at March 2, 2011 1:34 PM

Just to clarify, same sex couples who want the same marriage rights as straight couples are "special interests?" So what would you call the political interests of Catholics?

I'm not really clear what your objection is here. You seem to be arguing that the rights of minorities in this country should be decided by direct popular vote, quite a dangerous proposition as any student of history knows.

Posted by: Russ at March 2, 2011 1:48 PM

Civil unions from government.
Marriages from religious institutions.

Everyone's happy.

Posted by: Dan at March 2, 2011 1:55 PM

What a crazy notion to redefine the word "marriage" out of political correctness! In this country marriage as a legal concept has always meant a civil contract.

In the eye of the common law, marriage appears in no other light than that of a civil contract: and to this contract the agreement of the parties, the essence of every rational contract, is indispensably required… It will be proper, in the next place, to consider the consequences of marriage.

The most important consequence of marriage is, that the husband and the wife become, in law, only one person: the legal existence of the wife is consolidated into that of the husband. Upon this principle of union, almost all the other legal consequences of marriage depend.
-- James Wilson, 1792

Posted by: Russ at March 2, 2011 3:39 PM

My sister had me laughing the other day. She said that if they have civil unions, she will get divorced and then get a civil union. I think she will do this just to piss off her father in law. Her father in law is the guy who is always in front of planned parenthood with the cross, so catholic he won't come to family parties if they are held in a place like the Knights of Columbus because he thinks the members there are not Catholic enough. He is a fun guy to be around, a man who became catholic in his twenties. Those converts are usually the most ardent supporters of the church for some reason.
A think that if they want to put marriage on the ballot, they should put all marriage on the ballot. Lets see if any marriage survives, that would be fun!

Posted by: Swazool at March 2, 2011 3:46 PM

Fiscal Note.
Fiscal Note.
Fiscal Note.

Before the vote, let's find out how many hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost us to add perverted sex partners as recipients of survivorship pensions, health care, insurance, care

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 2, 2011 6:56 PM

"No referendum on issue of basic rights"

The title says it all, a big, thank you to Judge Stephen Fortunato

Sammy in Sunny Arizona--82 degrees

Posted by: Sammy at March 2, 2011 6:58 PM

A New Orleans-based Conservative pastor, who spent most of his adult life preaching against the gay lifestyle, is facing an obscenity charge for pleasuring himself in a public park.
Conservative Pastor Grant Storms, 53, was arrested February 25, 2011 by a JPSO sheriff’s deputy in Lafrienere Park after a woman claimed to have seen Storms masturbating. Storms admits that he had his hands in his underwear, but he denies the charge.
“This was news to me when I was told that I had confessed to masturbating and exposing myself to children,” Storms said. “That is an absolute, blatant lie.”
However, Storms did confess to having recently become addicted to pornography and says he’s working through those issues.
“I deeply hurt my family, I let a lot of people down, and I just pray that they can find it within their heart to forgive me,” he said. “I'm sorry for what I did. I'm getting help. I've got pastors that I’ve asked to be involved in my life and to help me with this thing.”
Storms became known for protesting the Southern Decadence Festival, an annual gay celebration in the New Orleans area. He was accused of using hateful speech and on Tuesday, he apologized to those he hurt.
“I had been vicious at time in my condemnation of others and I apologize for that,” Storms said. “I could just ask that people find it in my heart to forgive me.”
A court date has not been set.

Posted by: Sammy at March 2, 2011 7:11 PM

Looks like march 10th "special interest" will get the vote.

Posted by: Swazool at March 2, 2011 9:02 PM

It's worth saying again: I'll support putting SSM on the ballot the same day tax cuts for the rich and a code of ethics for the General Assembly are put on the ballot.
I'n not holding my breath until then.

Posted by: bella at March 2, 2011 10:16 PM

Of course the organized gay lobby is a special interest, affiliated with the Democrat party, and a loud and wealthy one at that. Remember, the core group that created The Colorado Democracy Alliance, which became the blueprint for the Left's political organization and strategy nationwide since 2004, was a group of gay "marriage" activists.

In one-party corruptocracies like Rhode Island it is grossly wrong, in fact a perversion of the republican system, to delegate an issue of such fundamental importance to the politicians. The only fair way to deal with this issue is to let the people speak for themselves. My friend Judge Fortunato is wrong. The question must be put to a referendum.

Posted by: BobN at March 3, 2011 6:59 AM
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