Op-Ed: On Marriage Issue . . . Choose Democracy

Once upon a time, liberals – in common with most Americans – believed in the idea of democracy, self-determination, the consent of the governed. They understood that in a civil society, all that is guaranteed is the process – not the outcome – and that it took a measure of humility to make it work.

Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris)

We seem to be losing that in New Jersey. Last week, after Governor Chris Christie suggested placing same-sex marriage on the ballot for the people to decide, Democrat Senate President Steve Sweeney gruffly dismissed the Governor’s proposal. Out-of-hand, he simply ruled out voter participation, saying that it was up to the Legislature to decide.

In a way, the Senate President had also ruled out voter participation two months earlier – at last November’s election – when he and the other Democrats now spearheading same-sex marriage legislation – ran for re-election and neglected to inform the voters that this was going to be their “top priority” after the election. Running on a platform of jobs and the economy before the election, and then making a social issue your “top priority” after the election, is something like a bait and switch scam.

And I was disturbed by some of the Senate President’s comments about what he called “the religious community,” before and after last week’s hearing on same-sex marriage. It would be careless to forget that in other places – most recently Great Britain – the clash of values has produced laws with consequences that have inhibited religious people in matters ranging from adoption to religious practice and personal expression. He should be open to this and understand that, for some of our fellow citizens, this is a religious issue and their views should be listened to and respected the same as those for whom it is an issue of conscience, of politics, civil rights, or democracy.

At the hearing, Ronald Chen, the former Public Advocated appointed to that position by Governor Jon Corzine, took a shot at democracy. Chen tried to argue against the idea of a democratic vote by citing a 1915 referendum on women’s suffrage. The vote failed, ergo it is implied that democracy cannot be trusted to ensure the “right” outcome.

Well, let’s not forget that the affected group in question – women – couldn’t vote in that referendum, making its comparison with a ballot question on same-sex marriage useless.

Let’s remember too, that women ultimately got the vote through a Constitutional change – not a legislative action. As we all know, securing a right through constitutional change is a far more “permanent” situation than securing it through the contrivances of the Legislature. Besides which, there is only one way to expand rights in New Jersey and that is through a change in the state Constitution.

What I’m most concerned about is the contempt that some modern politicians show for the democratic process itself.

True, democracy does, at times, produce a result that we don’t like. That’s where the humility comes in. But so long as the process is preserved, we can come back and do a better job of convincing the voters next time. And democracy provides a calming influence on partisan passions, because whoever prevails has the moral authority of having won “the majority” making the outcome easier to accept – provided that the question can be revisited. Democracy is a constant and always shifting discussion.

I don’t know what the politicians who oppose it would put in its place: A dictatorship of the proletariat? That experiment was tried by those who didn’t trust voters to make the “right” decision either, and it was the source of much human suffering before it finally crashed to the ground.

Maybe they want to replace democracy with a star-chamber of “elites” – drawn from the political class, professional bureaucrats, and those who fund them. Maybe they want to do away with elections altogether and just have an un-elected court make our laws. It could be argued that we are well along this path already.

I cringe when I hear these attacks on democracy, because it is so not American, so against who we are. Americans are neighborly because we talk things over, agree to disagree, have a vote, and then respect the outcome. We get along because we know that those who oppose you in one argument may be your allies in the next. That’s democracy.

Democracy is the best way of resolving this issue, so lets’ talk to each other, take a vote, and decide.

Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) is the sponsor of ACR-39, legislation to put the definition of marriage on the ballot for the people of New Jersey to decide.


Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose


  1. It's not something that belongs on a ballot just as civil rights legislation or even the right to marry interracially shouldn't have been on a ballot. Society shouldn't be bound by any one person or group's definition of marriage. Any couple should have the right to marry regardless of whether or not one group approves.

    This is not a matter of politics, it's a matter of societal evolution and shedding the long established taboos, dogmas, stigmas and superstitions that have ruled us and controlled us as a species for centuries. This evolution will take place regardless of whether or not we approve it in a voting booth.

      • I'd bet the farm that most of Darwin's rejects reside in Kansas and Texas.

        • Careful Justin, that sounds like hate speech.

          As for your theory of social evolution, you must admit that "evolution" swings all ways. Go back and read about the evolution from the ancient world to the Christian.

          You make the fundamental error in believing that just because something is changing in one direction now, it will change in that direction always. This is a common error. It produced the "wave of the future" argument used by many Sociologists in the 1930s, but it didn't turn out that way.

  2. since when is male anal sodomy a right . Let alone a right that has to be elevated with the the Garden State seal of approval ? How many long established taboos do we have to shed in our live time before we decent to level of animals. Daniel Patrick Moynahan not the most conservative thinker in the Liberal Democrat party warned us all about defining deviancy downwards.

  3. I don't think Justin remembers who was elected Mayor of Houston, TEXAS. Tell him to look up Annise Parker.

    In fact, as long ago as 1981 (probably before Justin was born) Houston, TEXAS, elected a gay-friendly mayor named Kathy Whitmire.

    • I was actually born in 1981 and I was joking with Matt. It's a spin on one of my favorite jokes: "Why is it so windy in Oklahoma? Because Kansas sucks and Texas blows." Don't take everything so seriously.

        • Maybe you're just overly sensitive and have no sense of humor. You don't strike me as someone that has much of a funny bone. Truth is, most people who rush to use the term, "hate speech", usually don't.

          Life's too short to be so bitter, man. Lighten up. This is why I don't blog about politics anymore.

  4. No wonder why Justin Rivera is permanently banned from the halls of the Bergen County Republican organization. He has been a hate filled spineless liberal for years

    • I have to admit, M (if that's your REAL name), people like you really make me wonder why I'm still a Republican sometimes. Furthermore, was I banned from the halls of the BCRO. I can honestly say I never noticed…

    • What do you have against voting? What is wrong with convincing people of your position instead of demanding that they accept it or else?

      Someone should file suit against the "Democratic" Party for false advertising. There's nothing democratic about them.

  5. So where does it stop? Should I have a right to marry my sister? my mother? 5 women? Society has norms that we agree to. Voting is a form of agreement. Let the referendum go through. Let New Jersey decide and we will live with the consequences if there are any.

    • If you follow the logic, it's a contract between consenting adults, so I guess Jay would be cool with that.

  6. I am proposing to all 5 of the Mc Guire sisters if this passes. They are all consenting adults and their parents have enough cash to pay Christie off.

  7. "Let’s remember too, that women ultimately got the vote through a Constitutional change – not a legislative action."

    I'm sorry…what?!!! Did the so-called defender of the Constitution forget that legislative action by Congress is needed to pass an amendment, and then subsequent legislative action by 3/4 of the states are also needed???

  8. From most of the comments I've read and the general tone of the website, its pretty clear that most of you here would consider yourselves small government folks. Why, then, would you be so against the state removing a restriction on something between two consenting adults? If you want small government, would you not be in favor of the government not involving themselves in an issue?

    And you don't put civil rights issues to a vote, for just this reason. This IS a civil rights issue. In fact, I contend that this is a freedom of expression issue. Most of you should know which amendment I mean, no? I think it starts out "Congress shall make no law" or something like that.

    Full disclosure: I am a libertarian, and want the government out of all of my affairs, social and economic. The Lib/Con finger pointing is stupid and most of you want government restrictions on things you don't like. Let's be consistent in our beliefs here. Want freedom? Freedom means the ability for people to do things that don't include you that you don't like and for you to accept it. You want to be against it? Fine, no one says you can't. But the state shouldn't legislate away the rights of another because you don't like what they stand for.

  9. So what if you want to marry your sister, mother, 5 women? do you want the state saying who you can and can't marry?

  10. You don't put civil rights issues to a vote. Just because the majority doesn't like it, does not mean that it shouldn't be. Civil rights exist to protect the minority from the majority, like it or not.

  11. Agreed just as marriage should not be a state issue, at all, but a private religious one. If the state wishes to issue tax breaks for a union, then they should accept all couples unions, regardless of anything. This will evolve, because it is what the people want, and it is right and just.

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