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Gay Marriage: Who Decides Rights? (A Big Think Debate)

In the past month, the debate over whether to legalize gay marriage has become front page news due to legislative battles in WashingtonNew HampshireNew Jersey and now MarylandThe issue only promises to further heat up as a legal fight may go to the Supreme Court. 

This raises the question of who gets to decide rights — the courts? State legislatures? Popular vote?

If the issue is put to referendum, many gaymarriage advocates worry that would make our rights subject to the whims of a tyrannical majority. Imagine where Civil Rights would be today if we had tried that in the 1950s and 60s, one could argue. On the other hand, a popular rallying cry for conservatives has been that “activist judges” have overstepped their bounds by “legislating from the bench.”

So how do we decide, and who gets to decide? Today we are featuring two of Big Think’s political philosophy heavyweights — Peter Lawler, Professor of Government at Berry College and Robert de Neufville, Professor of International Studies at San Francisco State University.

We invite you to read Lawler’s contribution, The Deconstruction of Marriage?, followed by de Neufville’s response, Marriage Equality Is a Civil Right. We encourage all to weigh in in the comments sections of these posts.


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