Two columns in this week's issue deal with the activities and/or predicaments of the Democratic Party, still — despite serious local and statewide reverses in the recent past — recognized as one of the two major political parties and a force to be reckoned with. As Jackson Baker's Politics column makes clear, however, the Shelby County Democrats are, for a variety of reasons, up against it in this election year, faced with well-mounted electoral challenges from their Republican rivals. The other column (Viewpoint) documents and extols the local Democratic Party for taking the lead in advocating the legality of what goes by such alternative names as "gay marriage," "same-sex marriage," and "marriage equality" (the choice of terms progressing from disapproval to open-mindedness to approval, more or less in that sequence).
Our purpose here is not to endorse the local party's action or to take its side against the political opposition. As a matter of policy, we don't endorse at election time, although we will own up to having an affinity for causes and purposes normally associated with the "progressive" side of the ledger. Make of that what you will, but we find things to approve of (and disapprove of) on both sides of the political border, and we are conscious that labels — all labels, of whatever kind — are by their nature misleading.
What we do approve of, in the local Democratic Party's action, is that it did what a political party should do — offer leadership on a thorny and still unresolved matter of public policy rather than follow, timidly or rambunctiously, in the wake of its constituents' whims. For the Democrats to do so on an issue this controversial is admirable, all the more for doing so in an election year, and still more in one which had already seemed threatening to its prospects.
As far as the issue itself goes, we propose a simple test. Ask the youngest members of your family or of your acquaintance who are registered to vote how they feel about marriage equality. We expect that you'll find a level of acceptance far greater than exists among the generation that raised them. And this, we suggest, will be true whether or not the folks you ask are Democrats or Republicans or whatever. What they are, however, almost by definition, is the human future. Our "replacements," as the comedian Jerry Seinfeld likes to jest, in all seriousness.
Moralists of a certain stripe will view the change in social outlook as wrong because it does not conform to traditional precepts, while moralists of another kind will point out that the very word "morality" describes — or should describe — the evolving social contract between members of a community. On the subject of who should marry or why, we find it remarkable and altogether praiseworthy that, at a time when human relationships tend to be transitory and divorce is commonplace, members of the gay and lesbian community are attracted to the concept of social stability that marriage represents. So, good for them, too!