The Nov. 3rd Maine referendum to repeal same-sex marriage drove home a shortcoming of majority-rule democracy, that the majority cannot be counted on to uphold the rights of the minority. However, the Civil Rights Era model for change presents its own problems. In the 1950s and ’60s, direct action was used to dramatize injustices and to rouse the consciences of potential White allies in power. Morality was imposed legally from above, not voted upon by a White majority. Relying on a sympathetic cultural elite to set the rules is problematic. It only seems palatable when we happen to agree with the ruling class’s sense of morality.
Neither approach is wholly satisfying. The first is oppressive by nature and the second is anti-democratic. I think that same-sex marriage is a generational issue that will resolve itself as the young and less judgmental come into their own. This can’t be left to chance, since cultural attitudes are passed down, for good or ill. Teachers should find new and engaging ways to teach tolerance and acceptance. Especially important are lessons on different kinds of families. I have found that no matter the biases of the adults in the community, 2nd graders will not bat an eyelash when you talk about same-sex parent families. Children are naturally open and accepting. As the song from South Pacific goes, “You have to be taught to hate.”
So, this really is a culture war. There is no such thing as neutrality if you have any influence over children. To be neutral is akin to staying home on election day and letting fearful people vote away civil rights.