After my last post, I received a few replies decrying what some saw as my advocating of gay rights. Looking back on that post, it doesn't seem to me an unreasonable inference on the reader's part to make that leap. I admit that the misunderstanding is probably, at least partially, my own fault for using the word "rights". These responses missed the point of the post, though. The point was not to advocate for legalization of gay marriage or marijuana use. Rather, it was to point out that democracy is not the cure-all that people believe it to be. Democracy will always be a tool by which a majority will oppress a minority and ultimately the individual. The particular issue(s) in which this phenomenon occurs is not relevant. That said, let me expand on the issue of gay rights, marriage in particular, further to answer the questions I received.
First, there seems to be a lot of hoopla surrounding the word "marriage". Some believe that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Some believe that it is the union of a man and a woman, blessed by God (these people, by and large, seem to have no problem, though, with a state performed marriage absent any church). Others believe that it can be the union between two people of the same sex inside or outside of a church. Still others believe that it is not limited to two people at all. I have no particular affinity for the word "marriage", and I use it fairly loosely in the following paragraphs. If the use of the word marriage in this post offends you in this context, please feel free to replace it with "civil union" or whatever other phrase best suits your ideology.
Marriage is, or should be, from the state's perspective, nothing more than a contract, a property arrangement. Obviously, marriage means much more to the actual participants, but the state has no business beyond the property arrangement. For example, the state doesn't penalize one spouse for failing to sufficiently love the other spouse(s). However, the state does have laws for how property transfers occur between spouses when they die or dissolve their marriage, pre-nuptial or other agreements, notwithstanding. Not only that, but marriage also confers special privileges upon spouses like receiving benefits of various kinds, tax deductions, making medical decisions on behalf of an injured spouse, and protection from being compelled to testify against a spouse in court.
In the U.S., these privileges are only applicable to male/female unions under the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996. Under this act, our democracy has, for all intents and purposes, discriminated against a significant portion of the population by denying them the ability to form a marriage contract between themselves and their chosen partners. To my earlier point, the majority has oppressed the minority by denying a specific group of people the ability to voluntarily engage in a specific type of contract and receive the benefits afforded by that contract.
It seems obvious, then, that the solution is to legalize gay marriage. However, doing so would only grant more power to and further legitimize the state. To argue for legalization would legitimize the act of having made it illegal in the first place. It would give credence to the idea that one person has the right to impose his views on another via the coercion of law; it would legitimize the idea that that the government (or the majority via the government) has the authority to grant or deny permission for private parties to voluntarily enter into a contract. So we are left with a Sophie's Choice of sorts. Either, let the majority continue to oppress the minority or grant ever more power to the state. Let me suggest a third alternative: the state should cease involvement in all marriage and stop granting benefits on the basis thereof. People should be free to marry whomever they choose without having to ask permission from anyone or pay for the privilege, and the state, to the extent that it exists, should simply honor the contracts.