To the Editor:

I am the last person to claim an entirely optimistic or idealistic stance on many issues, but the contents of Eric White’s column (“Both sides off-track on same-sex marriage,” 2/2) represent a passive apathy that I find absolutely distressing.

The question of same-sex marriage may be, for White, something particularly innocuous, not pressing at all. But for those of us whose lives this will impact directly in the future — and for many others who see the deliberate prejudice involved — this is not a pragmatic question. It is a question of civil rights. Would White also have suggested, at the time of the civil rights movement, that Martin Luther King Jr. was ahead of his time, pushing (apparently harmfully) for immediate action? Would White have advocated passive waiting for Joe Schmoe in Middle America to “accept” black people? I draw a parallel between these two events not just to make a point about the often effective results of action, but also because the two cases are absolutely identical in content.

Indeed, Congress, which apparently, according to White, consistently reflects the precise will and needs of the people, is already addressing the issue. The Defense of Marriage Act and a proposed constitutional amendment — would these not be acts of Congress? To presume that what is on the minds of the people of this country is what rings in the halls of the Capitol is preposterous. Firstly, America is not and never has been a direct democracy. And without arguing to what extent American politics are corrupt, we can all admit that those made on Capitol Hill are a far cry from those that would be made if Schmoe were in power.

And indeed, if we were to just all sit around and “at least agree to ignore the Massachusetts Supreme Court and leave the Constitution alone,” and the “American people” then decided that a ban on same-sex marriage should be integrated into the Constitution, would I be satisfied that “the people had spoken”? If this were the case, we would once again prove that sometimes “the people” are just plain wrong. It is the work of enlightened activists and politicians — apparently White not included — to make society better and equal for all.

Jessamyn Blau

February 2, 2004

The writer is a staff columnist.