Is it democracy when you don't allow votes you can't win?

I note in the news today an item from New Jersey that tells us of their Senate sending a same-sex marriage bill down to defeat by a pretty solid majority vote, 20-14. (That’s about 59-41%, by the way.) That makes New Jersey the latest state to vote against it, joining about 30 others where such a proposal has gone down in defeat – usually via a referendum.

However, it wasn’t the outcome of the vote that raised an eyebrow with me it was a mention of an earlier delay in the vote. Have a look:

The Freedom of Religion and Equality in Marriage Act failed by a vote of 20 to 14. The vote was scheduled to take place last month, but was postponed due to an apparent lack of support, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Emphasis mine. What does this mean, that a vote was postponed due to a lack of support? It reads, to me, like the supporters of the measure recognized that they didn’t have the votes at the time the vote was originally scheduled so they somehow engineered a delay to… what? Gather more support? Lock in more “yes” votes before the vote went on record?

I recognize that vote bargaining is a large component of democracy. So long as it’s done ethically, I might say it’s the main part of democracy; it’s the art of compromise. But when a question is put before a legislative body the decision is made by a vote, yea or nay. If one side or the other continuously puts that vote off unless they’re looking at a solid win, is that really a democracy?

I suppose it is, in the end, because votes must eventually get taken but it just strikes me as odd that a bill, once advanced, can be forever postponed until one side or the other confirms they’re going to win and only then allow the vote to proceed. It just struck me as strange.

Advertisements