Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dictatorship by majority

There's no getting around it. I am saddened, disillusioned, and absolutely disgusted today.

Last fall, a small group of people put forth a proposition to voters in California: Shall 'marriage' be defined legally as between one man and one woman? Or in other words, shall we ban marriage between people of the same sex?

A simple enough question, one might think, but one carrying profound implications for families and individuals across California and across United States.

And a loaded question, because so many have been taught through whatever moral standard they follow or through whatever tradition to which they adhere, to find the concept of same-sex marriage wrong. Or scornworthy. Or simply, distasteful.

Somehow, through a fear-based disinformation campaign conducted mostly in the waning weeks of last fall's election season, that campaign funded mostly by religious organizations who otherwise state they believe in Loving Thy Neighbor, the proposition managed to pass. By only a small majority, mind you, but a majority nonetheless.

And thus, it became the law of the land. At least until it could be reviewed by the California Supreme Court.

Today, that Court ruled that the proposition could stand. And by doing so, today that Court took a sledgehammer to one pillar at the foundation of United States democracy.

Unlike 'the big lie' that many believe, the lie that if repeated often enough can replace the truth, the United States was not founded upon on the Judeo-Christian values found in a 1,500-year-old book. In reality, the country's founders went out of their way to avoid defining rights as based on some ancient law coming from some dusty religious tome.

Instead, the United States was founded on the idea of freedom. Freedom of expression. Freedom of religion. Separation of Church and State. The pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. And though the United States Constitution's framers stated those final three rights were 'endowed by a Creator', they also referred to those rights as 'inalienable,' meaning they could not be rendered moot as long as the Constitution exists.

Those framers carefully spelled out that majority rule could not take away the rights of a minority. In other words, a mob of 50 percent plus one could not vote to deny those rights defined in the Constitution to those losing the election.

It's the concept of 'majority rule versus minority right,' which through debate, refinement and amendment over the last two centuries has reminded us all continuously that our freedoms shall not be abridged by race, or by creed, or by sex.

And contrary to popular belief those amendments did not expand basic rights to those groups. Instead, they merely reaffirmed that those rights have always existed in the Constitution, and that those rights shall not be abridged. Not through through tradition or practice. Not through poll taxes or Jim Crow laws. Not through banning interracial marriage, as so many states used to. And certainly not through the legislative will of some well-funded but misled religious mob wanting to codify two archaic lines from Leviticus -- lines that absurdly but equally ban tattooing and the consumption of shellfish -- into United States law.

Can there be any right more basic than to right to love? It may not be spelled out in the Constitution as such, to anyone who has experienced true love, its power to affect one's liberty and one's ability to pursue happiness is absolutely undeniable.

And yet today, in denial of the most sacred Constitutional principle of 'majority rule and minority right,' the California Supreme court ruled that a simple majority vote can indeed deny a minority their right to Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness by denying that minority the right to love, and by denying that minority right to commit to love for life under the protection of law.

This decision, that a bare majority can vote away the rights of a minority, goes against our most basic principles as Americans.

This decision is not merely saddening. This decision is wrong. And as such, this decision cannot be allowed to stand.

For if it does, which of our rights will will go under the sledgehammer next? Which will be the next to fall?

Whom will we go after next? And in the end, whom will be left to speak for us?

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