Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tyranny of the Majority

By now everyone is aware that the California High court ruled to uphold Prop 8. Naturally many of us are angry that gay couples continue to suffer legal discrimination. And we should be angry. But there is more cause for concern than the present discrimination.

The California high court has set a dangerous precedent: Majority opinion can dictate legal rights. Such a decision is truly chilling. Imagine if we allowed interracial marriage to be put to a vote? Or Abortion? Or segregation? Can you imagine what the right wing would say if voters chose to ban firearms or prayer in school, or to allow partial-birth abortion ... and the court decided to uphold the majority opinion?!? I do not think we would hear the right wing complain about "activist judges" if they did not honor such votes.

The matter is simple: Democracy is NOT mob rule. Neither this democracy nor any other modern democracy has ever been built on the principle a simple vote decides all laws and rights. We are not now and have never been a country that decides human and civil rights on the basis of a majority of voters. This is not how we decided segregation nor the end of slavery, it should not be how we decide gay marriage.

It is an atrocity that same-sex couples are being denied their rights; and it is just as great an atrocity that the court has decided to support the "tyranny of the majority" as a guide to law and public policy where rights are concerned.

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