Looking back over America's history it has often been the Courts who have been the first to uphold the legal equality of minority groups. Obviously, Brown v. Board of Education decide in 1954 is a prominent example of that phenomenon as is Loving v. Virginia in 1968, or even Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. The sad truth is that the majority of citizens have historically demonstrated a very poor track record of treating members of minorities as full, equal citizens. Eventually, the majority has followed the reasoning of the Courts, but often many years after the fact. The quest for gay rights and marriage is but another incarnation of this process which is well stated in a recent letter to the editor by Dane Youngblom of Duluth, Minnesota, that I came across via one of my google alert engines. Here are some highlights:
A majority of folks are born straight. Most of us also realize there is a minority of folks born gay. It saddened me to read the Dec. 3 letter, “Don’t let the courts decide gay marriage issue,” which seemed to be an attempt to rally the straight majority to hurry up and prohibit the right of the gay minority to marry. The idea of the letter seemed to be to act before the courts have a chance to rule on the constitutionality of denying rights to this group of citizens.*
The writer seemed afraid the courts could rule that the issue is one of civil rights and as such cannot and should not be decided based on its popularity with the majority. The writer was probably correct in seeing that our courts do have a tendency to protect the minority from the majority in cases of oppression. The courts made this clear by outlawing segregation and racial, sexual and age discrimination, which were all favored by the voting majority at the time.
Someday, we will be embarrassed by efforts we’ve made to classify any people as second class. Until then, we will have to rely on our courts to rule on the rights our founders wrote into the constitution, that the majority would not trample on the rights of the minority. We are not a democracy where majority rules, but rather a representative republic where we choose responsible, knowledgeable leaders to protect us from ignorant impulses.