Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Tyranny of the Majority

The UK newspaper, The Guardian, has an editorial that looks at the debacle that takes place for the rights of minorities when the granting of civil rights is left to the majority. The column correctly notes that but for the action of the federal judiciary, we might well still have segregated schools, bans on interracial marriage and a host of other types of legal second class citizenships. Sadly, the Christianist right anti-gay industry has figured out the bigotry of the majority and I suspect will continue to push for a state by state vote on gay rights until at some point the federal courts get off their asses and call out religious based discrimination for what it is and strike down Christianist bigotry written into law via the ballot box. When that day will come, I do not know, but it is clear to me that the federal courts are the most assured course for achieving full equality - particularly since President Obama and the Congressional Democrats have made it quite clear that they truly do not give a damn about us. Oh yes, they give us pretty speeches but refuse to act. Here are some column highlights:
After whinging about "activist judges" for a decade, the rightwing has convinced a plurality of Americans that decisions about same-sex marriage shouldn't be made in the courts – and it's because they know, and here is more evidence, that putting the rights of a marginalised class to the majority means those rights will be denied. The judiciary, however, is generally less susceptible to persuasion by expensive campaigns run by the anti-gay industry.
Historically, we have depended on the courts to make decisions about the application of constitutional guarantees in spite of popular opinion, and they have repeatedly secured protections for marginalised groups decades before Congress and state legislatures, which more closely track public opinion, would have done. John Rogers once noted that "when the supreme court struck down the bans against interracial marriage in 1968 through Virginia v Loving, 72% of Americans were against interracial marriage. As a matter of fact, approval of interracial marriage in the US didn't cross the positive threshold until – sweet God – 1991".
Waiting for the whole of society to be on board with granting equal rights to everyone is simply not in our collective best interest. There is no legitimate claim to be made by opponents of marriage equality that their lives will be diminished by extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Too much evidence to the contrary, even now in their own country (I'm looking at you, Massachusetts), debunks that assertion thoroughly.
Sometimes the stragglers at the tail end of this slow march of progress need a boot to get them moving forward. When the legislatures haven't provided it, it has been the judiciary's job to deliver it instead, as marginalised groups were never meant to have no recourse against discriminatory practices, even if the will of the majority is to extend the codified biases in perpetuity. Just because something is popular doesn't make it right.
This country is not, and never has been, well-served by leaving the civil rights of the minority in the hands of the majority. Putting that up to a vote which is subject to deeply held prejudice is ruling not by democracy, but by mob mentality.
The irony, of course, is that when one closely follows many of the "pro-family" Christianist organizations, it becomes clear that if it were up to these folks, we would still have racial segregation and bans on interracial marriage. They are bigots and theocrats and unfortunately, they have figured out how to convince a majority of simple minded voters to fall for their lies and fear mongering. It makes me sick.


Stephen said...

Mormons seems to have forgotten that they are a minority and that many of their allies opposing gay equality consider the "Latter-Day Saints" a cult. I'd be curious about what the results would be of voting on an initiative excluding LDS from tax exemptions.

Julián said...

Michel, yo creo que Obama y los demócratas en el senado y el congreso no se atreven a legislar para proteger a los gays, debido a que una parte del electorado demócrata es homófobo. Hay que tener en cuenta Michael que en tu país los partidos políticos no existen, no son bloques con unos principios firmes, sino que al parecer cualquiera se hace llamar demócrata o repúblicano (ya me dirás Tú si Gene Taylor es un demócrata de verdad).

Ya se que como gay Americano que eres debes estar muy enfadado y con ganas de coger un bidón de gasolina para ir a quemar iglesias (eso es algo que hicieron los Españoles en los años 30 hartos de la interferencia de la iglesia en la política), espero que por favor no lo vayas a hacer, no te tomes en serio las cosas locas que digo a veces.

Pero que hacemos? que pueden hacer los gays Americanos?:

*Los gays Americanos no deberían de abstenerse, deben ir a votar en todas las elecciones que se hagan: la abstención es algo que favorece siempre a la derecha.

*Presionar de forma más frecuente a los políticos demócratas más progresistas, para que se den cuenta que su puesto está en juego.

La verdad es que no se mucho de la vida política Americana, si yo fuera un gay Americano, ya me habría vuelto loco. Eres muy fuerte Michael, Ánimo!!!