I received a private email the other day asking the following:
It finally hit me as to why I was against its passage. My reasoning is that it is quite “un-American”. How’s that? Well, as you are well aware, the
Well, in the state of CA, we just had a vote in which 52% voted to “enslave” the other 48%. Yes, this is an example of the mob rule of a direct democracy. It is quite “un-American”!
This is a very good question on a number of levels, and so I'll take it on in little bite sized chunks. Bottom line up front: what the people of
1. Let's start with my view of gay marriage in general. As I've said in the past, I'm not in favor of straight marriage, so my opposition to gay marriage is entirely consistent. What do I mean by this? I mean state sanction of marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful social/cultural/religious institution and it ought to be just that. Take the state out of it and I'd be all for both gay and straight marriage. Leave existing contract law to cover the relationship between the parties and we have our winner. Now that that is out of the way, on to the specifics of this issue.
- This view of what a republic is and mine are different. My view of a republic is one in which people vote for other people who then represent their interests--rather than in straight out democracy in which people vote directly for themselves. Being a republic is in no way an impediment to a majority enslaving a minority.
- The Bill of Rights is definitely an impediment to the majority voting a majority out of its rights, rights thought to be so essential to liberty as to require codification in the Constitution. As such, it is often seen as the chief enforcer of the “no enslavement” stuff within our system of government.
- There is a really romantic notion afoot that our system is designed to protect the rights of the minority. This is true, but only to a point. Let us never forget that our Constitution has provisions for its alteration. A determined majority could remove any and all rights from a minority. It would just be very, very difficult to do so.
3. So now, let’s talk about some of the specifics of the
- Is defining marriage as between a man and a woman “enslavement” of a minority? No, not by a long shot. We have laws on the books that prohibit teens from drinking, we have laws on the books that allow businesses to charge different prices to seniors. Whole classes of people are impacted by these laws, yet they are not enslavement. It is especially important to remember that
’s domestic partnership laws extend all the goodness of marriage to domestic partners without the term “marriage”. California
- Let’s review what happened here. The California Legislature, exercising that power of representative democracy that was their due, passed a statute defining marriage as between a man and a woman. In a case brought to them that caused judicial review of the law, the California State Supreme Court struck down the law as being inconsistent with the Constitution of the State of
, and hence unconstitutional. Exercising provisions for altering the Constitution of the State of California (contained within and explicitly stated there) the people of the State of California voted to amend their Constitution in a manner in which a state regulatory function (that is, the granting of marriage licenses) was determined to be applicable only to unions of a man and a woman (incidentally, who also must be of the age of consent). California
I would have voted for Prop 8, largely because I think the State Supreme Court overstepped its bounds. If the people of
But there was NOTHING un-American about what went on there. In our system, the will of a determined majority is unlikely to be stymied.