Will of the People

I was going to post about something else but I've read one too many letter to the editor in my local paper and got my dander up. The subject, the so called "will of the people". What brought this on? One more letter to the editor about how the majority of California voters are against gay marriage and a court shouldn't overrule them.

What some people don't seem to understand is that even though a "majority" of the people may believe in something, that doesn't make it right. People bring up the idea that marriage is not a constitutional right but a state's right issue. The federal government should not interfere since a majority of the people in that state want to create laws banning two people from getting married as a legal contract within that state. Mind you, no one is saying that religious groups should allow gay marriage, just the state.

This reminds me of another argument used around 150 years ago. It was about a state's right to legally allow slavery. Even when slavery ended, segregation laws kept African Americans disenfranchised. Unfair comparison, you say? Why is that? In both situations you're saying that if a majority of the people of a state are bigoted and/or prejudiced, then it's ok to deny someone a right another has? Because that's what this is really about. It's not about "saving marriage" or "traditional family values". Let's face it, political science 101 clearly states that it is not the role of the government to legislate morality. Won't happen. Additionally, with the divorce rate among straight couples in the US over 50%, I'd say "traditional marriage" is already in trouble without factoring in gay couples.

Sometimes you need a judge to say that regardless of what the "will of the people" is, a group's rights are being denied and the situation must be corrected. That's why we have an independent judiciary system. To prevent the "tyranny of the majority" as the Federalists argued back in the 1780's (if you haven't read the Federalist Papers, you should).

On a side note (I won't get too much into it as it will REALLY get me started) this argument can also be used in the current "controversy" over the community center in NYC near ground zero. It's not about the site being "sacred ground" but about religious intolerance. But, again, just because a possible majority of New Yorkers may be against it, that doesn't make it right.


Jude said…
Good post Vince, and I agree that just because a majority feels a certain way it doesn't always make it right!

While I can understand some of the emotions from the people who disagree with having a mosque built near ground zero, I don't understand why they don't realize it's NEAR ground zero, not on it. I don't live right there in NYC so maybe I don't have a right to speak about this, but a "church" of any faith being built nearby should perhaps not be an issue.
sydwynd said…
Jude: My biggest complaint about the NYC community center is that 1) with all this publicity who's going to recruit terrorists there? and 2) what's stopping terrorists from being recruited at the Dunkin Donuts a block away?

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