Ignoring the Majority

“Activist judges… have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard,” President Bush stated in regard to the new Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling allowing gays to marry. However, Bush’s demand that the “people’s voice must be heard” shows his clear misperception of the nature of civil rights. There is no “majority rules” on issues of civil rights. If there were, the whole purpose of civil rights would be undermined. The Court is in place to, among other things, protect the rights of minorities, not to adhere to the will of the majority. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Schools that segregation of public schools was a violation of the children’s Fourteenth Amendment rights, despite intense support for segregation from Southern whites. In his inaugural address in 1963, Governor of Alabama George Wallace, one of the chief spokesmen for school segregation, said “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Yet, despite intense opposition to integration from the majority of southerners, including Governors, Senators, and Representatives, the Supreme Court upheld the principle of civil rights by protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority. The Court’s correct use of its judicial powers greatly benefited society. The Massachusetts Court similarly triumphed when it upheld the rights of gays to marry. The Supreme Court is the protector of the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution guarantees simple principles: justice, equality, due process, and the freedoms of speech, expression, assembly, and religion. The United States is a great society because, even in times of majority leadership, the freedoms of the minorities are protected. The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision represents not activism, as Bush would have us believe, but simply a conservation of principles: the Constitution mandates equality, so equality shall be upheld. Simply, Bush is wrong. These Justices were appointed to protect the rights of minorities and that is what they did. This is how the United States works. Without this protection, a dominantly Christian population could force the deportation of a Jewish minority if they so desired. Without this protection, post 9/11 America could have banned Islam from the States. Without this protection, Thurgood Marshall would never have won one of the most important cases in American legal history and diversity in education would never have occurred. The rejection and denunciation of the Court’s ability to rule in favor of a minority despite majority opposition represents a clear misunderstanding of the function of both civil rights and the American judicial system. The Republican Party has become distorted. When did conservative beliefs change from a hatred of slavery and a desire to strengthen individual and states’ rights to the opposition of a woman’s right to choose and the rights of some to marry? Rather than support a panel of Justices that did the most originally conservative thing in the American judicial system(if the Constitution says it is, than it is,) the Republican Party, originally the party that championed less government intervention in private affairs, wants to revoke rights from the citizens of America. Scarier yet is that Massachusetts is a historically democratic state. I thought Democrats typically supported gay marriage. Thus, the anti-gay-marriage stance is not about the “sanctity” of marriage and has nothing to do with political orientation: it is about homophobia. In situations like this, where political parties are confused and discrimination is afoot, the genius of the founding fathers to create a judicial branch to protect the sanctity of individual freedom becomes so apparent. It is funny that there is so much anti- gay-marriage sentiment in the United States. I mean, what would the majority lose if gays were allowed to marry? How would it hurt them? There is absolutely no justifiable downside to allowing gay marriage, but to disallow it would leave millions of American citizens, just like you and me, without a natural human right. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts realized this simple fact, and acted accordingly. Mr. Bush, this ruling is an example of the value of the American system. Yet, the Massachusetts legislature will try to amend the state constitution to officially define marriage as only between a man and a woman, an action that would effectively undermine our legal system. Plain and simple, if this referendum passes and there is such an amendment to the M a s s a c h u s e t t s Constitution, the nature of civil rights legislation would forever be altered for the worse. Yes, the “sanctity of marriage,” as Bush calls it, would be upheld, but the sanctity of civil rights and freedom would forever be tarnished. We, as a country, must not make it common practice to let the majority opinion withhold rights from the minority. To do so would be to live in an oligarchy, but the United States is a democracy, right?