|The Danger of Majority Rule|
|Sunday, 16 November 2008 01:50|
As an author, sharer of ideas and founder of The Unity Project (www.drlaurenspeaks.com), I watched Proposition 8 snap through and I felt the loud, echoing crack that forked through the hearts of millions of gay and lesbian Americans. For many, it represents the smashing of a wish, a dream, a need and the presumption of imminent, albeit fundamental equality under the law. Notably, all Americans saw a critical element of the U.S. constitution miss-used, even abused in a way that defies its very purpose.
The fact that gays and lesbians can, in a state, acquire the equal legal right to marry and then have it taken away on a majority whim, is a dangerous precedent in constitutional law. At the same time as the naively giddy excitement about President-Elect Barack Obama sweeps the (soon to be disappointed) country and world, bringing with it the presumption of infinite improvement, the promise of a better country, a better world and a better and more thoughtful citizenry writ large, a specific constitutional tool has been openly and illegally used to support discrimination. Those who would argue that it is the word, "marriage", that puts the majority off and that "they" (gays and lesbians) might fare better fighting for full, marital, legal rights (but not MARRIAGE) are missing the point or are too fearful to see it. These same blind, deaf and self-centered folk would have gays refer to themselves as "officially unified" and their related ceremonies be called something like "Unification Officiation Celebrations". These ideas are equally, if not more clearly discriminating, than granting the minority no normative rights at all. We were all brought up in marriages - good and bad, whole or broken. Marriage is the cultural norm and the legal term for a loving partnership committed to until death does it part. You'd think influential right-wing opponents would want gays and lesbians to celebrate marriage and family. After all, heterosexuals are not holding up the banner with any pride or consistency. Heterosexual adults and their children who reside in a nuclear family are in the minority. And marriages are self-destructing at the rate of almost 2 out of 3.
However, there is an even more noxious abuse of the constitution with respect to the word. The vast majority of arguments against gays and lesbians being permitted to use the word are of a religious nature, based in biblical interpretation. A front or not, this violates the distinct, constitutional division of church and state and allows religion and religious lobbyists to quash the rights of those born inclined to love....differently.
The founding fathers and those whose deliberations contributed to one of the most remarkable and prescient, historic, legal documents ever written, understood the potential for and foresaw the probability of national stasis, not to mention for majority supported (or ignored) discrimination. In short, knowing that the majority can be wrong (ie.the rounding up and murdering of millions of Jews, the internment of the American Japanese during WWII and the conditions for African Americans before and after the civil rights movement) , they built in a safe guard against the ignorance and unctuous, dumb cruelty of majorities. Without the clause allowing for amendments and propositions, there would be no mixed marriages and women would never have "won" the right to vote. The messy use of the constitution is also the greatest threat to every hardworking illegal and recent, legal immigrant who has created or plans to create jobs, build families and participate in the community. Almost any interpretation of constitutional law will do when the majority puts its collective mindlessness together to reject, define, diminish or deny those they deem different or unworthy. A strict and fair use of the constitution is the backbone of a nation. Its only threat is to the fiber of the propagated, shared fears of an ostensibly homogenized majority.
The wise and prescient writers of the constitution would have liked the term "Change We Can Believe In". I doubt, however, that they would have allowed themselves the four day high created by a new and distinctly revised national leader. After all, majority rules - even when the very heart of the formative legal document that allowed for the creation of a young nation, was written to ensure majorities don't discriminate, deny or destroy a segment of the population with which it feels uncomfortable.The fact that writers of the constitution foresaw inequality for minorities (and other illegalities and injustices) and inserted safeguards many decades ago to avoid just this kind of discrimination. It is all the more tragic that we now, regardless of sexual preference, don't stand up and apart from the majority and allow human hearts the right to a normative, legal union. But, then, the founding fathers also knew about fence sitting and side lines.
Neither the writers of the constitution nor our current lawmakers can legislate against passive stupidity and empty pride. Nor could they, nor can they, legislate just doing the right thing.