Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shame on California

Democratic systems are designed such that the views of the majority prevail. I suppose the argument is that the majority will often make collectively sane and reasonable decisions. However what happens when the opposite holds true?

Enter the check and balance system ...

In US history, the independent judicial system has often served as moderator when the public seem on the path of insane and unreasonable. When the majority decides to oppress the minority, the court has stepped in to regulate.

The US Supreme Court under the leadership of Earl Warren was a great example. In 1954, the courageous men on the court held that "separate but equal" was at its core not equal, even unjust. At a time when racist laws were sanctioned by popular vote, the Warren Court held that African Americans had every right to receive the same education (and other human rights) as their white counterparts.

Say what you will about "judicial activism" but these brave justices were ahead of their time. Their rulings made "restricted" water fountains accessible to Black children; they made "restricted" medical schools accessible to Black students; they laid the groundwork for a Black president.

It is with the Warren Court in mind that yesterday's California Supreme Court decision is such a disappointment. The November vote by Californians to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples was an oppression of the minority. It was insane, unreasonable and unjust.

Unfortunately, the California Supreme Court did not see their role as moderators of reason. Instead, in a spineless decision, they sanctioned the majority's decision to oppress and eliminate rights of their fellow citizens.

November's vote, coupled with yesterday's decision, makes California (the state and the citizens) the losers of the month!


Ina Katherine said...

I CANNOT understand how this body can rule in one instance that the right to marry extends to all people and then rule in another instance that the people of California can vote to make that right apply only to a select group of people.

I also cannot understand why heterosexual couples care. As someone getting married in a few months I can definitively say that allowing same sex couples to marry in no affects the sanctity or the value of MY marriage. In fact, it has nothing to do with my marriage.

Finally, I cannot see those who believe that same sex couples should not have the right to marry as anything but bigots.

I feel like this is THE civil rights issue of our generation.

Sonya Behnke said...

I agree with Kehinde but I do see a silver lining to this case.

Prop 8 has and still is galvanizing a response from outraged citizens, gay and straight, all across the country who do believe in equal rights for same-sex couples and recognize this as a civil rights issue.

After Prop 8, we saw Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and soon New Hampshire (perhaps NY?) line up in succession to do the right thing and extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The states will lead the charge in this fight, even as CA continues to stumble. The feds, and as far as I can tell (sadly) President Obama, appear to prefer the sidelines.

Kehinde A. Togun said...

Hopefully we can soon add Pennsylvania to the list of states on the march for justice and equality: