Saturday, July 15, 2006

Let's Vote On Their Rights


There is a recurrent theme among conservatives that (to take two prominent examples) they are not really opposed to abortion or gay marriage. No, no, no. They are not anti-choice or anti-gay, they just oppose "unelected judges" imposing their decisions on society. "In fact", they say, "if only the courts would wait until the legislature passed a law that (fill in the blank: "allows gay marriage" or "permits abortion"), society would not develop these antagonistic political divisions."

Of course, if debates go away after an election, why do we keep voting every few years? And when the California legislature actually passed a law recognizing gay marriage, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it and left it to the courts. Hey, nobody's perfect, right?

Pure democracy is a ticket to hell -- at least for any disfavored minority. A good definition of democracy would be "the power of a bare majority to cook and eat the children of the out-voted minority." Just look at how democratic votes turn out in garden spots like Gaza and Iraq. That is why we don't live in a "democracy" in America. We live in a "democratic Republic." The US Constitution is specifically designed to restrict the powers of government -- and therefore the powers of the majority. Individual rights are listed in order to remind future generations that there are limits to what they are permitted to do to their fellow citizens.

So I'm sick and tired of hearing conservatives (and quite a few media pundits) proclaim that if only the Supreme Court had not decided in favor of a woman's right to control her own body in Roe v. Wade we wouldn't have the kind of controversy over abortion that we have today. What a load of crap. They are just frustrated that they aren't able to impose their will on others. So they fall back on the good old "unelected courts" argument. If we left abortion up to majority rule most women in America would no longer have access to it. In other words, the majority would vote to strip them of their basic human rights. As for the argument to "leave it to the legislature" there is no principle at work other than a desire to disguise your true motivations. Either you believe in equality or your you believe in majority rule. And believing in majority rule makes you objectively anti-liberty.

The same is true of those who say they support gay marriage but want to "wait" for individual legislatures to acknowledge gay equality. To have the courts do so (as in Massachusetts) is, they argue, to impose a "permanent political debate" on society. It's a bogus claim -- the debate won't go away simply because the legislature says "boo!" Of course, we have already seen a majority of states vote to impose a ban on gay marriage. Waiting for the majority to give up on petty bigotry can be a long wait, indeed. Just ask African-Americans. Or Native Americans. According to conservatives, waiting a few centuries for your share of justice is a small price to pay so we can have "democracy."

UPDATE: Even as I wrote this, anti-abortion efforts in Jackson, MS triggered a counter-protest rally to save the last clinic in the state that still provides abortion services. And they're fighting over state legislation. The Mississippi House passed a complete ban of abortions in March 2006. Flip Benham, leader of the anti-abortion group, said, "[W]e are out here to bring the gospel." Maybe they read a different bible, but I find it odd that a "bomb threat halted the rally ... the Jackson Police Department cleared the park and blew up a package found by a bomb squad."

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