Posted by: Godfångst | March 4, 2009

Majority Rules: Women Don’t Need to Vote.

We just added a litttle tiny thing to the constitution!

We just added a litttle tiny thing to the constitution!

What would Ken Starr do?

Women don’t need to vote, the majority once decided. It damages their wombs. They don’t have the brain size for it, really. Everyone knew it. And the majority rules in a democracy, right?

If a majority of people in your state voted to permit slavery or allow a 40-year-old man to have sex with a 16-year-old girl, would you go for it?

What if the majority wanted to require all citizens to become vegetarians, have fewer than three children, pray to the great Chicken God in the sky, or go into Full Lotus posture at least once a day?

All it would take to get any of the above on the California ballot would be $200 and the signatures of registered voters totaling 8% of those who participated in the last gubernatorial election.

Here are some tips: If you want to ban guns or make everything organic, just go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s anywhere in the Bay Area and stand in the parking lot collecting signatures. To ban same-sex marriage or an increase in gas taxes, go to Costco, Walmart, or Home Depot–but stay out of San Francisco. Talk to some Republicans, weekly churchgoers, or married voters with children (84%, 82%, 68% voted in favor of Prop. 8).

That’s what the “Yes on Proposition 8” people did; then they collected $25 million from members of the Mormon church (much of it coming from outside of California) to fund a highly effective ad campaign that resulted in a whopping 52.3% majority vote.

tom of finlandThey’ll teach your kid about homosexuality in school, they threatened. The majority was swayed! My kid will learn to be gay, the way all those gay kids learned from schoolmates and parents to be straight!

Whether or not it could possibly be legal to take away constitutional rights from one’s neighbors two states to the left is not what’s being argued tomorrow in court. The issue is this: whether this proposition revised or just amended the Constitution. Was something just added or was something fundamental changed?

When the Constitution is designed to protect all people’s rights, including the basic right to be equally protected by all laws, changing part of our state constitution so that it removes that right constitutes a lot more than an “addition.” If you want to revise the function of the state constitution–like, for example, revising it to obliterate this right–you must get the approval of the state legislature and get at least a 60% majority, neither of which Prop. 8 got or will ever get.

Can a group of voters–even a “majority”–enact something that’s illegal? Even if it’s popular? Slavery, public hangings, preventing women from voting, bans on interracial marriage, and marital rape were all SUPER popular in the past. The majority preferred them by a huge margin, much larger than 52.3%.

Yet they were ruled illegal. But why? After all, they were “the will of the people,” just like the ban on Ellen deGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s marriage is the will of 52.3% of voting Californians.

In California, we’ve decided to honor the will of the people, even though we know that when voting on this issue, many were thinking not about what is right for all, what the law allows, or what the rights of others are, but about their own preferences and beliefs, never considering what the consequences might be or whether others share their beliefs. There are times when the majority, although they have the right to make laws, aren’t really intellectually or emotionally equipped to do so. Isn’t that how we held onto–for far too long–the prohibitions on interracial marriage, women voting, and Jews owning property? The will of the people overruled the more considered views of the California state legislature. Governor Schwarzenegger could have vetoed the Prop. 8 vote, but he declined, saying that “it was the will of the people.” And so it stands, illegal, immoral, unfair, and probably permanent until a Supreme Court decision in Washington rules it unconstitutional once and for all.

Fine. Let’s honor the will of the people. Let’s all date teenagers, divorce at will, text while driving, watch 6 hours of TV a day, slurp 64-ounce sodas, spank our kids, and buy cheap Chinese junk (made by slaves) at Walmart. From now on, I’m taking all my political cues from the *majority* of Californians. I love learning about my civil and constitutional rights from people who didn’t graduate from college (58% of non-college graduates voted in favor of Prop. 8), just like I love learning about the Bible from people who can’t read a newspaper article.

Majority rules, dude! It brought us slavery, war, The Inquisition, *American Idol*, the ascent of people like Britney Spears and George Bush, and a lot of other good stuff. Let’s roll with it.

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