Thursday, November 6, 2008

PROPOSITION 8 IN CALIFORNIA: A TRAGEDY FOR CIVIL RIGHTS BEING AT THE MERCY OF A TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY

This is an excellent article that deserves to be read in its entirety.

Proposition 8 in California passed by a margin of six percentage points (According to CNN news yesterday evening.), which is quite a significant percentage difference, and attests to the effectiveness of the "religious" right wing's propaganda from the pulpits throughout California last Sunday, as well as the effectiveness of the massive amounts of money poured into commercials that ignorantly, deceitfully, cynically, and hatefully played upon the fears of parents that their children would be harmed by the defeat of Proposition 8.

Part of the above article, reads as follows:

"For months, pro-gay marriage campaigners fretted that a big turnout for Obama would tip the scales in favour of Proposition 8 because it would bring out record numbers of African-Americans, who tend to hold more conservative social views. A CNN poll seems to suggest that's exactly what happened, with African-Americans voting 69 to 31 in favour. It goes without saying that we wouldn't be seeing the election of a black American today had the civil rights battles of the 1960s been decided by public referenda – a message we would do well to play up more."

The outcome of this vote is akin to the U.S. Supreme Court's affirming Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 and then subsequently overturning that vote with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. In my opinion, the same will occur in this matter, when it eventually goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and the argument, in part, is made that the U.S. Supreme Court in the latter decision said in reference to a minority group that "separate is not equal."

Although I'm not an attorney, Brown v. Board of Education seems to be the best argument against the constitutionality of the outcome of this vote, as it demonstrates the tyranny of the majority toward a minority group that overturned the California Supreme Court's decision that found that to deny same-sex couples the right to marry was, and always had been, unconstitutional.

Since when are civil rights to be determined by popular vote? Since when can a popular vote overturn a State Supreme Court's decision? Since when can a majority vote of any electorate override a Supreme Court's judicial decision concerning a constitutionally protected right?

If mere public opinion determined the acquisition of civil rights of a given minority group, we'd undoubtedly still have such egregious legally protected sources of discrimination and oppression as Jim Crow laws and institutional Segregation.

Moreover, if this decision of the voters regarding Prop. 8 is allowed to stand, the civil rights of every single minority group is up for grabs as they are now at the mercy of all sorts of demagogues who can whip up enough frenzy among the electorate to overturn hitherto taken for granted civil rights that are enjoyed by citizens of California, even overturning past California State Supreme Court rulings that have for long affirmed those rights.

None of us in California, having the vote on Prop. 8 as a precedent by its affirming discrimination within the state's Constitution, is immune from being victimized in the same manner, should the economic, social, and political conditions be ripe for such demagoguery to again rear its ugly head.

It's a crying shame that the African American voters who voted for this discriminatory Proposition weren't able to transcend their own narrow self-interests and prejudices and see that the grinding oppression faced by their parents and grandparents was due to the very same mind-set that prompted them to vote for Proposition 8; they and all others who voted for that Proposition didn't learn from their civics courses in high school that we are a nation of laws, and not of human beings, and that we are all equal before the law.

Although I'm not particularly sanguine about the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, it seems to me that the satisfactory resolution of this matter will ultimately be found there.

In the meantime, increasing meaningful grassroots and organizational activism is needed, along with significant amounts of education to dispel so many of the myths associated with Gay people in the minds of many Straight people who have a distorted picture of what it means to be Gay and of Gay people's lives, so that more potential Straight allies can be recruited to help meaningfully fight in this struggle for full equality.
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4 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

As I told you privately, Jerry, the courts are the only place where these nightmarish ballot initiatives can be nipped in the bud. These campaigns to outvote the bigots on a measure that should NEVER be voted on are futile and a complete waste of time and money. Worse, they validate an unconstitutional process that all but spits on the Bill of Rights.

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks Don Charles. I think that this issue will have to be adjudicated before the U.S. Supreme Court before the smoke will clear. I have absolutely no doubt that same-sex marriage will become a reality in every single state of the union, but when that happens is the question. I know it won't be in my lifetime, but I have hopes that it will be in the lifetime of the next generation of people who will then no longer have to suffer such hateful speech and the indignities attendant upon being treated as second class citizens, and have that discriminatory and oppressive treatment be done under the color of law and with the hearty facilitation and blessing of most of organized "religion."

genevieve said...

My feeling is that African-Americans need to educate themselves better. ANother is the denial factor. The denial led to AIDS ravaging our community where now we're playing catch-up as far as treatment and resources are concerned.

As a trans person I am disappointed. However I am positive that allies have been gained. I could go into a long diatrobe about using children for political purposes but that's for another blog.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Genevieve: I hope you're right that allies have been gained, but I'm not so sure. Best wishes, Jerry.