Thursday, May 29, 2008


Entitled "Most Californians Support Gay Marriage", the results of: "A Field Poll released today finds a small majority of registered voters here believe same-sex couples should have the right to marry, the first time since polling on the issue began in the 1970s that more voters in the state have approved of gay marriage than disapproved. Some 51 percent of voters surveyed since the Supreme Court ruling say they approve of gay and lesbian couples marrying; 42 percent disapprove."

Although virtually all same-sex couples, and all people who care about equal rights, are delighted with both the California Supreme Court's decision and the results of this recent poll, it's still a mistake to put any civil rights issue before the public and, hence, be at the mercy of the will or even tyranny of the majority. Clearly, when it comes to such issues as taxation, ballot initiatives are certainly acceptable, if not desirable. However, when it comes to any civil rights issue, particularly one as contentious as is this one, the judiciary must be allowed to have the last word.

Moreover, regarding same-sex marriage being subject to a vote of the majority: 1. Civil rights are not to be subject to majority vote, as if we had that we'd still have such obscenities as slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws in this country; 2. We're not a Democracy but a Republic and we elect people to our various legislatures to represent us, and the California Legislature twice voted to allow same-sex marriage in California that was subsequently overturned by the Governor both times as he wanted to defer to the Supreme Court, and he now supports same-sex marriage because of the Court's decision.

We have a Republic to prevent a tyranny of the majority, as the Founding Fathers well knew that in order to have the "rule of law" we couldn't count on the majority vote to enable or fulfill that goal. That's why we have the Balance of Powers, and both the California Legislature and now the Supreme Court in California both say that "separate is not equal," and that same-sex marriage rights must be implemented.

So, even with the tentatively encouraging results of this Field Poll, the results of which are subject to great change over time, none of us should be content to have this civil rights issue come before the electorate!
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Evan Ravitz said...

Jerry, voters on initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for such deliberative process is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel: Also

Ballot initiatives are the origin of most reforms, such as women's suffrage (passed in 13 states before Congress went along), direct election of Senators (4 states), publicly financed elections (by initiative in 6 of 7 states with them), medical marijuana (8 of 13 states) and increasing minimum wages (in all 6 states that tried in 2006). The media have seized on the problem initiatives. They generally kiss up to politicians and downgrade citizens.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Evan: I agree that there are some issues that should be taken directly to the public, such as proposed increases in taxes. However, I reiterate that when it comes to civil rights issues that deal with institutionalized discrimination and/or with "separate but equal" issues, that is to be within the purview of the judiciary.

In addition, we cannot be in the position of allowing civil rights issues to be subject to majority vote, as emotions almost always trump law, even among an informed electorate; since we are a nation of law, the courts have been the arm of Government that is to be the arbiter of interpreting the Constitution as fits civil rights cases (most of which are hot button issues that engage the emotions of people), as they presumably dispassionately analyze the facts of the case before them, using the Constitution as their guiding principle.

In addition, in this particular case, the California State Legislature, elected by the people of California, affirmed same-sex marriage on two different occasions, and the Governor vetoed their decision both times, justifying his veto by saying that this issue was to be a judicial decision, and to be within the purview of the judiciary, and he's now, therefore, supported the California State Supreme Court decision.

Although I think I understand where you're coming from, and am not unsympathetic to your argument as I understand it, "separate is not equal," regardless of what might be the will of the majority. As I wrote in my post, that why the Founding Fathers made the U.S. a Republic and not a Democracy, as they distrusted the possibility (and likelihood) of having a tyranny of the majority.

Regarding fully and dispassionately informing the electorate about any and all issues that affect us, and the media kissing up to politicians and downgrading citizens, we are not at all in any disagreement.

Anonymous said...

i would have to say that i agree completely with you on this one

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks Katie.