November 4th, 2009

ff13 - lightning

We already knew this, but...

The outcome of the election in Maine is proof positive that we should not be making decisions regarding people's civil rights at the ballot box.

Take it away, Melissa McEwan:

Historically, we have depended on the courts to make decisions about the application of constitutional guarantees in spite of popular opinion, and they have repeatedly secured protections for marginalised groups decades before Congress and state legislatures, which more closely track public opinion, would have done. John Rogers once noted that "when the supreme court struck down the bans against interracial marriage in 1968 through Virginia v Loving, 72% of Americans were against interracial marriage. As a matter of fact, approval of interracial marriage in the US didn't cross the positive threshold until – sweet God – 1991".

That's exactly 30 years after our current president was born to an interracial couple.[1]

Waiting for the whole of society to be on board with granting equal rights to everyone is simply not in our collective best interest.

[1] And now, almost 20 years later, we have a justice of the peace who resigned rather than perform interracial marriages. Which just goes to show that prejudice against interracial couples is hardly dead. It isn't even hiding very well.

Attitudes do change. I have even seen them changing over my adulthood, to the point where a Washington state initiative legalizing strong civil unions is barely a blip on the national news radar. Remember when Vermont created civil unions and threw the entire nation into a tizzy? That was in 2000. Not even 10 years ago. So the tide will turn, eventually. We're seeing them in motion now. But (to switch metaphors) would the door even have started to open if judges -- first in Vermont, then in Massachusetts -- hadn't forced it a few cracks? Would Jim Crow laws ever have been defeated by popular vote? Guaranteeing our rights is what the court system is for. We should let it do its job.