Friday, May 16, 2008

Can the "will of the people" ever be wrong?

The "will of the people" is not always correct. In a state where the rights of only the majority are respected, minorities are oppressed. If you want to see what happens in a place where the majority is always "right", imagine moving to a Muslim country with Shariac Law in the Middle East as a Christian minority.

Protection of minorities is essential in a Free State and Democracy. That's why the U.S. Constitution grants us rights such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religious choice, and the right to vote. We are granted further inalienable rights such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When the "will of the people" is to quash these inalienable rights by passing laws which remove the rights of a class of minorities, the Constitution must step in to protect us. Equal rights for all citizens outweigh any "popular vote" of opinion.

Let us turn back the clock a few mere decades to see how the "will of the people" can be wrong.

In 1967, a Gallup pool showed 96 percent of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. Sixteen states had laws making it illegal for Blacks to marry Whites. These states included Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Furthermore, some of the laws prevented Asians, Native Americans, Filipinos, or all non-Whites to marry Whites.

In the same year, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional these anti-miscegenation laws there was a public outrage in many of these states. Opponents of mixed-race marriages decried the union of loving interracial couples, claiming that such marriages would destroy our traditions and undermine the moral foundation of America.

But before the defeat of all anti-miscegenation laws in the US Supreme Court, there were smaller skirmishes in various state supreme courts.

Some of these skirmishes went for the segregationists.

In 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed couple in Virginia had gone to D.C. to get married where interracial marriages were legal. They returned to Virginia and were arrested for living together as an interracial couple. They were found guilty and were sentenced to jail terms for merely "Loving" each other. Judge Leon Bazile suspended their sentence on the condition that the Lovings would leave Virginia and not return for 25 years.

So the Lovings were banished from the state and moved to D.C. Five years later they tried to appeal this decision but the judge replied:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Other skirmishes went to committed couples who fought the "popular vote" to be together -- For example, the 1948 ruling in California's Supreme Court which overturned the state's 98 year old "tradition" of outlawing mixed-race marriages.

The issue of interracial marriages had been supposedly "settled" by state laws prior to the 1967 US Supreme Court ruling. In the end, though, the issue was decided in the courts (both federal and states) where some brave judges upheld that fundamental rights the Constitution grants us for the pursuit of happiness overrule any mere law passed by Legislators following the shouts of the majority.

These judges were merely doing their job making America a better place by insuring her citizens were granted equal rights. They were not "activist judges" although perhaps that's what they would be called today. They were certainly called worse names back in the day.

Does this sound familiar today?

Ask yourself if you would be denied the right to love before you ask another to give up that right.

Please pass this on. Thanks.

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