I must put in my two cents on this matter. I must. Proposition 8 in California.
Proposition 8 in California does not forwardly affect me in any way. My state put this down somewhere around 60/30 back in 2004; Ohio may fall blue every once in a while, but we are not that “progressive.” Regardless of the fact that Prop. 8 does not concern me, I watched the results of it with bated breath, even more so than with the presidential election.
What is key in this issue is that I really don’t know where I stand on it. I know what the Bible says about gays in general, I know what Jesus also says about loving everyone (Matthew 22:36-40) and I remember my past rants about changing the definition of a “union” to help alleviate some of these problems without ever having to touch the (nowadays often symbolic) institution of marriage. I know and remember all of this, but none of it matters at all when it comes to Prop 8. NOT. AT. ALL. The only thing of consequence in Prop 8 is the fact that the will of the people was actively overruled by five individuals who felt they knew better than the majority of the state.
This is not the first time the voters of California have encountered this particular issue on their ballot. Twice before this year, the voters saw this issue on the ballot and twice the voters voted in one direction, specifically against gay marriage. In 2008, five people took the law into their own hands, defying the will of the people and essentially distorting any image that ours is a country of the people, by the people and for the people. This, and this alone, is what destroys me every time I think about Prop 8.
I may not get so heated when I take time to ponder this if the results of the current vote and previous votes had not been so one-sided, but they are and so I am. The people made a decision twice before this, these far-reaching judges overturned the people’s decision and, once more, the people have come to the same conclusion. It was not as if the people were incensed over a narrowly-winning proposition and the judges had to step into the fray to cast that “so-called” deciding ballot to quell the masses on either side. These judges simply made a decision that echoed in the ears of all US citizens only to have the people, by a majority, return their former decision.
The US voting system, in most cases, is very simple; the one who gets the most votes wins. This means that if 50.000019% of the people vote in one way or another, that percentage will win. Is this always the best of measures? It depends on how you look at it, but it is a fact and a necessary cog of democracy. In California, the people came together, cast their ballots and voted against gay marriage, yet several years later, five judges felt they knew better than the majority of the people and took it upon themselves to overturn the will of the people!
Let’s break this down into terms that anyone should be able to understand.
Barack won over McCain in the US presidential election by a 52-48% margin. If we were to apply the same circumstances in California to the general election, five out of nine Supreme Court judges could decide that they know better than the majority and…that’s right, overturn the will of the people and name John McCain as President of the United States, even though the people had spoken. Imagine the Supreme Court doing so, not just after the election, but say, a year or two into Obama’s presidency.
Unbelievable, no? Thankfully, our electoral process does not allow something like that to happen, but no such protection is afforded to people of California. The people voted against same sex marriages and five people, not a caucus of judges, not several sets of judges from various circuits and districts, not a series of congressmen and women directly elected into office and subject to voter scrutiny every few years, FIVE people decided that they know better than the majority and reversed the will of the people. As an American citizen, I am outraged!
This goes well beyond issue itself. I don’t really care how the people voted at this point. What matters here is that the people voted and those judges out-stepped their jurisdiction to overturn the will of the people! I will say it again: five judges overturned the will of the people!!! Where is the ACLU on this one? These judges are trampling the very essence of democracy and there is no one screaming about the real issue! I would be just as outraged over this if the people had voted for gay marriage and five judges decided that the people did not know best and overturned that decision. It makes no difference what the issue is. What matters here is that the will of the people had been disregarded by a select few and if it can happen there over one issue…it can happen in any state over any issue.
Just imagine it: The people have decided on fewer taxes. Bam! Five judges can say the people don’t know what is best for them and reverse the will of the people to allow unwanted taxes fall upon the people. The people have decided that they want harsher sentences for sexual offenders. Bam! Five judges can say the people don’t know what is best for them and reverse the will of the people to let sex offenders off with lighter sentences since the “prisons are already too full.” The people have decided that they want capital punishment, looser gun laws, less government interference in their daily lives, and so on and so forth. Bam! Five judges can say the people don’t know what is best for them and reverse the will of the people to turn our once great nation into a socialist empire headed by a series of “judges” who all know what is best for the people.
Does this sound irrational? Does this sound utterly far fetched? If anyone had told me a year earlier that five judges could overturn a decision decided upon, not by over-zealous politicians, but directly by the people, I too would have called these scenarios far fetched. And, yet…here we are.
Further investigation into the results of California’s Proposition 8 have unveiled the need for a poignant correction. It was not actually five judges who overturned the people’s decision. The California Supreme Court consists of seven, not nine judges. And, so, it is even worse…On May 15, 2008, four people, not five, overturned a decision made by the majority. The whole thing stinks even stronger with one less person over-stepping the bounds of the judiciary.