Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Sweet Land of Liberty

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind."

"And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions."

Thomas Jefferson uttered these words during his first Presidential Inauguration on March 4, 1801. They are words the current President and many conservatives would do well to pay attention to. We seem to have strayed from these ideals: that minorities must possess equal rights and that the will of the majority is not always just or correct. In my opinion the so-called activist judges have done exactly what Mr. Jefferson said they must, making sure that the law protects a minority and to end oppression.

Popular opinion was against the legalization of interracial marriage even when the Supreme Court overruled any law that prohibited it in the 1960's. Popular opinion has been against same-sex marriage. It doesn't mean that the majority is right. Just because the majority isn't in favor of it, doesn't mean that right (and the Supreme Court defined marriage as a right in that landmark case) should be taken from a group. To put it in the words of William Lowndes Yancey, a Congressman of both the US Congress and Confederate Senate, "Constitutions are made solely for the protection of the minorities in government, and for the guidance of majorities."

President Jefferson also alludes to slipping the snare of religious prosecution and intolerance. Fundamentalist want to insist that this is a Christian nation built upon Judeo-Christian ethics. This piece of creative rewriting of history ignores the fact that while many of our founding fathers believed in God or a god, several of them (Jefferson included) were Deist, who believed that God set the wheels in motion and left the system to run on its own. This nation was set up in part to escape state-imposed religion, yet this is exactly what the Religious Right seeks to establish. Fundamentalists will not be satisfied until the United States is a theocratic democracy: you get to participate if you're a right-wing Christian. Christians who disagree are heretics and may not participate. The Religious Right has already done a great job of sinking its hooks into the Republican party. Christians need to wake up and realize that the Religious Right is a political movement about the establishment of power for certain individuals, not about the protection of some idealized Christian nation or even the protection of Christian rights and beliefs. The Religious Right seeks to become that "despotic, wicked" persecuting power not seen since the American Revolution or perhaps the Inquisition.

Hope does exist, however. A recent LA Times study shows an increased support for gay marriage, although not an overwhelming or even a majority numer. Slightly over half the respondants favored at least civil unions. Other values and ideas about gays also tend to be improving. A vast majority support keeping gays in the military (70%) and many feel that gays should have civil right protections similar to other minorities (62%). So, the picture is looking up, although the struggle is not over. Although some may object to my discounting the majority when it disagrees with me, but fully embracing it when its opinion is favorable, certainly that does not inherently make the majority right, but it does make this minority happy.

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