All democracies are systems in which citizens freely make political decisions by majority rule. In the words of American essayist E.B. White: “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time.”
But majority rule, by itself, is not automatically democratic. No one, for example, would call a system fair or just that permitted 51 percent of the population to oppress the remaining 49 percent in the name of the majority. In a democratic society, majority rule must be coupled with guarantees of individual human rights that, in turn, serve to protect the rights of minorities and dissenters — whether ethnic, religious, or simply the losers in political debate. The rights of minorities do not depend upon the good will of the majority and cannot be eliminated by majority vote. The rights of minorities are protected because democratic laws and institutions protect the rights of all citizens.
This publication is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs. This is the story we tell the world. It’s apparently lost on those here at home who voted to eliminate gay couples’ rights — my right — to marry.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Proposition 8 was approved here in California, eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry. And as you might expect, I am sad and angry, but ultimately resolved to continue fighting. If the newly filed lawsuits don’t overturn Prop 8, then for sure we will have a new initiative on the ballot in a couple of years to restore our equal rights.
There are some silver linings: state domestic partnership, while not equal to marriage, is intact; among various age groups, opposition to Prop 8 was highest among young voters; and on a personal level I am proud of my home county (San Mateo) for voting 62% against it.
Thom and I took part in a massive protest march in San Francisco last Friday (photo of us here courtesy of Julie). The march started at Civic Center and followed Market to Castro, ending at Dolores Park. What an amazing sight. This is the kind of passion and momentum we need to carry going forward.
Lest there be any confusion: same-sex marriage is currently legal in California. Prop 8 would amend the state constitution and take that civil right away from hundreds of thousands of Californians, including me. Let’s not write discrimination into our constitution.
If you live in California, I ask you to vote NO on Prop 8. Ask your friends and family to vote NO. And anyone can make a donation — big or small, every bit helps — to the No on Prop 8 campaign.