Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Post-Election Day Blues

An off-season Election Day is a funny thing. There are low turnouts, no national races, and few big stories for the political media to analyze to death (not that that stops them). But these elections, no matter how scattered or small, impact people's lives, sometimes to a devastating effect.

Such is the case in Maine, where a proposition to overturn the state's same sex marriage law passed 53-47 (96% of precincts reporting). Gay marriage has now lost public votes in 31 states. Foes of same sex marriage claim that the results demonstrate that decisionmakers are "out of touch" and that the will of the people has been upheld.

All this heartbreaking loss proves is that the civil rights of a minority should never be decided by a majority. These referendums ask an oppressive populace if they would like to continue oppressing those who are different from them, and then claim that the results are the will of the people. While voting gives a voice to the people and is our fundamental right, the American people cannot use that right to dominate others. The founders of this nation understood that. From James Madison's Federalist Paper 51:

"It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure."

Slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement: none of these social ills were made illegal by popular vote. And so we fight on.

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