Saturday, February 03, 2007

Inevitable Unexpected Consequences and Unrealistic Expectations

Fallout from the Michigan ruling denying benefits to same-sex couples included a sad tidbit that encapsulates damn near perfectly the reason why the civil right of unpopular minorities should never be determined by a public vote.

First, if you haven't heard, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the state's gay marriage ban (approved by voters in 2004) means that public universities and state/local government agencies can no longer give benefits to unmarried partners. I forget the percentage by which the marriage amendment passed, but now, of course, many people are arguing that the voters really only wanted to ban gay marriage, not take away people's health benefits.

Saith the court to that? Tough shit. Tough shit, saith the court:
"It is a cornerstone of a democratic form of government to assume that a free people act rationally in the exercise of power, are presumed to know what they want, and to have understood the proposition submitted to them in all of its implications," the judges wrote.

In the words of Darth Cheney, I fundamentally disagree with your premise. Particularly when the issue at hand is emotionally charged and grounded far more in religious doctrine than rational thought, free people--the majority--are rarely rational in their exercise of power. Understanding all the implications of a proposition is a pipe dream when the majority of your population is more interested in which bimbo celebrity is flashing her waxed nethers or what Special Olympian is being mocked on American Idol this week than in thoroughly reading about a proposition whose potential for harming a target population is huge.

It's even more of a pipe dream when the proponents of the legislation take great pains to insist that it's only about marriage, that no one's benefits will be taken away, that it's not designed as a punitive measure denying a segment of the population rights and benefits everyone else already has. The Michigan amendment, and the anti-marriage equality amendments in other states, have all been pushed, essentially, as a squeaky-clean way to smack down fags and dykes without, you know, really hurting anyone. The anonymous drive-by opportunity was too much for unthinking people to pass up. So they voted yes, and two years later the benefits fallout--remember, that was promised to not happen--lands, the fruit is borne, the chickens have come home to roost.

People are stupid and vindictive. The cornerstone of any social system is that everyone will obey the rules of the social contract, but we still lock our doors at night and don't leave large piles of cash unattended. Civil rights should be just as conscientiously protected, and never put to a referendum any more than the contents of my wallet should.

1 comment:

Damien said...

the best layed plans of mice and men often go astray....

they'll continue to be vindictive and stupid until some repercussion hits them directly (like with the global warming "debate"). Maybe if the religious right gets powerful enough, this will be too much to take for even average run-of-the-mill heteros...