Voting away rights is a scary prospect

The author of a Sunday letter, “Gay marriage: Vote was a victory for states’ rights,” does not appear to have a full understanding of many things in regard to Proposition 8, particularly the principle of “states’ rights” which he so vehemently supports.

First of all, the matter of states’ rights is not really applicable to this situation, as we are only dealing with the California legal system. But what is more notable is the history surrounding the term “states’ rights.” In the 19th century, it was used by Southern states that said their rights allowed them to continue the practice of slavery. During the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century, the slogan was used primarily by white supremacists who said that it was their states’ right to enforce the racist Jim Crow laws that segregated schools, forbade blacks from marrying whites and prevented blacks from voting. Strom Thurmond, one of the fiercest supporters of Jim Crow, ran for president in 1948 on the segregationist “States’ Rights” ticket. I would certainly hope that a sensible 21st century letter writer does not support any of these things.

Furthermore, the issue at stake with Proposition 8 is not really about gay marriage, but more so the disturbing precedent it sets. The writer states that a society in which judges may overturn decisions by the people is “not the democratic society (he) envisions.” It is worth asking what sort of society he does envision. A society in which there are no courts to protect the rights of the minority, and in which the public can simply vote to take away the rights of certain groups, is far more frightening.

Stephen Kirkpatrick


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