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Equality Isn’t Always Popular

February 27, 2012

Earlier this month state legislatures in Washington and New Jersey passed same sex marriage legislations that unfortunately, doesn’t actually guarantees gay Americans the right to marry. Both bills may eventually be up to a popular vote in their respective states, which in actuality limits the liberties it supposedly assures.  It isn’t about big government oppression, liberty, or even some imagined cultural war; it’s about equal protection under the law.

As citizens live in a republic not a democracy. We don’t vote on all policy matters.  Unless a law affects all voters it shouldn’t be up to the biases of all voters.  If Americans waited for the popular acceptance of all controversial matters issues like slavery, women’s suffrage, segregation, and interracial marriage would have swept the country at a glacial pace—and would never have reached some Southern states. Buzzfeed created an impressive informational graphic pointing out what the country might look like if each state had decided on all civil rights issues through a popular vote. It’s terrifying.

In Washington State proponents are already collecting signatures to put gay marriage on a state ballot. In New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed his state’s legislation saying the issue should be put to a referendum saying “People would have been happy with a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets of the South”. Later he apologized claiming he never meant to offend, but his argument remains a divisive and unsettling one.

In New Jersey some public officials understand how upsetting this idea is. Newark Mayor Cory Booker responded to Christie’s comments saying,

Dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority. This is a fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for.

It is nice to see that some people are fighting for equal protect just as popular opinion begins to shift in positive directions. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for the entire country to agree that equality is more than just a buzzword.

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