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Something's Rotten in Denmark – Oh,...I mean California.

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Yes, I was pleased, almost surprised that the country elected Obama.  I think he offers hope and reestablishes that it’s OK to be intelligent and be President.  Now, for the first time in eight years, I can again listen to a President give a speech, hold a press conference or present an address to the Nation.  During Bush’s terms, I’ve almost become physically ill at the sound of his voice and I’ve been unable to abide watching his smirking face for more than a minute or two when it flashed on the TV or computer screen.   Thank god those days will be soon end.  It will take years to repair the damage he has done.

 

While the November fourth election went mostly in directions I favored, there were some results I found extremely disheartening.  Outcomes that made my blood boil.  On the one hand, our country (and its voters) has grown enough to throw off racial bias and elect our first black President. People resisted all the smear and fear tactics used against him by his opposition.  Not so however in all of the contests - and not so in California where a majority of voters affirmed Proposition 8 thereby yanking the emotional and legal rug out from under over 18,000 married gay couples by amending the California Constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman.

 

There is something very wrong about this and the other state measures that - by religious standards - decide who can and cannot participate in “marriage”.  Such amendments seem to forever exclude gay people from partaking in the social and legal benefits of civil marriage and in many cases, any other type of civil relationship similar to “marriage”.  There is something rotten about the idea that the fundamental right to be treated equally under the law can be set aside by religious based dictates energized by deliberately instilled and deliberately fanned irrational fears.  There is something very odious about the notion that the “will of the people” can be used to club a minority group into second class citizenship status while at the same time expecting them to pay taxes.  Civil rights - and the freedom to marry is a civil right no matter what “they” say about that matter - should never be subjected to a populous vote.  The founders of this country never intended that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness be granted only to those gaining it by a 51% majority.  They held that equal treatment under the law is essential. One of their first actions after adopting the Federal Constitution was to enshrine the Bill of Rights for no other reason than to protect individuals from the majority.  Any law that does not meet this standard is a bad law.  Proposition 8, and those like it are among the worst.

 

Even more distressing is the manner in which the California vote was manipulated.  With the ingestion of millions of out of state dollars, from branches of the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormons (who lied to people and produced over 15 million in donations to support the passage of Proposition 8) plus hundreds of thousands given by other self-identified evangelical and fundamentalist types, those in opposition to P8 were simply out shouted on the airways. Over 70 million dollars were squandered (both sides of the issue) - money that could have been better spent on any number of useful causes.  Worse yet, the anti-gay marriage religious types seemed not at all troubled by promoting deliberate lies in order to frighten the electorate into saying yes to rescinding a right granted to gays in California only months before by the reasoned decision of the California State Supreme Court that well understood the principle of equal treatment under the law.

 

Simply put, whether in California, Florida, Arizona or wherever….any state that has passed a constitutional amendment to exclude gays from the institution of civil marriage has done a great disservice not only to gays but to the very principals on which this great country was founded.

 

Keep in mind that the United States is not now and never has been a “simple democracy”.   The primary characteristic of a simple democracy is rule by the majority. Under such a structure, the individual (or any group of persons composing a minority) has no protection against the unlimited power of the majority.  Fifty one percent and you’re overruled!  It’s Majority-over-Man.

 

If the United States were a simple democracy, George W. Bush would never have become President in 2000 as he lost the popular contest by over one-half million votes. He was installed as President only after great contention and the intervention of the US Supreme Court.  If we were a simple democracy, then a jury would only have to reach the 51% mark for conviction or acquittal. 

 

Seems that the idea that the US is a federal constitutional republic has been lost in all the fear and hate speech so readily propagated by those wrapping themselves in supposed conservative values and gleefully, in very un-Christ like manners, digging their heels into the hearts of gay citizens whose only desire is to partake of the civil, legal and cultural benefits associated with marriage. These types berate the Judiciary for doing its job but then fight like hell to see to it that judges are installed who reflect their views. They forget that in our form of government, elected representatives must govern according to existing constitutional law.  Our founding Constitution and laws limit government's power over citizens. In our “Constitutional Republic”, executive, legislative, and judicial powers are supposed to be separate - creating checks and balances on each other. The “will of the majority” is supposed to be modulated as a protection for individual rights and so no person or group has absolute power. 

 

Even the placement of anti-gay marriage measures into states constitutions flies in the face of this principal and for this reason, they will all eventually fall.  The question of civil marriage for gays is not equivalent to passing some tax levy or deciding to float bonds to finance some public work.  No, gay marriage is a civil issue and should never be subject to the will of the people or the tyranny of the majority.

 

It the “meantime” what concerns me and others most is the immeasurable grief, despair and uncertainty these mean-spirited measures have created.  I am astounded by the willingness of religious types to lie and distort truth in service of their goal.  I am disheartened by how quickly voters are willing to change their thoughts and feelings based on slickly presented TV ads.  I suppose these same sort of things would cause despair in our founding fathers and would be again offered as reason for creating a form of government that was free of the tyranny of the majority.  Someday, we will get there.  But not today.

 

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Following 35 or so years of clinical, teaching and administrative practice as a psychologist, I am now semi-retired, or at least - trying to be. In addition to some years in private practice, I also taught undergraduate psychology courses full-time (more...)
 

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