Tag Archives: fundamental rights

Democracy and Liberty Continued…

Indiana’s very “Christian” Governor has come out (no pun intended) in favor of letting Hoosiers vote on whether the state should recognize same-sex marriages. He has also disclaimed any intent to discriminate–why bless my grits, honey, he’s all in favor of people choosing their own lifestyles! Surely it can’t be discriminatory to deny civil recognition to non-biblical unions, even if that recognition does carry with it 1030+ rights and privileges.

After all, what’s a little tax inequity among friends?

As a member of Indiana’s legislature assured me the last time I testified against HJR 6 or whatever the number was–there is absolutely no discrimination involved here. The same marriage laws apply to straight and gay people–they can all marry people of the opposite sex.

And rich and poor people alike are prohibited from sleeping under bridges.

The problem with voting on a constitutional amendment that would deny certain people rights that our laws deem to be fundamental is that–in our system, under our Constitution–rights are not subject to the whims of the majority. That’s why they are rights, rather than privileges. No one said it better than Justice Jackson, in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. In my all-time favorite Supreme Court quote, Jackson wrote

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein..The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

Presumably, Governor Pence and Brian Bosma both slept through Constitutional Law. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that they might suddenly remember this principle if they faced mean-spirited, politically-motivated efforts to vote on their fundamental rights.