The judgment from the Supreme Court in California last week raises interesting points, the chief of which is, “Should the wishes of the majority take precedence?”
It is Judge Vaugn Walker’s assertion that the ballot-led Proposition 8 in the state, which outlawed gay marriage, “was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples”.
“One of the biggest outcries over Prop 8 was that the fundamental rights of a minority group could be taken away by popular vote – which isn't supposed to happen in America, land of the free,” says an opinion piece by Joel P. Engardio in USA Today.
Engardio says that the Jehovah’s Witnesses helped Walker to form his judgment, and you’ll need to click on the link to see how – but it’s an interesting read, going back to an incident when JW kids were expelled from public (state) schools for not saluting the American flag and how a judge at the time, Robert Jackson, talked of the “tyranny of the masses” – a phrase immortalised by Alex de Tocqueville in his 19th-century book Democracy in America.
A subhead in the USA Today story says “Rights trump elections”, and this is the basis of Walker’s judgment: if the will of the majority could be trumped in the JWs’ case, it can be trumped here. The rights of what was an unpopular religion were protected – minority rights – so they should be protected here.
It’s noteworthy that, while the Mormons helped to swing the Proposition 8 vote against gay marriage, the JWs, although they’re as against same-sex unions as the Mormons are, didn’t vote. They’re apolitical. “Rather than forcing their beliefs through legislation, they prefer to find converts by sharing a message,” says the paper.
Unfortunately, they share the message by knocking on your door at the most inconvenient times and are often hard to get rid of. On one occasion, I just started pointedly eyeing up the younger of two men who called. They soon left.