You often hear supporters of same-sex marriage claim that we should not have ballot initiatives to determine whether marriage is one man or one woman because, as they say, “you don’t vote on civil rights.”
That’s simply untrue.
Otherwise, how would you determine what those civil rights are? Just because some claims a right does not mean he has that right. If someone claimed the civil right to have sex with children does it mean he has that right? Of course not. As a democratic society we have decided that no one has the right to have sex with children. What if someone claimed the right to steal from those with more money than him? He might get all kinds of support for the idea from those of the same economic level (or lower, in which case he better watch what he has), and if they got enough petition signatures they could put it before legislators who would either vote against putting it on the ballot or vote for it. If it passed, then the voters themselves could decide, and if they wish they could hold the pro-steal-from-the-rich legislators accountable in the next election.
But in either case it is clear that there must be some body, some authority that determines whether something is a civil right. In our democratic republic, government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Political power and authority flows from the governed.
But in many recent decisions, including the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court’s “Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health” and the vote by the Mass. Legislature to recess rather than vote on a ballot petition, that has been turned on its head.
In reality, according this way of thinking, you don’t vote on civil rights… you have them imposed upon you by an unelected panel of judges and then confirmed by a minority of legislators subverting their constitutional duty. I’d prefer that the people vote. Democracy is preferable to oligarchy