This was just a drill. If this had been a real emergency you would have been instructed to stick your head in the sand and kiss your civil liberties/civil rights goodbye.
I haven’t written much about the Senate goings-on about the “nuclear option.” As I said before, there were several people out there doing a great job of covering it. But I have been watching the drama unfold, and with a sense of dread. Dread because, though my understanding of the legal system is probably quite limited, it feels like we were—and are—on the verge of a radical shift in our judiciary.
What got me thinking about it was this article about a Massachusetts Supreme Court justice speaking on the subject of majority rule.
The chief justice of the court that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts told Brandeis University graduates on Sunday that judicial independence must be protected from “the will of the majority.”
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall expressed concern over recent attacks against the judiciary.
…Marshall referred to court rulings concerning school desegregation and civil rights as proof that an independent judiciary is vital.
“Individual rights and human dignity are vulnerable when they depend for protection on the will of the majority or the good faith of those in power,” she said.
It bears repeating: Individual rights and human dignity are vulnerable when they depend for protection on the will of the majority or the good faith of those in power.
As an African American and a gay man, I know that the courts played a role in my even being where I am today, because of opportunities I wouldn’t have had but for decisions like Brown v. Board of Education; because people had access to the court as a route to obtaining justice when all other roads were firmly blocked. It’s unlikely things would have advanced as far as they have if the only option was to wait for the will of the majority to shift. There are people whose lives would be radically different today, and perhaps not for the better, had the majority always been allowed to rule.
What we are on the verge of losing in our judicial system just now—and could just as easily lose down the road if we aren’t vigilant—is the principle that might—in the form of numbers, in this case—does not and should not make right. As I’ve said before, it’s the understanding that sometimes the will of the majority may also be the furthest thing from justice, and thus should not be allowed to stand.
We are on the verge of becoming a society where a Brown v. Board of Education could never happen. We are on the verge of becoming a soceity in which injustice would be allowed to stand because it’s believed that’s what most people want. We have only now stepped back an just an inch from the ledge. There will be another push, and another, and another in the next few years.
This evening I got an email containing a statement from Sen. Harry Reid that, while suggesting cause for relief, also foreshadowed battles yet to come.
The integrity of future Supreme Courts has been protected from the undue influences of a vocal, radical faction of the right that is completely out of step with mainstream America. That was the intent of the Republican “nuclear option” from the beginning. Tonight, the Senate has worked its will on behalf of reason, responsibility and the greater good.
Rest assured, the battles over the Supreme Court, and other courts, will come, and the “vocal, radical faction of the right” will do its damndest.
I am not all that relieved by the compromise that’s been reached between Democrat and Republican Senators, even if James Dobson is unhappy with it. One of the judges who will apparenetly get an up-or-down vote, Janice Rogers Brown, is a judge who thinks that families like mine “trivialize family bonds.” William Pryor, another “up-or-down vote” beneficiary, sounds even worse. Neither inspires hope.
Eleventh Circuit Court Justice William Pryor and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, in particular, have taken positions hostile to gay rights while on the bench.
Brown wrote that allowing gays and lesbians to legally adopt a partner’s biological child, “trivializes family bonds.”
Pryor, the former Alabama Attorney General was named by Bush to the 11th Circuit through a recess appointment. He was the swing justice in a ruling against allowing gay couples to adopt in Florida.
He also submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing against ending sodomy laws. In it, he wrote “Petitioners’ protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, a constitutional right that protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’ and ‘whether and how to connect sexually’ must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be ‘willing’).”
If these are indicative the justices the Democrats are willing to let through, I think I’ll have to agree with Ian Walsh. It’s going to be a bad time to be gay in America. At least, unless you can find some friendly, progressive enclave in which to hide yourself and your family. And even then there’s no assurance. Things will probaby get worse before they get better. If they get better.
It remains to be seen whether America will continue to be America. I reiterate my statement from right after the election. In a few years, you won’t be able to recognize this country anymore.