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When Your Vote Shouldn't Count...

Running like crazy today, so I'll try to be brief. Read a bold, but dead-on, piece from Joe Gavrilovich in the Detroit Free Press today about why Americans have no business voting on people's civil rights.

No matter what anyone's personal feelings are about gay marriage, one thing everyone in a civil society should agree on is that the matter should not be put to a vote. No civil right should.

I agree 100 percent and not just when it comes to same-sex marriage. There are just certain liberties that have no business being "granted" to human beings by a vote from others, be that your freedom from government repression of speech or the right to go to any public restroom you choose. Or, yes, the right to marry the person you love. It's past time we Americans stopped thinking it's our collective social role to use our votes to tell consenting adults how to live when those choices don't have anything to do with infringing on our own rights.

And yeah, I know this isn't about public policy in Detroit or crime or educational programs, so please do not come screaming to me about what I "should" be writing about. I just wanted to offer an affirmation of an idea I think should be spared the prejudices, ignorance and mean-spiritedness too often on display at the ballot box when it comes to denying "some" Americans rights that should be universal to us all.

You're free to disagree, of course...and we don't have to vote on it before you do.

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  • 1

    Well, it's either going to be us voting or our elected representatives when they come up with the law. Which is the lesser evil? I'm not always sure.

  • 2

    Our nation voted on the civil rights for Black Americans the idea that gay folks are above the law is nonsense. We are a nation of laws not social, gender or group privledge...

    Our US Constitution is full of rights yet to amend the constitution it requires a national vote.Many states do not allow felons the right to vote these states laws were created by elected public officals. Public Policy means just that Public Policy...

    The idea that gays should not to subject to the laws of a state which define marriage is not logical. No Americans are above the law...

    • 2.1

      You should read some more stuff before saying things are that are just completely factually wrong. There were three major advances at the Federal level in terms of civil rights for African-Americans. In 1948, Harry Truman integrated the U.S. Armed Forces. This was an action taken by the president. It was not a vote by the people. The second was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS. This was a Supreme Court decision. It was not a vote by the people. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an act of the U.S. Congress and not a vote by the people.

      Finally, the U.S. Constitution can be amended in several ways. None of them is by a national vote. In fact, our country has no national vote of any kind. The federal government has no authority to call for or hold a vote by the people of the 50 separate states. Presidential elections are really just 50 smaller state elections that we view together to determine the winner. But that's the only issue or office where voting in one state has any impact on another state.

      You don't help your cause when you make things up. Gays aren't looking to be above the law. They are looking to enforce it. Read the 14th Amendment.

  • 4

    There should be no instance in government of a majority determining the rights appropriate to be held by a minority. A majority should have no ability to vote away the rights or civil liberties of a minority; the political function of "rights" is exactly to protect minorities from oppression by majorities.

    for more on the subject:

    • 4.1

      but then the politics *do* enter into it, right up to and including the selection of the Justices for the land's highest court

    • 4.2

      an ounce: politics also enter into the oppression of minorities in many ways, we are talking about what should happen, not what does. the politics of fear, of hatred, of racism, of apathy... these are the politics that have been the lifeblood of majority rule, and exactly why public referendums on civil liberties are inappropriate.

      Sure, we can give in to fatalism and say, "politics *do* enter into it..." as though the mere fact of a political landscape makes it impossible to envision the possibilty of minority justice, but that does great disservice to the history of our country protecting minority interests through the courts, through legislation, or through executive order. So long as majority-rule public referendums are allowed to dictate civil rights of minorities, minorities' rights will suffer.

    • 4.3

      I agree - and I am sure that you will as well that this concept - both philosophically and morally - applies to, say majorities voting to increase taxation on the minorities for the purpose reallocation of goods, services, or wealth....

    • 4.4

      @kioti: inasmuchas the popular majority ever votes to increase taxation, to whit: millages, the purpose of said votes is not redistribution of wealth, goods or services. Usually, it is to support the interest of the local public schools. It could be argued that public schooling is a service, however, I don't think that is where you were going with your, "redistribution of wealth" comment. As to our representative democracy and proxy majority rule as the machine of oppression of the minority of the very wealthy, I think very persuasive argument could be made that in most cases, it is precisely the interests of that elite minority that is most often served by those in power.

      If I am wrong and you are, in fact, railing against the oppresssion of millages passed by a public majority indifferent to your passionate disinterest in public schooling, then I'm just not sure what to do with that. You're right. Damn kids...

  • 5

    Give a couple of hundred people in Washington a mandate to decide on my civil liberties with no input from their electorate? Yeah, that'll end well. Sorry Joe G but that reasoning is just another case of "Mom said no so go ask Dad".

    • 5.1

      That's why you're always prodded to write to your Congressional critter about issues. You are charged with lobbying for your interests in an effort to get the vote to go your way. If your elected representatives buck the majority of voters in the district you have to power to unseat them.

  • 6

    It's amazing that more people on both sides of the gay marriage issue haven't woken up and thought maybe its not just for an issue like this to be decided based on 50.00001% of the vote going one way or another. However, this isn't a matter that should be left to a legislature or court, it shouldn't be a government matter period.

    Marriage shouldn't be defined by the government. After all what does the government have to do with whether people "love" each other or not, or whatever reason someone decides to marry. Marriages should be private arrangements and everyone should have the option to recognize a marriage or not. Most businesses in a free market will see that its in their best interest not to arbitrarily exclude segments of society based on a prejudice over their marital status.

  • 7

    Darrell -

    You have just validated/confirmed the concept of Natural Law - in that some rights are 'inaliable' (sound familiar) and are not dependent upon being 'granted' by Kings or Men.....

    Our American society defines such inaliable rights as those codified in the Constitution.

    Just wanted to posit that statement - but of course this leads to another discussion as to Marriage and recognition of such as a matter of 'Right'... My modest proposal is to leave the celebration and recognition of Marriage to the Ecclesiastical (sic) or Religious community/structure - while leaving the protective concepts of Marriage as a matter of Contractual issue to be recognized and enforced by the Civil Community/Structure...

  • 8

    I also find it pretty amusing that Darrell thinks there are

    "certain liberties that have no business being "granted" to human beings by a vote from others, be that your freedom from government repression of speech or the right to go to any public restroom you choose. Or, yes, the right to marry the person you love."

    Darrell which liberties do we have a business in granting to human beings? Why isn't our right to possess property exempt from being voted on by humans or otherwise infringed by the government? It's comical that you can get so up in arms over an issue like gay marriage, (which if you read my previous post I agree shouldn't be voted on), but can be gung ho in your previous posts about the government bailing out Detroit and other social programs. Where does that money come from? Unfortunately government is built on the seizure of our personal property by force, (along with borrowing and printing $ through the central bank).

    Progressives like yourself claim you're pro-civil rights but you are really just picking and choosing which rights align with your social agenda.

    • 8.2

      Well... all interesting and entertaining... but silly me - why is this conversation part of the Detroit Blog? You know, the Forum and Meeting Place of Ideas about a better Detroit...?!

  • 9

    So I guess my post then just confirms your biases that you are not really interested in the natural rights all citizens should have of life, liberty, and the right to own property, just grandstanding on political issues to prop up your progressive agenda.


    • 9.1

      What makes you think owning property is a 'natural' right?

    • 9.2

      No - I am saying that society only recognizes what already exists in Nature or Natural Law...

      Society attempts to define or quantify what it senses - and many conundrums result when Rights intersect AND are in know, "your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.." or "Your Right to Free Speech doesn't extend to yelling 'Fire' in a crowded theatre..." - you know, those old chestnuts...

    • 9.3

      Again it all comes back to property rights, clearly if you swing your fist and it lands on someone's nose you are injuring them and should be held accountable.

      If you yell fire in a crowded theatre you are damaging the property of the theatre owner by violating the terms of the agreement of your admission and you are destroying the property of the patrons, which is the experience they have paid for.

      Basically, I don't think there is anything special about the government that somehow gives it the ability to violate the property rights all individuals have. The reason it does is because it has a monopoly on the use of force in society.

  • 10

    Well actually all human rights are just an extension of one's right to own property. One's right to his own body, is just a property right of himself. The freedom of the press is really the right to create and own literature and then a right to contract a way to distribute those documents. The freedom to practice whatever religion you would like is really just the right to do whatever you would like on your own property and not be coerced if you do not follow whatever one else does.

  • 11

    So, if everyone has "the right to marry the person you love," does that mean you are in favor of bigamy, polygamy, and bestiality? What about a 40 year old man marrying the 12 year old girl he loves? Would you deny that person his/her civil right?

    • 11.1

      Well bedwardscwsu,

      I guess that in order to maintain an environment and precedent-based platform of Intellectual and moral consistency, one would have to say 'YES'.....

      But we don't... and for obvious reasons. Society has set LIMITS on behaviors that are deemed to be either too socially odious or threatining to the safety of others - just a fact, and an established of all cultures, throughout all humankind.

      Sooooo... The challenge is to determine What limits, and upon Whom and When.....

    • 11.2

      Interesting. So you're advocating that society determines what civil liberties people can and should have...Isn't that the exact opposite of the argument of the post?

  • 12

    As an educator, I am concerned about those of you who are debating whether or not civil rights should be "approved" by a majority. Isn't this the same nation that was founded on racial enslavement? The history of this country is a testament to why civil rights SHOULD NOT BE VOITED UPON BY THE MAJORITY. Since the majority often has its own interests and those interests have historically not included those of us in the numerical minority....Be for real people....

    Thanks Mr. Dawsey for making us think. Your discussion is obviously a bit too provocative for some of your bloggers today....

    • 12.1

      Nicely put.

      One thing I've found a little haunting about this thread is that it doesn't even sound like folks are discussing people. Sure, it's an issue, but PEOPLE are at its core.

      These people are your children, siblings, cousins, neighbors, and coworkers.

      Its funny how quickly people's opinions change when speaking directly to the person who is being denied rights.

      My parents, God bless them, are Christian fundamentalists. They have a gay son. They also hate that their son, whom they adore, is treated like a second class citizen.

      I am treated like a second class citizen. Don't tell me I'm not. Don't tell me I think I'm somehow "above the law" because that's crazy talk.

      Here's the thing, people. I see you every day. You love me. I teach your children (scary, huh?). You buy me little gifts at Christmas. You have NO idea I'm gay. You have no idea that when you vote against something, it's me you're hurting.

      It hurts.

      Does that register at all?

  • 14

    Again for the record elected representatives create state and federal laws ..These laws prevented Black folks from full citizenship in our nation..

    I also find many white gays as bigoted as the any white straight whites. My point remains the same no group in our nation is above the laws of our nation.

    • 14.1

      Wha? Huh? Nevermind.

    • 14.2

      Unfortunately a member of any group is capable of having a bias against a member of another group (thus the problem with labels, which help serve to set people apart). Yes, there are bigoted gays, bigoted straights, bigoted blacks, bigoted whites, bigoted males, bigoted females, Northern bigots, Southern bigots, car owning bigots, cattle owning bigots, vegetarian get the idea.

  • 15


    My point is this:

    I feel I deserve the 1138 rights you enjoy as a heterosexual that can legally marry in this country.

    I don't not feel above the law, I actually fee 1138 rights below it.

  • 16


    Of course as a Black man with roots and footprints on this soil I do not support the history of racist laws against my people.Now Let me address your questions:

    1. Of course as a Black man in our country given the legacy of our nation towards Black folks I do not support any laws that discount or do not allow full rights for All Americans regardless of gender, race, etc..

    2. In our nation a republic laws are created by elected representatives or public referendums processess..My position is basic no group, or special interest is above the laws of our US Const.

    3.As a Black man in a nation that did allow preference and privledge for whites only of course I will never embrace, affirm, endorse or support a mantra, platform, position that creates the same backward and underdeveloped and inhumane preference of any person or group based upn race, gender, sexual preference, class, color etc..

    4. I supported the ERA and I support full rights of gays. I do not support special or preference for gays or anyone..I support Equal Rights for all..

    5. The reason why I inserted my comments about the racist of white gays is becuase whenever this issue surfaces often many white gays and organizations inject thier issue is the same as Black's civil rights issues..I do agree that some overlap is present but not the same..I reject this poltical posturing by white gays many who have contempt for Black folks and are as racist as any white hetrosexuals or others toward Black folks..

    In summary my positon remains the same I support Equal Rights for ALL..I do not support special rights for anyone regardless of race, gender, sexual preference etc...

  • 17

    MJS 73,

    How do you what my sexual preference is????.Your angry post is the usual banter one gets from the chatter class whenever one dares to have an opinon on this issue..

    I support Equal Rights for ALL..I do not support privledge and special rights for anyone or group...

  • 18

    @ Anounce of action...

    I will always confront any person or group or interests which have contempt for me and my interests based upon the hue of my skin and my cultural dna...

    I have no problem in calling out White Gays who are racist nor do I have a problem calling out Black Gays as well who engaged in attacks on hetrosexuals..

    I have no problem in any venue confronting backward underdeveloped people 24/7

  • 19


    BTW I agree with your comment"

    I also don't think any discriminated group today is obliged to follow the same road as the black civil rights struggle or women's equal rights struggle..."

    I do agree that resolutions, remedies, fixes should reflect outcomes that are based upon Equality....

  • 20

    I was unaware I was angry.

    No, I have no idea what your "preference" is. That choice of word alone give me a pretty good idea, however.

    I'm glad you cleared your point up by stating that you believe in equality for all. If you reread your initial post, that idea isn't very clear.

    Again, I don't think anyone here has written about wanting rights they do not deserve, or as you put it "special rights." So, I'm not sure why you keep saying that over and over again.

    If you believe in equal rights for all, we are on the same side of the fence. I could care less what we label it as a country. I don't need to say that I'm married, but I do need to feel equally protected under the law.

  • 21


    Your words not mine"
    I feel I deserve the 1138 rights you enjoy as a heterosexual that can legally marry in this country." I found that post full of anger since your specially adressed me

    Never in my posts did I state that Gays did not deserve full civil rights...I keep reiterating the term 'special rights" simply becuase that is the line I get from many gays who seem to think as a Black person I was given "special rights" to be an American citizen. Black Americans have never demanded or requested any special rights BTW..

    My premise remains the same since I commented on this sissue I support Equality for All. I do not support any special rights, preferences, or privledges to any anyone or groups..

  • 22

    "keep reiterating the term 'special rights" simply becuase that is the line I get from many gays who seem to think as a Black person I was given "special rights" to be an American citizen."

    I don't know what constitutes "many," but these are not the gay people I know, and as one, I know a lot.

    I'm sorry you took that with anger. I meant it with truth. I can see how it's hard to swallow. It is hard to believe that there are still people being blatantly discriminated against in this country.

  • 23

    Again most of the negative comments about race originate from White folks in my reality and experiece including White Gays on which is sad given the inhumanity Gays have to encounter..

    "It is hard to believe that there are still people being blatantly discriminated against in this country.." That statement suggests to me you are not a Black person that truth has never been hard to swallow for Black folks like me..

    Fact is RACE matters in our nation and its trumps everything..

  • 24

    Sure, but this post wasn't about race, it was about civil rights. You made it about race.

  • 25


    I recognized there is a distinction, and that distinction is the basis of my post (did you read what I said?) You believe that people have the right to marry a person they love (as long as they are both consenting adults) Other people believe they have the right to marry more than one person, someone who is not an adult, their pet, etc. (Because, in spite of what you think, some people believe their pets are able to show them love and thereby give their "consent". You disagree. That's the point.)

    But what you're failing to understand is that I'm not trying to compare apples to apples. I'm not trying to say that homosexuality is the same thing as bestiality. I'm saying that different people in the discussion are drawing the line at different places, and where they draw the line makes perfect sense to them. (Just like where you draw the line makes perfect sense to you.)

    And if you had read my earlier post you should have seen that I'm not saying that voting should determine a person's right. The problem is you are assuming something to be true that is in actuality the crux of the whole debate. I may be presuming here, but it seems like you would vote against a public referendum on bestial marriage (or child marriage) because you don't think that is a right people have (in part b/c of how you have defined marriage: i.e., 2 consenting adults). But would you consider yourself part of a majority denying the rights of the minority? No, because you don't think that's a right they have. Yet you think those who voted "no" in the referendums on gay marriage are part of the majority denying the minority their right, because you think it is a right (even though they may have defined marriage in a different way, and thus do not believe it is a right.)

    I know I've said this before, but apparently I wasn't clear so I will try again. My point is that we are missing the crucial issue by arguing about whether or not people should vote on someone else's rights. There are not many people who would disagree with that sentiment (at least not in the U.S.) The problem is that people have different ideas about what those rights are, which you have again ably illustrated: You believe marriage is between 2 consenting adults, someone else believes marriage is between one consenting male and one consenting female adult, someone else believes marriage is between any number of people as long as they love each other, someone else believes animals have the ability to show love and therefore consent to marriage, etc.) So the real issue is figuring out what people's rights really are.

  • 26


    Civil Rights is always part of the equation for Black folks certainly as well for Gays who are Black...Again you have tripped over your own feet in here not me.......

    I have no problem with any of my comments in here with regard to discussing being Black and related Gay issues..

    I will reiterate in our nation RACE trumps everything

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