Thursday, October 30, 2008
Court Decisions and Democracy
What got me started on this meditation was the recollection of some remarks by members of the Supreme Court. Perhaps I should say, remarks or comments about then rather than by them. The comment was that certain justices believed not only in strict construction of the constitution (in fact, all of them believe in that) but in letting State legislatures or referendum elections settle certain questions, such as the right of a woman to an abortion, the right of a gay couple to marry, and the like. These are matters that, in the opinions of some of the justices and of many political theorists, should be decided by a democratic process rather than a court decree.
My meditation continued. I wondered what very important questions have, in the history of our country, been settled by peaceful, democratic processes. There was a very important question that was not, and could not have been settled in that matter. That is the matter of human slavery. If the southern states had been allowed to settle that matter by the democratic process available at the time, we would still in this year 2008 still have black people as slaves in most of the South. Other countries in the European-American community eliminated slavery by simple actions of their governing officials. In our country, the matter had to be settled by a war.
Now, I have to agree that denying a woman the right to terminate a pregnancy is less of an imposition on her than slavery. Denying a homosexual couple the right to marry is less of an imposition than slavery. I do not advocate going to war to establish these rights. At the same time, I do not believe that democracy is going to establish them, either. Perhaps I am wrong. We will see next week with the result of Proposition 8 here in California.