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The tyranny of the majority

or why gay marriage should not be in the hands of the people.

Reading a certain conservative column today that spoke of the issue of gay marriage I was struck at the rather callous and hand waving nature of it. Rather then outwardly decry the notion of it being instituted, the focus was more upon the needs and the wants of the Australian people.

I mean, we are in a democracy correct? Should the wants and desires of the majority not be the most important thing we could strive for?

A 90% favourable vote on the 1967 referendum has give many Australians the ability to give each other a nice pat on the back for “doing the right thing and giving the Aboriginals the vote!” despite it having done no such thing.

Think now for a second though that people even have the idea that it should take a referendum requiring a 2/3rds majority to agree to something that should be a basic human right. Sounds a trifle scary now if you consider that all it may take is two thirds of our population to change a hugely fundamental thing in your life and not necessarily to your benefit.

I would wager that a lot of people are thinking right now that they would never have another referendum that could have a huge impact on their lives. Even Australia being a republic may mean at worst we miss out on the Queens birthday holiday, even though I am sure we will endeavour to replace it with a different excuse for a barbecue. But this is exactly what people are proposing in respect to gay and lesbian marriage. To allow the general people to decide the rights of a minority.

This is where the term the tyranny of the majority appears, describing the notion that a majority of people may have interests that clash with the rights of a minority group. You only need to look at the laws of segregation in the American south to understand that the desires of the many do not necessarily mean they are just or fair ideas.

No it is far better that we simply face the fact of what is right or wrong. It is not right to deny two consenting adults in love from expressing that love in legally binding ceremony, particularly when doing so affects no one else but themselves and perhaps the beneficiaries of their wills.

So take a step back, look at the situation and ask yourself. Would it be right for another to tell me who I can and cannot sign my rights too, in sickness and in health and for richer or poorer? Not many would say it is.

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