by Roger Koppl
Last month the Los Angeles Times reported, “California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to invalidate the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.” Brown’s brief argues that the states’ constitution protects liberty and privacy as “inalienable” rights, the courts have protected gay marriage under those constitutional principles, and the citizens cannot overturn such inalienable rights by majority vote. “Voters are allowed to amend other parts of the Constitution by majority vote, but to use the ballot box to take away an ‘inalienable’ right would establish a ‘tyranny of the majority,’ which the Constitution was designed, in part, to prevent, he wrote.” He was talking about California’s constitution, but he appealed to principles that were embodied in the founding the documents of the US, including the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution did more than erect some formal governance structures. It embedded the ideal of ordered liberty in our political culture. That ideal has been trampled on by the Republicans only to be picked up, dusted off, and put to good use by the Democrats. The principles of liberalism still have an honored place in our political system. I hope we can build on them to dismantle some of the structures of tyranny erected under Bush.