BY John Amir-Fazli

‘Tyranny of the majority” is a phrase with which we should all be familiar. After all, it was coined in one of the earliest and best-known treatises on democracy within the United States. One would hope that, having had well over 150 years to brood the topic over, we as Americans would be able to at least attempt to tackle this problem.

Alas, this appears to not be the case, at least in the great state of Maine, where the state legislature has opted to go to the voter’s booths and to let the people decide on the issue of rescinding the recently-passed law that allows gay marriage. The ballot measure passed, 53 to 47 percent, thus preventing same-sex marriage in Maine. As you may be able to tell by my tone, I am less than thrilled by this result. Am I scared, you ask? The answer is yes.

Terrified, really. I don’t even care how many of Maine’s fair citizens are pro-gay marriage; the mere fact that this issue was put up for public vote makes my entire being vomit with rage. I will accept that gay marriage, for some, is morally unacceptable, but it is absolutely not, in any sense, legally unacceptable.

For those who do view gay marriage as morally unacceptable, they may be comforted to know that I am not here to convince them otherwise. That is their opinion, and they are 100 percent entitled to it. Kudos to them. I simply wish to point out that this is not an issue of morals, but of individual liberty.

Outlawing or rescinding gay marriage is not something that either the politicians or the vox populi should have the right to simply ‘vote” on. Now, let me be clear: I am pro-democracy. I think that voting is absolutely essential to our system of government.

However, what I am not so certain about is the concept of the general populace being one button- or pen-stroke away from rescinding the civil liberties of a minority of citizens. Allowing citizens the power to deny homosexuals equal status under the eyes of the law falls into exactly what de Tocqueville warned us about the concept of exercising democracy to bully the few who do not conform to what the majority deem morally acceptable.

Gay marriage, after all, is a completely moral issue. Most arguments against it use phrases such as ‘immoral,” ‘unnatural” or ‘wrong,” and the few arguments that do not use such language are both asinine and completely irrelevant such as using hypothetical ‘slippery slope” scenarios as means to denounce what is, in effect, an entirely separate legal issue. We are debating gay marriage at the moment, not bestiality or polygamy, and it is preposterous to use fear of unearthing future issues as a means of illegitimating a current one.

Thus, the only legitimate objections to gay marriage are moral ones, and to those who have moral qualms, I must ask: Is gay marriage harming them in any way?
Does the fact that two men or women are joined in matrimony even personally affect them at all? The answer, of course, is that it does not, and therein lies the problem for those who would wish to deny civil marriage to homosexual couples: If two individuals commit an act that affects absolutely no one but the parties involved, what right do we have to tell them that they cannot perform this act? All that this public vote will allow for is our government to legitimize the idea that we are permitted to tell other citizens what they can and cannot do behind closed doors a chilling, somewhat Orwellian concept, indeed.

We must look at this issue rationally: All marriages are personal affairs between two people and whoever is ordaining the ceremony. Gay marriage, whether or not one agrees with it, is similarly a personal affair that does not remotely affect anyone except for the participants involved. Therefore, there simply is no legal argument against gay marriage. Perhaps as a society some of our personal values feel threatened, but moral values themselves can never be the sole reason for sweeping legal discrimination.

So, please, let’s take our personal morals out of the equation and start focusing on what is truly at stake in the gay marriage debate: equality under the law.

Amir-Fazli is a member of
the class of 2011.

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