Sunday, November 05, 2006

MINORITY RIGHTS SHOULD NEVER BE SUBJECT TO MAJORITY VOTE!

MINORITY RIGHTS SHOULD NEVER BE SUBJECT TO MAJORITY VOTE!
By Robert Halfhill
Today, August 25, 2004, Cam Gordon for the Green Party and someone from the Independence Party were interviewed by Andy Marlowe on KNOW radio. When Marlowe asked about the proposed state constitutional amendment to limit marriage to a man and a woman, Gordon said that if people wanted to vote on this, they should petition to get it on the ballot. He also said that people ought to have the right to vote on this and that if he were a legislator, he would have a hard time voting to keep it off the ballot.
When the person from the Independence Party was asked whether the IP suppoted this amendment, he said "no" in one word. This was originally told to me by someone who had heard the program but, when I called Andy Marlowe, he confirmed my informant's account in every particular.
I realize Initiative and Referendum, i.e. voting on whether to approve or disapprove a law already passed by a legislative body and proposing new laws and voting on whether to approve or disapprove them, were originally progressive reforms proposed by the Populists. But they have now become a means through which right wingers can repeal progressive reforms already enacted and attack minority rights. When a Fair Housing law was passed by the California Legislature in the early 1960's, the right wing demagogues organized a referendum and voted it out. However, the California Supreme Court ruled that rights could not be taken away by referendum once they had been granted legislatively. A Gay Rights Ordinance was passed in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1974 and repealed by an Initiative in 1978. Since, in St. Paul, the law only allowed 90 days after the passage of an ordinance for it to be repealed by refendum, the opponents had to propose an Initiative to pass a new law to repeal the Gay Rights Ordinance. I brought up the California Supreme Court decision when the Gay Rights Ordinance was repealed but legal professionals told me that the decision was based on the California Constitution and that Minnesota's constitution was different. I too, along with Cam Gordon, believe that the electorate should have the powers of Initiative and Referendum as well as the right to vote on recalling elected officials. But the majority should not have the right to vote on a minority's right and civil rights laws should be excluded as permissible subjects for Initiative and Referendum.
If the majority had been allowed to vote by referendum on the first civil rights laws for
African Americans, the laws would have been repealed. With this calm, reasonable introduction to this subject, I will now say that Cam Gordon's statement about the people having the right to vote on limiting marriage to heterosexuals is practically the last straw for me in the Green Party. I would have left a long time ago if I didn't have the idea of running a viable third party candidacy under the Green Party banner. Of course, I would have to file in a primary; I could never get Green Party endorsement at a Green Party membership meeting with the type of characters in the 5th District Green Party. First, I am sure Cam Gordon would not even consider saying that people should have the right to vote on equal rights for African Americans or Women. But, of course, as always in predominantly heterosexual organizations, our rights, i.e. GLBTI rights are not really considered important. We are priority number 33 in heterosexual organizations.
My first alienation from the Green Party occurred because of the shabby way I was treated when Natalie Johnson Lee voted against an ordinance requiring companies doing $100,000.00 in business with the City to offers its employees domestic partners benefits. I WANT TO EMPHASIZE BEFORE I CONTINUE THAT THINGS ARE FINE BETWEEN JOHNSON LEE AND GLBTI'S; SHE VOTED FOR A DOMESTIC PARTNERS ORDINANCE THE SECOND TIME ITCAME BEFORE THE MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL AND I RECEIVED A VERY EFFUSIVE 'THANK YOU' FROM HER OFFICE WHEN I WROTE A VERY IMPASSIONED STATEMENT ABOUT POLICE BRUTALITY TO THE COUNCIL. But at the time when Johnson Lee voted against domestic partners the first time, matters were not good between GLBTI's and Johnson Lee. Since the three Green elected officials had ten minutes each to address the 5th district meeting, Cam Gordon told me I could coat tail on Johnson Lee's presentation. When Cam Gordon did call on me, I TOLD him that the subject of GLBTI rights derserved AT LEAST five minutes. Although I could not time myself with a stop watch while I was concentrating on giving my statement, it was probably within the five minute limit. Even so, Cam Gordon kept interrupting me in that polite way with "thank you, Bob," "thank you, Bob."
Since I knew that the majority of people at a primarily heterosexual meeting had the covert attitude of "yes, we support GLBTI rights but now lets talk about something"REALLY" important. It occurred to me that maybe if I told them about my own experience with Gay oppression, maybe I could get the audience to see that it was important. This was something I had never told anyone outside a therapeutic setting except for one friend. The experience I am referring to is that when I was 16 and in the 10th grade of High School, the constant assaults and insults I was receiving from the other hetero students had driven me to the point where I wanted to destroy the whole world. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to implement such grandiose plans, but if I had, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School would have looked like a pair of Mother Theresa's compared to me. I never told anyone at the time what was in my mind. My parents got me transferred to another high school and, after three weeks being relatively free of the constant insults and assaults I have been experiencing, I decided that I REALLY didn't want to destroy the WHOLE world. After another three weeks, I decided that I REALLY didn't hate EVERYBODY. Why I even had a few friends during my last two and a half years of high school! Before I go on, I should emphasize that I don't currently have any desires to murder or injure people.
While I was considering whether to reveal my personally painful experiences in an attempt to get through to an audience of heterosexuals, I had to realize that I could not count on a sympatheticresponse. Otherwise I would be setting myself up to be hurt. I had to be ready to take an unsympathetic response as saying more about the people responding unsympathetically than it said about me and just let it go and not care if there was a negative response. I had decided before the meeting of the 5th District Green Party that I really didn't need to go into my painful personal history before an audience of heterosexuals. But during the meeting's intermission,after Cam Gordon's attempt to politely brush me off, someone remarked to me that racial minorities were oppressed economically and culturally while Gays are only oppressed culturally. Oh, sure! I suppose when we are fired or denied employment because we are Gay, we are not being oppressed economically! After being confronted with that lack of understanding, I decided I had to talk about my personal experiences, which I did during the part of the meeting where people commented on the emotional tone of the meeting. The Chair, this time another Gay person tried the polite brush off, repeating "thank you, Bob, "thank you, Bob,"... No one responded except for one woman who told me that she wasn't interested in my personal life. When I asked if she could see the importance of someone being driven like that, she replyed in a harsh voice after a calculated pause,"no." I could see that her response was not only unsympathetic but that it was also deliberately designed to hurt me. So I dismissed her response as not being worth any further concern.
Natalie Johnson Lee had not yet come around on the domestic partners issue when Cam Gordon announced at the next 5th district Green Party meeting that the national Green Party had selected Johnson Lee to give the Green response to Bush's State of the Union address. I realized that I had to object whether I was recognized to speak or not so I stood up and said that I would have to dissent. Cam Gordon came over and put his hand on my shoulder, saying "Bob, I'll have to ask you to sit down." It was actually funny since the top of his head only can up to the top of my shoulder. So I continued speaking until I finished saying what I had to say although the audience started shouting so loudly that I doubt anyone could hear me. This is outrageous. The right to marry is a core right and thus a core demand of GLBTI liberation. But can you imagine an African American Green Party member being treated like this if a Green City Council Member had voted against open housing or fair employment, that Green Council Member being selected to give the Green State of the Union Adress, and the African American Green being shouted down when the stood up to protest? I don't think you would dare treat an African American Green so shabbily and I doubt that you would dare treat a woman Green Party this way if an elected Green Council Member had voted against comparable worth!
And now Cam Gordon says on KNOW that peo[le should be able to vote on whether GLBTI's should be denied the right to marry! They have no more right to vote on this than they have the right to vote on whether African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, the Physically Challenged, etc should be denied equal rights.But of course, you all know that it doesn't really apply to GLBTI's, don't you? You all know that our rights are not REALLY important. Incidentally, I may sound like the H. Rap Brown of the Gay movement to many of you. But is is really easy to satisfy me. All I want is the same rights and freedoms others have. Is that too much to ask!

1 Comments:

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