As you probably know by now, North Carolina voters went to the polls yesterday and passed a constitutional amendment that made same-sex marriages and even civil unions invalid under the law. Amendment 1, as it is called, is unusually brutal, as it will almost certainly take away the health insurance of many individuals in long-term committed relationships who were covered by their partner’s workplace insurance, and if they have pre-existing conditions, it will be difficult and expensive finding new coverage. Even that however, is less harmful and hurtful than having their home state declare that they are a second-class citizens, which is what this and similar provisions around the country do.
The measure passed overwhelmingly, though few believe that an overwhelming number of North Carolinians are vehemently opposed to same-sex unions. The vote at the polls shows at most that the citizens who are strongly opposed to gay marriage (and probably gays as well) outnumber those, including gays, who care deeply about the availability of legal same-sex unions. To most people, it just isn’t an important issue. They don’t care. If nobody they know is involved in a same-sex relationship, and if they don’t subscribe to a moral code that condemns homosexuals to Hell, the issue just isn’t worth getting off the couch and missing “Dancing With The Stars.” Thus only about 35% of potential voters got off their couches to decide whether some fellow citizens should have the right to be coupled for life with someone they loved, no matter what their organs look like. This was considered an impressive turnout by some commentators.
In most elections, the uninformed and the disinterested do us a favor by not voting. These lazy and passive citizens are especially vulnerable to lies and distortions, and because half the voting public is of less than average intelligence and a healthy chunk believes in ghosts, angels, and that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, their input into the democratic process is an impediment, not a contribution.
In the case of Amendment 1, however, the apathy of the North Carolinians who couldn’t be bothered to vote is wrong, unethical and destructive. This isn’t an issue that requires a lot of study or even intelligence; it only requires the ability to apply the Golden Rule, and a commitment to the principles of liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence. About 65% of the North Carolina public knew that some of their fellow citizens faced losing crucial human rights, and that was not sufficient motivation to get them to the polls.
How is this any different from a bystander who watches a mugging, a beating or a robbery without lifting a finger?
I don’t think it is.
Spark: Patrick, at Popehat
- Richard Painter, Legal Ethics Forum
Graphic: Affordable Housing Institute
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