Rick Santorum Doesn’t Understand Rights
7M Californians had their rights stripped away today by activist 9th Circuit judges. As president I will work to protect marriage.— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) February 7, 2012
It’s not at all interesting or surprising that Rick Santorum opposes the 9th Circuit ruling.
What’s interesting, at least to me, is that he seems not to understand what rights are or what they do. Say what you will about the 9th Circuit ruling, but it certainly doesn’t harm Californians with regard to their rights. The Californians whose rights are of such concern to Santorum can continue to get married tomorrow and the next day, just as they could yesterday and the day before. There has been no change for them.
My own feeling, of course, is that there’s also no harm done to these (heterosexual) Californians by allowing other (homosexual) Californians to marry. But that’s really neither here nor there.
Let’s be charitable and give Santorum the benefit of the doubt; let’s presume that he’s upset about the invalidation of a ballot initiative for which these Californians cast their votes. What he means to say, then, is that the “activist” judges of the 9th Circuit circumvented the right that these Californians have to cast ballots and decide important matters of governance for themselves.
Except we all know that the judiciary exists in order to check the excesses that might occur as a result of the democratic process. After all, I doubt anyone would bat an eye if a court struck down a ballot initiative that declared that Jews couldn’t own property, that Asians had to live outside the city limits, or some other patently racist, arbitary, or ridiculous thing that a majority got into its collective head. Or, if you’re really worried about the invalidation of people’s votes, just think about the millions of people whose democratic right to vote was invalidated by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. I’m guessing Santorum didn’t lose a lot of sleep over that one.
What Santorum wants is for the Court to sanction certain forms of discrimination. It would be handy if there was another way for us to say this, but there simply isn’t. He wants one group to be able to do something and another group not to be able to do that same thing, simply because he disapproves of the second group.
Very, very few people would stand by Santorum if he claimed that mixed-race marriages were inappropriate or if he championed the right of store owners to refuse service to an African-American or Jewish clientele. That sort of discrimination offends nearly everyone, regardless of party identification. So should this sort.
Dressing up Santorum’s personal bigotry in the language of rights is convenient for him; it sounds a lot better to want to protect people’s rights than to want to discriminate against other people. But I think we all know what’s going on here.