Will of the people shouldn’t always be priority

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On Tuesday, September 6, 2005, the California Legislature barely passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. After being passed in the state Senate, the bill passed in the Assembly by 41 votes. It marked the first time that a state legislative body has voted to make same-sex marriages legal (it was a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, not their state legislature, that legalized same-sex marriages in that state in 2003).

However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated that he will veto this bill, on grounds that it violates the will of the people in California, referring to the passage of Proposition 22 in 2000 by the voters. That proposition states that only marriages between men and women will be recognized by the state of California. It is unlikely that the Legislature would be able to override a veto, as they do not have the required two-thirds majority to overcome it.

Governor Schwarzenegger claims he supports gay rights, but it appears that legalizing same-sex marriage just does not fall under that category.

The governor is placing his political interests and ambitions above the interests of the gay and lesbian community that voted for him in 2000. After all, he surely wishes to be reelected in 2006 by his Republican voter base, whom he does not wish to anger by the legalization of same-sex marriages.

This just further reinforces the cynical view about politicians in general, that they are all talk and hype and say whatever is necessary to get them elected to office. Then, once in office, they conveniently develop amnesia as to what it was that they promised to do for those that elected them.

I am not surprised, however, as Governor Schwarzenegger is just one of a long line of similar politicians that have held office in this state and elsewhere in the nation.

There is, however, another issue of great importance. The governor, and other leaders around the nation who oppose same-sex marriages attempt to justify their opposition to it by stating that a majority of Americans oppose it; therefore, it must be morally correct and good not to be legalized. The will of the people has spoken, so we dare not oppose their wishes.

There is a dangerous precedent with constantly allowing the will of the people to dictate public policy, unchecked. Suppose it is the will of the people of California to continue to segregate blacks and whites in our public school system by passing Proposition X, a hypothetical proposition that states: “No people of color shall attend any educational facility funded by this state that is attended by whites. Colored people shall attend the said facilities separate from whites.”

Would Proposition X be morally just because everyone believes blacks and whites should be segregated, as it once was half a century ago in this country? Furthermore, let us say the California Legislature intervenes by passing a bill that outlaws segregation in this state. Would Governor Schwarzenegger still veto the bill, citing the passage of Proposition X by the people?

If the governor would sign the bill into law because he believes segregation is unjust and that the people’s belief in segregation is morally wrong, then I think the governor has a lot of explaining to do. Why in this hypothetical case, he would oppose the people’s wishes, yet with the passage of the Legislature’s bill legalizing same-sex marriage, he would veto that bill?

Do not get me wrong. For the most part, elected officials should honor the people’s wishes. That is why they were elected in the first place. However, the will of the people can run amok and stray into dangerous territory as it did with the passage of Proposition 22. When public opinion goes out of control, it is the duty and obligation of our elected officials to bring the people back into line and in order. That is why I am disappointed with Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision not to ignore the people by signing the bill that would have recognized the rights of same-sex couples to marry. For that reason, I name him a “girly-man.”

Daniel Wurangian is a junior political science major.