Democracy protects minorities

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's interesting to me to hear from one Alaska senator that he "trusts the people" and therefore wants us to vote up or down on an amendment to our state constitution (SJR20) which seems to say that however the vote comes out is the way things will be. That is not entirely correct.

The United States is a constitutional democracy, which means that "the majority of people rule within the boundaries of the Constitution's provisions. The Constitution gives those in the majority a great deal of power but prevents the majority from denying basic rights to those in any minority." ("How Democracy Works," Blue Mountain Working Group, 1996.)

Our state Supreme Court, whose job it is to interpret the constitution, has ruled that denying the benefits of marriage to a specific group of people who are not married and then telling that same group they cannot be married does not pass the test of equality before the law. In this ruling they are not "legislating from the bench," as so often heard, but rather they are interpreting the constitution, which is their job. The buck stops with them.

An African-American man testifying at a recent hearing on this resolution pointed out that for years the people of South Carolina voted him a second-class citizen undeserving of basic human rights, but constitutional democracy finally won out. The majority found that they do not have the right under the Constitution to decide who can and who cannot have civil rights. The United States Constitution and the Alaska Constitution promise equality for all of us.

Mildred Boesser


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