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My turn: Majority endorsed oppression isn't OK

Thankfully some 'activist judges' protect us from institutionalized prejudice

Posted: Friday, December 08, 2006

The laws of the United States have always had a dynamic tension between the desire of the majority to have their rights and the desire to force others to emulate them.

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Usually the laws limiting the rights of a minority are cloaked as religious prejudices and the desire of some to impose their religious beliefs on others, something that is forbidden in the U.S. Constitution.

Forty years ago laws were on the books in many states forbidding interracial marriage. Dire consequences for our nation were predicted if this "terrible abomination" was allowed to happen. In fact it was thought that civilization as we know it would go down the slope of anarchy if inter-racial couples were allowed to marry.

Thankfully some "activist judges" realized that this was nothing more than institutionalized prejudice and overturned these laws. Today we have persons like Barak Obama that put the lie to the presumed "dire consequences."

Today the big bugaboo is homosexual marriage. Somehow the commitment of two people to each other is supposed to weaken or destroy the relationships of other couples. The justification for this is that the holy books of some religions allegedly forbidding these relationships.

However the guiding law in this country is not the holy book of some religion or even the preachings of some pastors. (Interestingly, when the book is the Quran, the law is sharia and the preacher is a mullah, we are horrified). The law of this land is the Constitution of the United States, one of whose abiding principles is the separation of church and state.

And quite truthfully, if the relationship of one couple is going to destroy the marriage of another couple, that couple didn't have a very strong foundation for their relationship in the first place.

People argue that judges should not overturn the "will of the people" as embodied in the laws that are passed. Unfortunately the history of the United States is replete with examples of the "will of the people" oppressing those who are different from them.

In each case the court has had to step in as a referee to say, like a parent might say to two kids who are making up the rules for a game they are playing, "Sorry guys, the prevailing rule is no unfair rules against each other."

In Alaska the big issue is benefits for unmarried partners. For years the state has provided a wage bonus to married couples by providing family health insurance. So despite having a civil service system which is supposed to provide equal pay for equal work, some persons solely by marital status receive a larger benefits package for their work.

This is unfair.

There are some solutions that would redress this situation while meeting the needs of the busybodies who like to stick their nose into other people's bedroom. I'm certainly not advocating this solution, but I am throwing it on the table.

All state employees receive the same insurance, for themselves only and an additional bonus amount equal to the amount needed to purchase family insurance. Those with families of whatever configuration could buy the additional insurance, those who are single would have a cash bonus.

• Becky Bear is a Juneau resident.



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