Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jerry Brown and Proposition 8

By now everybody has heard about California Attorney General Jerry Brown's decision not to defend Proposition 8 in court. Practically, it's no big deal because the Defend Marriage side was not counting on him anyway. The case will be argued by the Proposition 8 attorneys.

But his action and reasoning deserves a little comment. The Attorney General refuses to defend Proposition 8 on constitutional grounds--he does not want to defend a Proposition that he says amounts to the tyranny of the majority. But by refusing to exercise his sworn duty as a public servant he is engaging in a tyranny of the attorney general. One can argue the case that Proposition 8 is a tyranny of the majority. It's not true, but it is an argument. But there's no argument that a public servant has the right to refuse to exercise his office, and yet still remain in office.

Certainly, majorities can reach what one considers to be wrong decisions. But the way around that, unless one chooses to abandon our system of government altogether, is to convince the voters to reach a correct decision. It's what President Lincoln, who knew a little about such things, called "appealing to the better angels of our nature."

Arguments to the Declaration always cite the "unalienable rights." But the next sentence is often forgotten: "... That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

If the Attorney General was really a serious man, he would resign his office, and then use his formidable intellectual tools to argue philosophically why Proposition 8 is wrong. But his actions here show he is unfit for his office.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney


Anonymous said...

Are you sure? My copy of the California Constitution says this in Article 1, Section 1:

All people are by nature free and independent and have
inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and
liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing
and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

Dad29 said...

Obviously, Jerry Brown thinks that Ahhhhhhhnold is VERY vulnerable in the next Governor's race...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1: If I understand you correctly, Yes, I'm sure. Just because people have an unalienable right to pursue happiness does not mean that they always get to define of what that happiness consists.

Otherwise we would have to allow rape, for example, on the grounds it makes the rapist happy. Society has a say in what constitutes legitimate happiness.

God Bless you,

Gibbons in SF

Anonymous said...

"My copy of the California Constitution says..."

That's great you have the Calif. Constitution. You'll also notice section 7.5 in Article 1, which says "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Anonymous said...

Gerry Brown is an elected official in the State of California. In the United States, we have representative democracy. If you don't like it, leave.

Anonymous said...

"If you don't like it, leave." And since when are elected officials in a free country allowed to do whatever they like? A fundamental principle of our democracy is that the power of elected officials is constrained by the law. Jerry Brown has an obligation as attorney general to uphold and defend the laws of the state of California, even if he doesn't agree with them. Oh, and by the way, in California we have direct democracy as well (ballot measures) and the people of the state voted for prop 8. If you don't like that, why don't you leave yourself. Merry Christmas.