Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Protecting Minorities Here and There

Progressives should feel free to guffaw when hearing "activist judges" in reference to same-sex marriage here. Our Supreme Judicial Courts and a couple layers of lower benches are pretty damned slow and timid.

In this case (Goodridge), the SJC only acted to our constitution and laws as Canada's high court did in relationship to its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In both cases, an obvious and kind of milquetoast ruling held for same-sex marriage. The justices in both places made it plain that government can't say they are for equality and then cherry pick which minority groups get freedoms. Wackos whose activities are illegal don't get to share in rights, but for the rest of us, the catchphrase is live it or live with it.

The retiring chief justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry leaves as a stalwart defender of the Charter. He is also proudest of his role in establishing SSM in Canada. As he put it in an interview with the Toronto Star:

"The same-sex marriage case. I was pleased to be part of it. It stressed the importance of individual rights and, particularly, individual dignity ...

"There's a segment in our society that believes that being gay or lesbian is immoral. Gays and lesbians have faced unfair discrimination over many years, but to me that's so obviously wrong.

"That's why it was important that the court judgment not only recognize the legitimacy of same-sex unions but describe it as a marriage.

"Massachusetts, the only state in the United States to have recognized same-sex union as marriage, did so referring to our case.

"The United Kingdom recognizes a civil union between same-sex couples with all the rights and obligations of regular marriage but doesn't use the term `marriage.'

"But the term `marriage' is important to send a message to society that the commitment of these couples should be just as respected as the commitment of a heterosexual couple, though any marriage can fall apart. That's why I stress the importance of individual dignity.

"I remember a young lawyer saying to me, `You know, the day after the decision, my partner and I were lining up to go to a movie, and we felt better about our relationship and, therefore, felt better about ourselves.'

"The court decision had obviously sent an important message."

What of the argument that such decisions go against the traditional and established views of a society?

"I don't think the traditional view or the majoritarian view is the correct view. The Charter is really a document to protect minority rights."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! Although I've read the Goodridge decision, I had not read the Canadian decision. It is a wonderful gift to read chief justice McMurtry's views on the Charter and individual dignity under the law.