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Auchter's Art: Well, actually...

John Auchter
Michigan Radio

Back in 2004, there was that ballot proposal in Michigan to define marriage as between one man and one woman. It passed handily and forever forbade gay marriage per the Michigan constitution. Until it was STRUCK DOWN a decade later when same-sex marriage was legalized for the United States as a whole.

The arguments for the ban tended along the lines of "the majority of people don't approve of gay marriage, and the majority rules, bub. That's how democracies work!" My smarty-pants, "well, actually" response: "But we live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy." Technically correct, sure. But underneath that, the actual point — popularity doesn't automatically make something right.

These days I'm seeing the "constitutional republic" argument being used more and more. Not just in cases of gay rights, but issues surrounding abortion access, gun violence, healthcare access, and so on. Curiously, the argument seems especially popular with those who not too long ago were vehement proponents of "majority rules." Again, technically they are not wrong. I am just questioning their apparent flexibility. It was fine to impose their values on others when in the majority, but awfully convenient that they see those same values as constitutionally protected now that they are in the minority.

It is, of course, natural to want to bend the rule of law to meet a desired outcome. (Making "states’ rights" mean what we want them to mean is something of a national pastime.) But it shouldn't be a convenient default.

John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

Since 1995 John has created Michigan-based editorial cartoons for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the Grand Rapids Press, and MLive Newspapers. His cartoons are currently featured at MichiganPublic.org and are syndicated to newspapers through the Michigan Press Association. John is an active member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can view an archive of his editorial work and other cartoons at Auchtoon.com.
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