Rachel Maddow last night, the night before the oral arguments that the Supreme Court heard today (audio here) on California's Prop. 8:
"...The politics surrounding this legal matter are increasingly weighty and predictable on the left. And on the right, they are increasingly incoherent and low-rent and even occasionally pathetic."
Well that was prescient. As The Maddow Blog tweeted today:
Justice Samuel Alito:
"Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new. I think it was first adopted in The Netherlands in 2000. So there isn't a lot of data about its effect. And it may turn out to be a -- a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing, as the supporters of Proposition 8 apparently believe.
"But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we -- we are not -- we do not have the ability to see the future. On a question like that, of such fundamental importance, why should it not be left for the people, either acting through initiatives and referendums or through their elected public officials?"
Alito's argument seems to be one focused on the calendar. Perhaps, the theory goes, millions of Americans can be denied equal rights for an indefinite period of time, and jurists can revisit the issue in the future. At that point, they can revisit whether or not allowing two consenting adults to get married is "a good thing."
Remember the fine print in the Declaration of Independence? We have an inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit happiness, just so long as the specific type of happiness is older than mobile telephones.
These are rights we're talking about. Equality. Civil rights, equal rights, marriage equality.
The phrase "tyranny of the majority" (or "tyranny of the masses"), used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, envisions a scenario in which decisions made by a majority place its interests so far above those of an individual or minority group as to constitute active oppression, comparable to that of tyrants and despots. In many cases a disliked ethnic, religious or racial group is deliberately penalized by the majority element acting through the democratic process.
Please read Benen's entire post.