Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | November 9, 2009

Enough with the Referendums

As New Yorkers voted in the election that put mayor-for-life Bloomberg in City Hall for another four years, the state of Maine hit the polls for a referendum on Gay marriage, a proposal similar to what we saw in California and Florida during the presidential election. Not surprisingly, the measure to ban homosexuals from exercising the legal right to marry passed there – to the dismay of activists around the nation, who had been winning small victories in favor of their cause in the last few years.

The fact is, I do believe that holding that referendum in the first place was completely wrong. Such elections are highly emotional, and religious and social conservatives have a special talent for stirring up peoples’ passions when it comes to civil-rights issues. I do believe that sometimes legislators have to make the right move in spite of what their constituents believe for the greater good of all.

An example of this is Brown Vs. Board of Education and the Voting Rights act, two measures that  forever changed the face of the Old South and its racist ways.  Those were sweeping pieces of legislation aimed to forever bury the Jim Crow law. Without them, we would never have elected Barack Obama president in 2008.

Now just imagine if the Supreme Court and Pres. Johnson had just left ending segregation up to the states. Does anyone in their right mind even think that voters would willingly cast their ballots in favor of their black brothers and sisters?  Heck no. The whole thing might have dragged on for another twenty years, with African-American men being called ‘boy’  and getting dragged across town courtesy of the Ku Klux Klan – all in the name of the ‘ways of the South.’

What we need now is what was needed then – a federally mandated law to serve as a slap in the face of the religious right. Otherwise, they will continue their fight to deteriorate all the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans for the sake of their beliefs – which by the way have no place in a country with church-state separation.

We also need politicians with a backbone, not those  wimps we have in Congress today. In the 50s and 60s, there was a gigantic backlash against Democrats in the south because of the Civil Rights laws. Pres. Johnson – himself a Southerner – knew exactly what would happen if he signed the Voting Rights act, but he did it anyway because it would be better for the country in the long run, even if it cost him his political career.

We need more people like Johnson in Washington – and Albany – today.

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