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Rolly: Utah state senator needs to review constitutional law

Published December 28, 2013 8:30 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, penned an opinion piece in Tuesday's Tribune that holds to the view that majority rule under a constitutional republic is being threatened by activist judges who ignore the will of the people in order to satisfy their own agendas.

He cited U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's ruling last week that struck down Utah's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as an example of judicial activism denying the rights of the people to set their own moral standards.

He suggested that such judicial activism insulting the will of the majority could tear the country apart and result in protests and civil disobedience.

"Forcing the majority to give up its constitutional rights for judicial activism protecting sexual activities heretofore held to be immoral is not only unfair, but will expose the nation to unrestrained enmity," Reid wrote, claiming the judge ignored centuries of legislative intent and judicial precedent.

The Tribune's op-ed pages are intended for public discourse and divergence of opinions.

But when a sitting state senator demonstrates such ignorance of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, it must be challenged.

Reid, who was a Democrat before he was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was again a Republican, argues that judges have no right to usurp the will of the majority when it comes to religious or moral matters.

But while, indeed, our government is one of majority rule, the constitutional scholars I know are consistent in stating the Bill or Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, was added to protect the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority.

The 14th Amendment said those minority rights also applied to state laws.

Shelby ruled that under the 14th Amendment, one class of citizens should not be denied a right, in this case to marry, that other classes of citizens are allowed.

Therefore, not allowing same-sex couples the same matrimonial rights as heterosexual couples is unconstitutional.

Reid is concerned that this overturns centuries of precedent and majority sensibilities.

Well, so did Brown vs. Board of Education, handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 that declared state laws requiring separate schools for white students and black students were unconstitutional.

Laws banning interracial marriage were still in existence in some states in the 1960s before they were stamped out by "activist judges."

Reid also claims the ruling supplants the majority's "rights of free speech and religious freedom."

What he is saying is that if the majority doesn't get to oppress the rights of a certain minority, those in the majority are the victims, even though they still have their rights to marry whom and where they want.

In fact, the idea of protecting minority rights against the tyranny of the majority is said to have germinated in Virginia in the 1790s when Baptist pastor John Leland persuaded James Madison to push for the adoption of the Bill of Rights because Baptists, who were in the minority, were discriminated against for not abiding by religious practices of the majority.

That led to this famous quote from Madison: "In all cases where the majority are united by a common interest or passion, the rights of the minority are in danger."

Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801, said: "…bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression."

That, Sen. Reid, is the beauty of the constitutional rule of law. —




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