Putting Ideology Above The Law
The powers that be in Madison, Wisconsin have decided to embarrass themselves yet again. Upset by the passage of Wisconsin's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in November, the Madison Common Council voted last night to "allow elected or appointed officials to protest the ban while taking their oath of office and swearing to uphold the Wisconsin and U.S. constitutions.The approved measure gives officials the option of signing a statement that they took the oath 'under protest'. They can also pledge to fight to overturn the amendment."
Well that's just dandy. Apparently my elected officials only feel the need to uphold the laws that they personally agree with. Unfortunately for them, upholding state law is an essential part of their jobs. Like pharmacists who don't want to prescribe birth control pills or cabbies who don't want to transport liquor or service animals, I suggest they find a line of work that won't cause their ideology to interfere with their livelihood. If members of the Madison Common Council are so horrified by the new Wisconsin constitution, then I suggest that they resign their positions and devote their political lives to overturning the amendment or at least working to overturn the portion that bans civil unions.
Supporters of this measure point to the fact that Madison voters overwhelmingly rejected the gay marriage ban and that therefore the city's elected officials are only obeying the wishes of their constituents. That's true, but last time I checked Madison was still bound by Wisconsin law, unless we seceded from the state while I wasn't paying attention. I'm not saying it couldn't happen! Maybe that is the answer. Madison should secede, but not just from Wisconsin, but rather from the entire United States. After all, "we" didn't vote for George W. Bush, why the hell should he be our President? Of course, all of this would necessarily require that we give up state and federal money, so ah, maybe not. Wow, it's hard to be "70 square miles surrounded by reality".
Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. Instead of making fun of the Madison Common Council, should I be praising them for their trailblazing ways? Could they be ushering in a whole new era of truth in electoral advertising? If Madison voters know that their elected officials intend to ignore certain laws, maybe other officials will make their intentions clear too. A sheriff or district attorney can run on the fact that he won't arrest or prosecute individuals for underage drinking or speeding or a House candidate can be let it known that she, in fact, is for sale to the highest bidder. This could be the first step toward exactly the kind of transparency we need in government. I take it all back. Thanks Madison Common Council, you're clearly ahead of your time!
Posted by at January 17, 2007 10:52 AM
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|# January 17th, 2007 6:28 PM TheUnabrewer|
|I'm torn. Seems like a silly place to make a stand, but if some politicians refused to, say, collect taxes, I'd be their biggest cheering sections.
On a more realistic note, disobeying unjust laws led to the right outcome when it came to Jim Crow laws. So...it can go either way. There's a time and a place for it; the question is whether this is the time and the place. And a lot of people disagree about that.
|# January 17th, 2007 6:48 PM kris|
|I voted against the Amendment. I completely disagree with it, but I certainly wouldn't equate a gay marriage ban with Jim Crow laws. I think it's rather insulting to do so. |
|# January 17th, 2007 7:25 PM TheUnabrewer|
|My larger point is that I don't automatically hold someone who chooses to disobey a law in disdain.
I agree that Jim Crow and gay marriage aren't equivalent; after all, gay people can choose to draw up contracts if they so desire and thereby gain rights that blacks in the south never could have.
|# January 17th, 2007 8:11 PM kris|
|Well actually, Wisconsin's amendment outlawed contracts that mimic marriage too.
I think the larger point is that Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional and this is a case where the state constitution has actually been changed.
|# January 23rd, 2007 2:02 PM thegameiam|
|Civil disobedience has an honorable history, and one should follow one's conscience in these matters.
However, it also has consequences: disobeying the law in a civil manner means being willing to accept the punishment for disobeying the law - think of Rev. Dr. King going to jail, as an example.
The appropriate course of action would be for them to refuse to take the oath of office, and resign.
|# January 23rd, 2007 6:29 PM kris|
|Exactly. What these people want to do is have their cake and eat it too. They want to nobly protest something but they're not willing to sacrifice anything for it. That's what offends me. |