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When Courts Overturn “The Will Of The People”

Jim Burroway

August 6th, 2010

I love BTB readers. Yes, courts really can overturn “the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box” when the will of the people is discriminatory:

An interesting historical perspective was found at the Washington Blade contributed by poster Nameless Cynic:

Almost 50 years ago, the California Legislature passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which banned discrimination against “colored” renters or buyers. About 2/3 of California voters overturned the Rumford Act when they passed Proposition 14, which, like Proposition 8, amended the California Constitution, this time to say that Californians could refuse to sell or rent to anyone for any reason. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 14 violated the 14th Amendment, and it didn’t matter if 100% of Californians had voted for it — it was discrimination, and unconstitutional.

Yup. Here’s some background on what led to the Rumford Fair Housing Act to begin with, and you can read up on Prop 14 here. Time Magazine published this article about Prop 14 in 1964. Reitman v. Mulkey established the legal precedent that states could remove a constitutional amendment, even if it were passed by a popular vote, if the amendment supported racial discrimination.

[If someone has the Blade link, please pass it along in the comments so we can give credit where it’s due. Thanks.]

Comments

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S. Wheeler
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

No but you see, racism is TOTALLY different and the courts were right to overturn THAT voter initiative because it’s wrong. Unlike this one which is different because it targets sexual orientation instead of skin color.

That totally makes it completely different, you see.

jOHN
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

Makes it different… it is still discriminatory…

Mark F.
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

Well, it’s stupid to say the courts can’t overturn the will of the people, but one can disagree with their decisions. Not all law is good law.

TampaZeke
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

If judges and the courts aren’t supposed to interpret law and determine the constitutionality of laws then what exactly is their purpose?

gayatheist
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

It seems a vast number of Americans don’t realize that one of the main roles of the Judicial branch of the Government is to protect the various minorties from the majority – it’s one of the primary FUNCTIONS of the Judiciary branch, so to call the exercizing of that Constitutional power “activist” is simply ignorant.

Greg
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

@TampaZeke “If judges and the courts aren’t supposed to interpret law and determine the constitutionality of laws then what exactly is their purpose?”

I can only guess that conservatives think the only purpose is to protect the majority from the minority. They can do that by sending the minority members to jail or by issuing massive fines and damages to people who intrude on the privilege of the majority.

Sadly, as a business student, I’ve met a number of these people.

Oh, and also to strike down RomneyCare–I mean ObamaCare. Because that’s a bad law they don’t like.

Dave in Northridge
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

Here’s the link, only it’s not from the Blade, it’s from Patt Morrison at the Los Angeles Times, whose column (this is the last paragraph) the Blade commentator pasted from: http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2010/08/proposition-8-judge-walker-and-our-short-memories.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+OpinionLa+%28L.A.+Times+-+Opinion+Blog%29

Discrimination is discrimination, and I think even this Supreme Court can understand that. By the way, the decision on Reitman v Mulkey, the case described above, was 5-4.

Matt
August 6th, 2010 | LINK

Very nice article, should give the pro-overturning side a little extra ammo.

John Doucette
August 7th, 2010 | LINK

Recent polls seems to suggest that the will of the people, at least in Cal., has changed somewhat since the vote on Prop 8.
In part, I think, because people realized that the big money from outside Cal. paid for a bunch of lies and distortions on the issue. People were hoodwinked into voting for what the Catholic and Morman churches wanted. It is only the judges’ job to try and correct things like this.

Lymis
August 8th, 2010 | LINK

“Recent polls seems to suggest that the will of the people, at least in Cal., has changed somewhat since the vote on Prop 8.”

That doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the will of the RIGHT people. The others don’t count.

I mean, come on, the other people are the ones who think gay people should have legal rights. You’re going to trust people like that to have legal power?

nameless cynic
August 13th, 2010 | LINK

Yeah, it’s true. I cut-and-pasted that. I googled (I think it was) “california fair housing act” and that was the most succinct description I found. What? I’m supposed to reinvent the wheel every time?

Curse you, Dave in Northridge! Can’t you let me bask in my stolen glory for five minutes?

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