Idiotic “Will of the People” Arguments, Past and Present

It's been quite the guilty pleasure the last week seeing the local Right foaming about the California Superior Court's decision to allow homosexual marriage (hey, State Assemblywoman Mimi Walters: are you sure you want to be immortalized in the pantheon of OC GOP wackjobs like James “Barefoot Africans” Utt and Bob Dornan?). On and on they rail about activist judges and the “will of the people” as if they were a bunch of whiny KPFK listeners.

This debate–tyranny of the masses as opposed to justice for all–reminds me of Reitman v. Mulkey, a 1967 Supreme Court decision that found unconstitutional Proposition 14, a ballot measure passed by 65 percent of California voters in 1964. The measure overturned the Rumford Fair Housing Act–which banned property owners from discriminating against potential tenants on basis of race, sex, marriage status, physical handicaps, religion and other goodies–by amending the California Constitution–sounds like a familiar tactic, eh? Although its advocates argued that Proposition 14 was merely combating Big Brother, that position was as valid as Southerners saying the War Between the States wasn't about slavery but state rights.

The local connection, of course, is Dorothy Mulkey. She and her husband Lincoln, U.S. Navy veterans, tried to rent an apartment in Santa Ana in 1963 but were denied based on them being African-Americans. If history continues to navigate its course (remember, we also inspired Mendez v. Westminster), we will see another civil rights pioneer emerge from Orange County once the “will of the people” inflicts its bigotry anew.

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