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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Minority rights & the referendum

Costa Rica's highest court has blocked a referendum that would have allowed citizens to vote on allowing same-sex civil unions:
Costa Rica's top court has blocked the electoral tribunal from holding a referendum that would have let voters decide if same-sex civil unions should be allowed in the Central American country.

The Constitutional Court's 5-2 decision released Tuesday says such a referendum would put a minority at a disadvantage in a largely Roman Catholic country. It also says gay civil unions is a legislative issue and not an electoral one.

The court says it considers homosexuals a group that is at a disadvantage and the target for discrimination, requiring government authorities to protect their rights.
The electoral tribunal had planned to hold the referendum Dec. 5, when Costa Rica also is holding municipal elections.

That's the problem I have with California's Proposition 8 which outlawed gay marriage in that state. One can argue whether marriage is a right and whether the constitutional right to due process extends to gay marriage, but issues related to the rights of a minority should not be subject to a popular vote that requires the approval of a majority of voters for resolution. These arguments are the purview of the legislative branch and subject to scrutiny by the courts. Civil rights are fundamental; they are not contingent on the approval of voters.

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