Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill that would legalize gay marriage in New Jersey, claiming, “an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.” This “toss it to the voters” mentality may be the latest in his political bag of tricks, but majority vs. minority right disputes are nothing new in American Politics. Historic trends show that when given the opportunity, the majority will always preserve its own self-interest over the rights of a minority. The Governor should ask himself: did history teach us nothing?
Travel back to me with me to 1865, really the first major step in American Civil Rights—we passed the 13th Amendment to the constitution. This Amendment would legally end slavery in the United States, and abolish involuntary servitude. As reconstruction got underway and eleven confederate states found their way back into American life, the newly freed slaves found that life had not changed much at all. They had few advocates who could speak on their behalf, and state after state continued to pass “black codes” to systematically keep the new-Americans out of everyday life. Without the ability to find steady employment, many were imprisoned, prevented from purchasing land and denied a fair wage for their labor. Though a law existed, the minority still lost.
In 1892 the Supreme Court handed down Plessy vs. Ferguseen, which told a still fractured nation that “separate and equal” was acceptable, providing that facilities were actually equal in nature. Human nature prevailed, and the minority was repeatedly given the separate and denied the equal. It would take until 1954 for the Supreme Court to hand down Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, which said that separate is inherently unequal. Still, state legislatures around the country continued to fight the implementation of desegregation. Though a court ruling existed, the minority still lost.
The fight of majority versus minority was never limited to race or ethnicity. Despite the 1963 Equal Pay act, which prohibited discrimination in pay based on gender, women do not make equal pay to their male counterparts. Despite the1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for a person with disabilities, the disabled continue to find discrimination in the employment process.