Throughout modern American culture certain laws passed by the majority have been considered unjust by a wise minority. However, with the logical and emotional appeal of hard fought battles, voices have been heard, and the minds of the majority can sometimes be converted to see the truth.
Thoreau, after spending a night in jail and seeing the truth hidden behind the propaganda of the majority, became convinced that he could no longer accept his government’s behavior of passing laws that benefit the majority with degrading the minority. It’s quite ironic that by the government imprisoning Thoreau he became freer then ever before. He was able to see how the government turned peaceably inclined men into controllable machines. Thoreau saw how the government dealt with its citizens as only a body, while completely disregarding the sense, intellect, and moral beliefs of its people.
In his essay “Civil Disobedience,” Thoreau stated that “a government ruled by majority in all cases cannot be based on justice.” He further believed that “under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison.” This point made by Thoreau can be seen as the truth throughout history. A just man never sits by quietly watching the majority degrade the minority to suit their own immoral purposes.
Like Thoreau, another just man who stood out from the quiet minority was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was, as well, willing to suffer for his views to put an end to racial segregation, and was arrested on numerous occasions for holding strong in his believes and spreading his message throughout the minds of all God’s children.
King often cited conscience as a guide to obeying just laws and disobeying unjust ones. In an essay written by King titled “A letter from Birmingham Jail,” King clearly defines the interpretation of the differerence between the two kinds of laws. “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is a difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.” To further understand this King quotes from St. Augustine himself who once stated “any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” Hence segregation of any people from anything distorts the soul and damages the personality, so it is clearly unjust.
The battles fought by just men like King and Thoreau have been long and hard. Surely men like these have left indelible marks of the minds of modern society. Even still the majority continues to holds a controllable power over the minority, and only through constant demonstrations and voicing of opinions and reminding of what’s morally right can the minority hope to pursue the majority into passing only just laws
In relation to King and Thoreau’s opinions and ideals of laws that are unjust I can think of no better issue in modern American culture than the rights being denied to homosexuals. They stand to this day segregated from the majority and denied of the rights given to heterosexuals.
The majority of Americans today oppose same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples, insisting that sexual orientation “can be changed through will power, therapy, or religious convictions.” But mainstream medical and psychiatric professional organizations have concluded that sexual orientation is innate and cannot be changed, and have strongly opposed attempts to “convert” gay people to heterosexuality as misguided and harmful.
Even still, those in power to shape the minds and views of the majority whole-heartedly insist that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured
Reverend Jerry Falwell, who airs a Christian television program and has millions of devoted followers, states that “God hates homosexuality” and that it is a “moral perversion.”
Pat Robertson, who runs a similar Christian program on television, equates homosexuality with an “abomination,” a “pathology,” “Satanists,” and even “Adolf Hitler.”
Even the Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott speaks out against homosexuality. He compares it to alcoholism, kleptomania, and sexual addiction.
Sadly these views can have devastating effects on both the majority and the minority. Organizations have been formed out of hate for homosexuals, insisting gay bashings, outspoken speeches against homosexuals, and spreading of propaganda to the masses.
As for the affects of all this on gay people its even worse. It’s estimated that somewhere between six and ten percent of the United States population is gay. Yet as much as thirty percent of teenage suicides are those of homosexuals. In 1997, my sister was one of those victims, and although my parents deeply mourn her loss, they still insist that she would have been saved had she continued therapy to convert her into being heterosexual. But the truth is had they loved her and supported her sexual orientation instead of disowning her, she would still be alive today.
Although fights to persuade the majority into passing laws that are morally right have been long and hard, they have not been in vain. Federal law has finally made it illegal for employers to fire workers based on sexual orientation, as well as landlords who refuse to rent to homosexuals. But the road to morally right equality is still a long road to travel.
Just recently in January 1999, Reverend Don Fado of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento was brought up on charges for unlawfully performing a wedding of church members Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett. Fado compared the ceremony to an act of Civil Disobedience, which his church has supported for civil rights and anti-war causes, and seeks a church trail to force the church to face the acknowledgement of what is morally right.
The current law prohibiting same sex marriage can have devastating effects. Recently, Frank Vasquez of Tacoma, Washington, who shared the house, business, and financial assets with his gay partner for twenty-eight years, cannot inherit his partner’s estate. He was denied any of the $230,000 estate, including the home they shared, because the state’s community property law only applies to heterosexuals. The ruling was ironic because it contends that gay couples, who cannot marry, lack the legal protections of unmarried heterosexuals couples who can marry but don’t.
Clearly the laws set against homosexuals are morally wrong and unjust. Because of these laws, countless beatings and deaths, financial loss, and overall degrading of the human personality have occurred. As King once said, “we have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” We cannot stand in the shadows letting the majority degrade and damage the personality of the minority. Instead we must come together and voice our opinions as one. Only together will we be able to open the eyes of the majority and show them what must happen in order to completely end segregation. As with any matter in life we have a choice to stand with the morally right or wrong. Where do you stand?