Subverting the democratic process

Via Ed Brayton, we get this argument from Jim Burroway at the Box Turtle Bulletin.

[A]t a time when we are demanding passage of the Employment Non-Discrmination Act so that companies can’t just up and fire LGBT employees because they don’t agree with them — as they can now in about two-thirds of our states — we need to think very long and hard about whether we should demand someone be removed from his job for exercising his constitutional rights as part of the cornerstone of our democracy: a free and fair election.

Ed thinks it’s a very persuasive argument, so let me make the counter-argument and see if I can be equally persuasive.

You’ve probably heard the quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, to the effect that “democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.” It’s true. Democracy is the best we’ve been able to come up with so far, but it’s flawed. In particular, it’s subject to demagoguery and to injustices perpetrated against minorities by the majority, for whatever reason.

I’m going to take a stand on principle, and say that our goal, as a society, should be to oppose that sort of abuse of the democratic process, even when it is technically legal. It is never a legitimate use of “free and fair election” to subvert the process in order to demean minorities and deprive them of their fundamental human rights.

ENDA is a legitimate use of the democratic process, because it goes the other direction: it seeks to restore and/or protect minorities against discrimination and second-class status. Proposition 8 was the exact opposite. It didn’t even have any significant benefit to the majority. It was purely a spiteful and bigoted attempt to make gay people suffer for being gay. It is never legitimate to use the democratic process in this way.

I agree with Jim: we should indeed think long and hard before we demand that someone be removed from their job for exercising their constitutional rights. But having thought long and hard, we should recognize three things.

  • Nobody has a constitutional right to demean and discriminate against anyone else, including gays.
  • Nobody has a constitutional right to subvert constitutional processes in order to institutionalize unconstitutional discrimination.
  • You reap what you sow.

Anybody can make a mistake. That’s ok, as long as you admit your error and try to correct it. Eich, to my knowledge, does not agree that he has made any mistakes. He still supports discrimination and injustice towards gays, and he’s not sorry he tried to make them suffer. He’s sorry he’s had to endure the consequences of his bigotry, but he’s not ashamed at having tried to exercise it in a way that would do lasting harm to others.

It’s not that we’re on any kind of witch hunt against homophobes. But putting people in leadership positions—especially highly influential and visible positions—means giving them a platform they can use to promote their values and agendas. When those values and agendas are hateful, harmful, and active, it’s entirely reasonable to think long and hard and come to the conclusion that the person is a poor fit for the position.