Archive for 10 June 2012

Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Majority

10 June 2012 9 comments


Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking


Colin Craig, leader of the Conservative Party, appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 June, and was interviewed on the issue of  gay marriage (henceforth referred to as Marriage Equality). His reticence on the issue was fairly evident, and he had some trouble  explaining his rationale denying the right for gays and lesbians to marry,

SHANE Thank you both for joining us this morning. Colin Craig, more than two-thirds of Kiwis support it. Why don’t you?

COLIN CRAIG – Conservative Party leader

Well, look, a poll says that, and if we look at the States, most of the polling over there says, you know, 60% to 70%. But 32 out of 32 states when it when to a referenda-

SHANE Let’s talk about New Zealand.

MR CRAIG …decided it was-

SHANE The New Zealand poll, though – nearly two-thirds support it. Why don’t you?

MR CRAIG Why don’t I is I think that marriage is not purely something that belongs to the state, and I think what we’re talking about here is an intersection of many different interests. So, marriage is cultural, it’s traditional, it’s an institution in our society-

Q+A  interviewer, Shane Taurima, finally got this response from Colin Craig,

SHANE So tell us why you don’t support it.

MR CRAIG Why I don’t support a change to that is that I think that marriage is a word that’s historically, traditionally defined, and I think that all New Zealanders have an interest in it. Now, if all New Zealanders did decide, and I would support a referenda on this, if all New Zealanders decided, “Hey, yeah, look, we’re ready for a change,” fair enough, but I don’t think that’s where New Zealanders are at.

SHANE So you’d back a referendum?

MR CRAIG Absolutely, I would, yeah.

See: TVNZ Q + A: Transcript interview with Colin Craig and Louisa Wall

Unfortunately, Colin Craig’s position on Marriage Equality conflicts with his own Party’s stated position on the rights of New Zealand citizens.  On their website, under the heading of Principles, the Conservative Party proudly proclaims,

Founding Principles of The Conservative Party of New Zealand (Long Form)

  1. A belief in loyalty to a sovereign and united New Zealand, the supremacy of democratic parliamentary
    institutions and the rule of law;
  2. A belief in the institutions of Parliament, the right of citizens to direct government by the democratic process
    including citizens initiated refenda;
  3. A belief in the division of government responsibilities between central and local government.
  4. A belief in the equality of all New Zealanders and that all citizens, regardless of race, have equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of New Zealand

The document further states,

Founding Principles of The Conservative Party of New Zealand (Short Form)

  • The rule of law and government by democratic process including citizens initiated referenda
  • Responsible, accountable, and limited government
  • Careful stewardship of natural and financial resources
  • That government must protect life, freedom, and property
  • Equal rights and privilege

See: Conservative Party Principles

Fine words. Good words. Words that few of us would disagree with.

And nowhere amongst those lofty sentiments do we find a caveat stating that Gays and Lesbians are expressly prevented from enjoying equal rights and privilege and a belief in the equality of all New Zealanders.

Mr Craig appears to be in conflict with his own Party if he is willing to deny a group of New Zealanders the same rights which other New Zealanders take for granted.

Would Mr Craig deny Maori and Pakeha to marry each other? Inter-racial marriage was once taboo.

As for referring the issue to a citizens initiated referenda – this blogger can think of few things more vile and offensive than  determining a group’s rights and status under the law  by the will of a majority of voters. Such an outcome would not even by dependependent on a majority of all voters – but only  a 50%-plus-1 of those bothering to vote.

Mr Craig seems to believe that the Majority should decide on the rights and privileges of a minority? We sell out rights cheaply if we permit such a travesty of  “democracy” to determine who can and can’t enjoy equal rights and privileges“.

Such as happened in the United States, in California, in 2008, where Californians were asked to vote on Proposition 8. This referenda called for a response to the question,

Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” The ballot summary read that the measure “changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.”


Essentially,  voters were asked to vote on other peoples’ marriage and right to marry.

Can the reader think of a greater perversion of the democratic process? That the “Majority” can take away the rights of a Minority at the tick of a felt-tip pen?

The result of Proposition 8 was as follows,



52.24 % of those who cast a valid ballot voted in favour of Proposition 8. Ie; they voted to take away the right of gays and lesbians to be married, if they wanted to exercise that right.

That was 52.24% of a 79.42% voter turn-out.

Or, put into numbers, 7,179,435 voters out of  17,304,428 voters decided who could exercise a right, and who could not.

On Friday, you could marry. By Monday morning, you could not.

Furthermore, those 7,179,435 voters determined the status of voters who were barely unable to exercise their franchise. A minority of voters had determined not just to remove the rights of a minority; but had determined an outcome for an even greater number of voters; and denied rights to those not yet able to vote.

If this sounds  fair and democratic to the reader, or to Colin Craig,  let’s try this little test,



In  a belief in the equality of all New Zealanders, would Colin Craig be willing to put his right to marry to the test?

Can we vote on his marriage?

Of course the question is patently nonsensical. As is the proposition that a Majority can decide whether or not to deny a Minority  certain rights.

Such a proposition is not democracy – it is a distortion of democracy.  It would legitamise any unilateral decision by the majority, whether confiscating property; re-introducing slavery; enacting an unjust or irrational law;  or anything else that happens to take the fancy of a large enough number of people.

Mr Craig does not want to marry a gay man. Fair enough.

I do not want to marry Mr Craig or his wife, either.

But we don’t need to restrict legislate for that. I’m assuming that Mr Craig; his wife; and I, can sort that out between us.

So why does he feel it necessary to make that choice for other adults? And why would he want to legitamise – via an obscene exercise in mock “democracy” –  the  denying of rights and privileges to other adults in society based simply on his own preference for a partner?

Mr Craig should re-read the Founding Principles of his party. They are wise words; good words; common sense even.

But does he truly understand what they mean?






Wikipedia: Proposition 8



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