With anxiety and anger about sexuality reaching a noisy crescendo, Congress members and state legislators are responding with laws that quiet the mob—laws that have little chance of surviving.
For years, Congress has passed law after law attempting to rid the internet of pornography. Texas recently passed a law requiring strip clubs to pay a special tax of $5 per head (no jokes, please).
And last week, Indiana passed a law requiring sellers of “sexually explicit” materials to register with the state and pay a $250 fee.
Every federal law censoring the internet has been halted by a court. The Texas law was overturned by a court several weeks ago. The Indiana law, you can be sure, will be overturned before Labor Day.
All because of “activist judges.” You know what an “activist judge” is—someone who decides that a law you like happens to be illegal.
Most people understand that Congress can’t pass a law reinstituting slavery—and that if it did, a court would overturn it. Similarly, a state legislature can’t authorize murder, or require all its residents to eat beef to qualify for a driver’s license.
Americans may not understand the legal technicalities preventing the passage of certain laws (even if highly popular), but they understand the general idea. We live by a set of rules—the Constitution and its Bill of Rights—that elected officials simply cannot waive.
This is all fine—until a group of people thinks they should be allowed to trample the Constitutional rules because they’re upset about sex. Sexual danger. Sexual fear. Legislators pass laws in response to SexPanics that break the larger, Constitutional rules.
When these laws are successfully challenged, counties and states face huge legal bills, and everyone’s time has been wasted. But legislators win.
“Don’t blame me,” they say, “I voted for a law you demanded that would protect our children, but those snooty judges decided you citizens couldn’t have the laws you asked us to pass. You might as well live in Russia.”
This is legislative cowardice. Most lawmakers are lawyers. They can generally guess what new laws won’t stand up. They vote for the laws anyway, watch them (predictably) get ruled unconstitutional, then blame the courts, the ACLU, and “liberal” plaintiffs (bookstores, strip clubs, a student who just wanted some birth control).
Hey Americans, democracy does NOT mean the majority can create ANY laws they want—it means they can pass any laws they want within the Constitution’s wonderful, far-sighted limits.
Americans who are too immature to understand that their fear and anxiety about sex do not suspend the rules of the game will get the lawmakers they deserve. These charlatans will pander to their fear, pretend to do something efficacious, and when it predictably fails Constitutional scrutiny, argue “hey, I tried to do what you wanted, but due to a flaw in the system, we both end up victims.”
No, judges overturning bad laws isn’t a flaw in the system; it’s the system working like it’s supposed to. The adult fruits of democracy are only for those adult enough to comfort themselves when their emotions want something their political system can’t—and shouldn’t— provide.