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Sen. Max Wise: What is Democracy?

By Senator Max Wise
Personal commentary

Frankfort, KY - Democracy... how does one define it? Each semester I ask students in my American Government course to describe what democracy means to them. I often get answers ranging from free speech, elections, religious liberty, personal rights and so on.

But since the Supreme Court of the United States'(SCOTUS) ruling on Obergefell vs. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States in the past few days, I have truly had to step back and closely examine democracy and the future of democracy within the United States. This article will explore the government aspect of the ruling and what it may mean for the future of our democratic society.

I truly believe the decision by SCOTUS took a large chunk out of U.S. democracy as we know it by removing the freedoms of Kentuckians and Americans to vote and decide on social or wedge issues that are often highly debatable. The decisions for Americans to determine what is best for them through direct elections or through representative democracy when it comes to an issue like same sex marriage may jeopardize the future of democracy in the United States. And, that jeopardy is something ALL Americans, regardless of political affiliation or stance on the definition of gay marriage, should consider.

Before the SCOTUS ruling, states could decide how to define marriage, most siding with the union of one man and one woman. While this brought heavy debate, it was a healthy and democratic debate that showed how democracy works best - the freedom of expression, speech, peaceful assembly and ultimately the initiative to overcome apathy by going to the ballot box to decide what measure would be best for themselves and their own individual state on a social issue like gay marriage. By allowing the decision of nine (or in this case five) to replace the voice of elected state officials and an individual's vote, the Supreme Court hit democracy right in the stomach with a sharp jab.

As a legislator, this decision was an obstruction that hinders my ability to formulate policy decisions for my constituents. As a citizen, the decision probably caused many of you to continue to grow more and more pessimistic of government by seeing a ruling that superseded the voice and vote of millions. While many may disagree on gay marriage, a more troubling foreseeable issue is that repercussions that may come from seeing our democratic form of government erode due to the higher court inserting itself into a democratic society.

What makes my political science classrooms lively and healthy is the free flowing of expressive ideas and discussions on a host of issues amongst students with differing perspectives. . .death penalty, immigration, minimum wage, marriage, etc. We are all going to have different ideas based on our political diversity and the political socialization factors that have shaped each one of our political ideologies regardless of our age, race, gender or nationality.

The beauty of our society is just like the classroom. We have the ability to conduct healthy discussions, exchange ideas peacefully and vote on issues that are important to us as Kentuckians and Americans. That is the United States that I hope our founding fathers beckoned for. However, based on this recent ruling, I must now ask the questions, 'Is democracy still protected. . .is our freedom to vote still valued as it should be by the courts...can legislators still make decisions that reflect their constituents and those individuals' values going forward?'

For those of you with questions on how the Kentucky State Senate will deal with the fallout over the SCOTUS ruling in respect to gay marriage, our Senate leadership and myself are in the process of drafting legislation for this upcoming legislative session to address the issues of county clerks objecting to issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, as well as pastors refusing to conduct ceremonies or to make facilities available to same sex marriages. This is unchartered territory for us all, and I ask that you continue to pray for the work of myself and our legislators. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I appreciate the ability to serve and represent you in the Kentucky State Senate.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me so that I may better serve you in Frankfort. To voice your issues and concerns, send me a message at 1-800-372-7181 or max.wise@lrc.ky.gov. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.


This story was posted on 2015-07-03 09:29:40
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