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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Citizens are getting involved in Government--whether They like it or not!

Note to Government officials: If you open a meeting to the public to discuss a controversial legal proposal, you'd better count on at least 500 people showing up to oppose it.

Last night the city of Goshen, Indiana had to move the venue of their city council meeting to the local high school in order to accommodate the crowd that showed up to oppose an ordinance forbidding Goshen businesses from keeping female impersonators out of the ladies' restrooms. And even then, police were already turning people away at the door by the time the meeting was to begin. Most of the attendees weren't Goshen residents, but that should come as no surprise: most of the people who patronize Goshen businesses aren't either. Since these customers can't vote for Goshen City Council, this was their only chance to make their voice heard, before having to vote with their gas pedals and pocketbooks should the ordinance pass. The meeting went on for over six hours, with over 100 people speaking out against the ordinance, before the Council finally voted on it.

And it would have passed, had not the council members received from a pastor in a neighboring town a book exposing the likely legal consequences of such a law. Upon reading it, one of the ordinance's co-sponsors, Chic Lanz, reversed his vote and the motion failed, 3 to 4.

Voting is both a right and a privilege, but an even more powerful right, enshrined in the First Amendment, is to communicate one's concerns to government officials without fear of reprisal. Barack Obama has made that a little more difficult--his campaign once sent the Secret Service after a woman who voiced her reasons for refusing to donate to it--but this is one case where the pen, skillfully wielded, was more powerful than the ballot card-punch.

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