The U.S. Supreme Court is getting scalded up one side and down the other for their recent decision to negate affirmative action in college admissions.
Nobody in Wyoming should be too upset at this decision, since affirmative action has been unconstitutional within our borders since 1890, when our Wyoming Constitution mandated that human equality is the law of the land.
Our Constitution, in Article 1, Section 2, states unequivocally that “all members of the human race are equal.”
Even the famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal” is looser and fuzzier. “Men” in that statement can be read as either citizens with testicles or as a synecdoche for all humankind.
And the verb “created” can be interpreted to imply that equality exists at birth, but that condition can change with time.
There is no such waffle language in the Wyoming Constitution. And therefore no room in the Equality State for affirmative action or protected classes. Those might be noble concepts in other states where equality is subject to modifiers, but our founding document renders them moot.
By equal, does our Constitution mean that all Wyomingites are the same height, weight, color and gender? Does it mean that we all have the same balance in our bank accounts? Does it mean that we are all equally adept at calculus, neurosurgery or welding?
Does the Wyoming Constitution mandate that we are all equally happy, fulfilled in our lives and at peace with ourselves and the world around us?
I’ll let you ponder the answers on your own.
But what it doesn’t mean is that, since you and I are equals, you have the right to come uninvited into my home, drink my beer and borrow my books.
It also doesn’t mean that, if my house catches fire, I’ll call a librarian instead of a fireman since they’re both equal and should do an equally good job.
It means simply, as stated in Article 1, Section three that “...the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex or any other circumstance or condition whatsoever.”
All citizens enjoy equal protection under our laws, equal access to the courts and equal participation in government. In these regards, no Wyomingite is any better or any worse than another. Nobody’s vote counts more than anyone else’s.
We are politically equal, and that’s about as far as any constitution or law can go to guarantee equality. Everything else, the breathing of life into constitutional ideals, is upon us the citizens. And we all have equal responsibility to do just that.
Political equality scares the beejeezus out of some folks. Particularly if they find their privileged position in life threatened. But it's the law of the land, and those folks better get used to that fact.
Others, because they don’t enjoy a legacy of privilege, want the state to “level the playing field” and treat them as a protected class because of their station in life. They want affirmative action to redress past mistreatment.
But the Wyoming Constitution wasn’t written to do that. It was written to provide political equality to all citizens without distinctions and nothing beyond. It does precisely that, and nothing more.
I was recently on a panel of Wyoming writers, fielding questions from the moderator about the state we all love. We were all asked (and I’ll paraphrase) “How will Wyoming survive and even thrive for another century, given all the turmoil and political weirdness going on around her?”
The common element in all of our answers was “We have an incredible Constitution, and if we all live by it, we’ll do just fine.
Rod Miller can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org