Come on wind, don’t die on me now. *Pfooooo….pfoooo….*
by Luke Goldstein
To many around the country and even beyond its borders to the outside world, the fight for marriage equality centers around the formerly progressive state of California and the infamous Prop 8. Prop 8 was voted on and narrowly approved in the November elections, thereby banning same sex marriages in the state. Less than a week ago, a decision was handed down by the California Supreme Court to uphold Prop 8 by a vote of 6 to 1, leaving the ban in place, while a small note of logic and compassion slipped through allowing the nearly 18,000 same sex couples who were married in the brief time of legality to stay married in the eyes of the California legal system. In the amazingly harmonic words of the Canadian a capella group, Moxy Fruvous: “Can’t really call that a loss or a win?”
Let’s be frank here, it was a step back on the road to equality, even with the already performed marriages upheld. Supporters of equal rights for same sex couples rallied all over the state on the day of the decision, chanting and yelling, doing anything they could to keep their spirits up and not let themselves get crushed under the angry, fearful bus of bigotry and discrimination that just ran over them once again. For those of us on the side of equality, we knew this decision was likely. The Supreme Court has a great tendency towards not overturning what they describe as “the will of the people,” but we also knew the justices are all human beings, with the same faults and the same fears, one of which is being looked at unkindly by history and handing down a mass divorce decree for 18,000 couples would certainly not look good in the record books. Being prepared for the likely answer didn’t make it any less disappointing, but it did allow plans to be put in place in case things fell in that fashion.
The discussion now surrounds whether or not to bring the issue back to the ballot in 2010 or 2012. I completely understand the facilities needed to fight this and the finances which must be drawn to keep pace with those who want to see the ban stand, but I can’t see any downside to pushing forward and bringing the fight in 2010. Even if we lose once again, I feel confident ground will be gained and it will only bring us that much closer to success in 2012 (if necessary).
Let’s look at the facts here once more, just as a refresher:
- Although many opponents of same sex marriage use religious rhetoric and diversionary fear tactics, this is not a religious fight. The church has nothing to do with who gets married. The church, synagogue, mosque or temple, doesn’t issue the marriage certificate. In fact, they cannot even officiate over a marriage without getting the aforementioned certificate sent to them by the state. This is a government issue and religion has absolutely no place in the argument.
- Although the case brought before the state supreme court was ill-framed, the fact remains their job is to interpret the law and ensure it is fairly enforced over all its constituents, not just the narrow majority. One of the main roles of government is to ensure the rights of the minority are not trampled on by the majority and this is point for point the failing in this case, not only in California, but nationwide. Beyond the whooping and hollering by both sides here in California, this issue should never have been left in the hands of the states. How can we ever say one state has the right to control who you love while another state doesn’t? Love is not a statewide right, like being able to smoke in a bar. Love is a civil right, one due to every citizen of this nation, no matter if they stand under the rainy clouds of Seattle or bask in the sultry sun of Key West. It is the basic human right to have your love for another person recognized by the government and take part in all the benefits wrapped up in that acknowledgment. There is a case being brought before the Federal Supreme Court now, launched just days before the decision to uphold Prop 8, and the two lawyers arguing for same sex equality are top people from each side of the landmark Gore v. Bush case, which awarded Bush his first term in office. These guys know what they are doing when they approach those hallowed halls of justice and those on the side of discrimination have no clue what is coming their way.
- In most states gay couples can petition and be granted the right to legally adopt children, but are denied the right to marry. Think about that for a second. How does this support a cohesive family unit, one so desperately protected by those against gay marriage?
- Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, was quoted after the California Supreme Court ruling saying: “Marriage is worth protecting because it is the way we teach the next generation: children need mothers and fathers.” So, to all those single parents out there thinking right now you are doing everything you can to provide for and love your children, guess what…you’re not enough. You’re not traditional and “nuclear”. You can’t possibly fully provide a loving and nurturing home for your children because you are only half as good as a gender balanced couple. Thanks for trying though. Please drop your kids off at the nearest adoption clinic so they can be fed into the foster care system until they’re eighteen years of age and dropped back into the world alone.
- The national divorce rate is 50%. What exactly is being torn apart by allowing more people the shot at having long fruitful, respectful and loving relationships? Does it look like the heterosexual population is really, truly respecting the “traditional” values of marriage? Those people who wave the banner of sanctity in marriage can come and talk with me once they legally shut down 24-hour drive thru wedding chapels officiated by Elvis impersonators. Reinstill respect and tradition for the straight world first before claiming the gay world is ruining it. Some of the couples who have taken advantage of the right to marry, in California and the handful of other states who recognize it legally, have actually been together for thirty years or more, just waiting and hoping for the day to make it legal and gain the respect and rights of their country. I would love to see a statistic of how many straight couples make it that long without officially tying the knot.
President Obama did make a number of statements during his campaign pledging support for the rights of gay people all over the nation, both in regards to civil unions and marriage equality and in the realm of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which forces gay soldiers to hide their true self in order to serve and not be discharged. He has not made a lot of headway on these issues during his brief time in office, but I can honestly afford him some slack on these since it’s easy to see he has other, more nationally compelling issues to deal with (economy crashing, rising wartime violence, spiraling budgetary concerns, etc…). But make no mistake about it, the gay community and its allies, like myself, will not let him forget the promises he made and I fully expect them to be dealt with during his second term, when he won’t have to worry about the need for re-election votes.
I encourage all those who wish to deny the full rights of marriage to the gay community to find a history book, anything from the seventh grade and above. Crack it open and read a couple chapters on the suffrage movement of the 20s, the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s (pay extra close attention to the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education where we received the lasting legislative ruling that stated “separate, but equal” was inherently unconstitutional), and toss in a light dusting of the fight for women to serve in the military. If you look close enough, you will see where this modern day civil rights movement is heading. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for supporters of same sex marriages and it is unavoidable, whether you like it or not. History ignored is history repeated and although we would like to think people would see logic, reason and humanity in these early stages, we’ve already read to the end of the history books and seen equality handed down once again to those who most certainly deserve it.
Last note: For the supporters of marriage equality, it can be a touch confusing on how to support financially or with volunteer work since it feels like another grassroots organization sprouts up each and every day. With the people I’ve talked to and the research I’ve done, I happily point you towards Equality California and the Human Rights Campaign. These two organizations are incredibly motivated and connected with the fight, both in California and across the nation. If you want to support the cause, I recommend starting your research with either of these groups.