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Prop 8 now constitutional, but still morally wrong

May 26, 2009

Marriage equality?Last night I had a dream in which, against all expectations, the California Supreme Court struck down Prop 8, recognizing the legitimacy of marriage equality and saying a referendum cannot be used to remove a minority’s civil rights. It ended with the unpleasant realization that my alarm clock hadn’t yet gone off, so they couldn’t have ruled, meaning none of what I had seen was real. I’m not one to claim my dreams are prophetic, and I awoke dreading another blow to the gay rights movement.

Today, the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which denies same-sex couples the right to marry, as constitutional, but said the state must recognize the approximately 18,000 marriages performed before the referendum passed 52%-48% last November. You can read the entire (extremely lengthy) decision here. The easier-to-digest New York Times story on the ruling can be found here, and explains:

The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.”

I’ll admit that it certainly represents progress from a decade ago, or even a few years back, but for those of us (like New Jerseyans) who’ve already seen that “civil unions” don’t work, it’s cold comfort and another reminder of our second-class citizenship. One of the anti-Prop 8 attorneys the Times spoke with summed up my opinion pretty well:

Karl M. Manheim, a professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles who had filed a brief with the court opposing Proposition 8, called the decision a “safe” one from justices who can be recalled by voters. The change wrought by Proposition 8 was anything but narrow, Professor Manheim said, and claiming that the word “marriage” is essentially symbolic is like telling black people that sitting in the back of the bus is not important as long as the front and the back of the bus arrive at the same time.

While the particular matter at hand is LGBT rights, the issue goes far beyond that, since this makes it much easier to legally discriminate against the disliked minority du jour. (The California court’s opinions have power beyond the state line—their earlier ruling, before Prop 8, that gays and lesbians had the right to marry was cited in the Iowa Supreme Court’s similar decision last month.) As the sole dissenting justice put it:

Justice (Carlos R.) Moreno wrote that Proposition 8 means “requiring discrimination,” which he said “strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution” and, he added, “places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities.”

I acknowledge that the court’s task was not to judge whether the law was right or wrong, just if it was within the scope of the state constitution. But my heart breaks for the couples who hadn’t yet arrived at the point where they were ready to wed, who will now be plagued by guilt along with the pain of knowing they can’t marry the one they love. I’m equally sad for those who aren’t in a relationship, and now have the path to marriage cut off. Lesbian and gay children will face yet another obstacle in growing up to accept themselves. And even those couples who got married in time for it to be recognized will still face endless questioning and doubt about the legality of their relationships, and will no doubt have to carry around copies of their marriage certificates to prove the state recognizes them as a pair, something that would never be asked of a heterosexual couple.

While it was an extremely disappointing day for those of us who believe same-sex couples have the right to live as full citizens, it’s certainly not the end of the story. Groups like the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign have pledged to keep fighting. In fact, the San Francisco Chronicle already has an article on the push to put an pro-marriage referendum on the ballot next year. And The Courage Campaign plans to run a heartbreaking ad on television in California, a shorter version of their popular YouTube video. Watch it and see if you don’t think it’s worth a few dollars to help put and keep it on the airwaves:

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Nori permalink
    May 27, 2009 1:54 pm

    First of all, thank you for the .doc version, the PDF still won’t open for me, though I suspect it has more to do with my computer’s age and version than it does with the PDF. It took a couple of tries, but the .doc opens just fine. This’ll be one hell of a read at 186 pages. We should have an internet reading party. Woo woo?

    As per usual, we agree, unsurprising. I woke up yesterday dreading the decision, but Dima’s optimism is helpful in combating the negative feelings. It’s taking for-frakkin’-ever, but we’re gonna get there. 2010 seems to be what people are pushing for? I’m not sure how th legal implications work–I, like you, “ain’t no lawyer”–but I really, really hope this doesn’t adversely affect the legalization of gay marriage in other states. Everyone’s beating us to the punch, which is great for them, but still embarrassing for California, oy!

  2. TomK permalink
    June 2, 2009 11:52 pm

    What a skewed, biased piece of garbage this article is. Ironic how “society” is somehow “morally wrong” according to the writer and the vast minority (homosexuals) are “morally right”. The very definition of “morality” is “a code of conduct put forward by a society”. Read..”Society”..not the politically active minority who wants to engage in homosexuality. And what exactly is the “code of conduct” homosexuals are abiding by? I’d love to know.

    • June 3, 2009 12:09 am

      Tom–

      I appreciate the comment, but I’m afraid you’re making a few mistakes here. The first is one I see all the time at my job. This blog doesn’t feature articles–they’re just blog posts, which are really more like editorials. I make no claim to be unbiased, as you can see from the banner of my boyfriend and me holding hands, or the tag line, “Chronicling an openly affectionate gay couple’s life under fire.”

      Second of all, you paint all straight people as against marriage equality, which is patently untrue. While polls give gay marriage supporters at best a slight plurality (and at worst say a bit less than half of the population is for it), that would be completely impossible without the vast majority of those supporters being straight, due the relatively low numbers in the LGBT community.

      Furthermore, by painting “society” in your own terms–everyone straight versus everyone not–your claim that we as a minority are trying to usurp rights to which we have no claim might at first seem valid. But following your logic, does that mean blacks had no right to freedom when they were slaves, until white Americans allowed them to be freed? Hardly; it was still morally wrong.

      Finally, you’re the first person on this post to use the phrase “code of conduct,” so I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. I never said gays and lesbians all had a uniform belief system; that’s your idea, and it’s fallacious.

    • Shaun permalink
      June 3, 2009 8:32 am

      What moral code do gays live by?

      I don’t know – how about “Love one another as I have loved you.”

      Or

      “Do not judge or you too shall be judged.”

      Not that anyone should feel bound by Biblical morality unless they choose to be – but at the core of the New Testament is the idea that it’s not our place to judge others. It’s our place to love them.

      If God truly has a problem with homosexuality, then it’s up to God to deal with it. He doesn’t need our help – and Christ seems to be saying he doesn’t want it.

      Outside of the Bible.

      “We only regard those unions as real examples of love and real marriages in which a fixed and unalterable decision has been taken.”

      There’s only one good reason for two people to marry. And that is that they love each other. It’s the only reason to do it – and it should be the only reason you need to do it.

      Gay marriage isn’t a big issue to me personally – because it doesn’t have to be. I’ve got the luxury of not making it a personal priority because I’m not gay.

      If I was, and I loved a man, it would be an all consuming passion of my life to be able to show my love for him in every way available. To commit to him body and soul for life.

      I’d do it anyway – all allowing me to marry would do is mean accepting the reality. Refusing me that right changes nothing about what is true and real. And decent.

  3. June 3, 2009 12:09 am

    Hey TomK, please tell me you’re using some other dictionary besides Your Own Unabridged Asshole, because right now that seems to be exactly where you pulled that quoted “very definition” of morality from.

    Try doing maybe 5 seconds of research in a dictionary before you confidently define a word because nowhere in the usual authorities does the word “society” come up.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/morality

  4. obelletto permalink
    June 5, 2009 12:00 am

    Linked you in my blog.

    (That might add a whole 2 or 3 readers!)

    It looks like TomK was just here to shoot some drive-by dumb. Yeah, the dumb has to be washed off, but all in all, it’s not as bad as an egging.

    Since it’s clear that even he doesn’t know what he was saying, I’m sure he won’t be back to defend it.

    • June 5, 2009 1:12 am

      Thanks – you could totally double my readership!

      I’m not quite sure how or why TomK came here, although I suspect he was just a reader at centraljersey.com who saw my blog linked and felt like expressing his dislike of what it represents.

      Honestly, I was surprised by how personally I took it when I first read what he left here, but I’m more than happy to engage in a reasonable dialogue with him if he chooses to return.

  5. Lauren permalink
    June 25, 2009 8:44 pm

    I found your blog while doing research for a class I am taking called Race, Gender and the media. We talk about a variety of topics surrounding race, gender, orientation and lifestyle. I want to say that I find it refreshing that you are blogging not as a raging gay man who wants to argue of obvious unconstitutional happenings in our country, but as an activist for understanding. In class we constantly question whether or not our society can reach a state of equality. Will our children ever see a time when race, gender and orientation are nothing more than an eye color. I am 20 years old and hope that I can see a step towards this in my next 20. I thought that our country was reaching a state of equilibrium. While I think ALL states should recognize gay marriage, at least one was finally ridding the ignorance that dominated the definition of marriage. My disappointment with Prop 8 continues and I will continue to preach and promote No H8. So while we continue to fight the prejudice in this country, I hope that people continue to stand in faith that there is hope for equality. The right to love and marry is a fight worth blogging about!

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