California Court’s Decision on Proposition 8 May Be Disappointing, But 18,000 Legally Married Same-Sex Couples “Ain’t Nothin’ To Sneeze At”

same-sex coupleThe California Supreme Court sent out a mixed message today when it upheld last November’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages, but, on the other hand, did not make make the proposition retroactive, which means that the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place previous to the election are still legal.

While those opposed to gay marriage may be celebrating today, they must realize that the sand in the top of their hourglass continues to drain into the bottom: eighteen thousand gay marriages remain intact despite the millions they spent. The court’s ruling only says that the proposition made a legal change in California’s Constitution; the court did not say gay marriage was wrong; in fact, just the opposite is the case in allowing the 18,000 marriages to stand.

The effect of allowing the 18,000 marriages to remain legal will be much more enduring than the upholding of Proposition 8.

Except for under the G. W. Bush administration (with various interferences to privacy and to the writ of habeas corpus), it’s hard to think of civil liberties, once granted, that have been retracted. How willing would African-Americans be to go back into slavery? Would women say, “Oh, we’re just so happy with the way men run the government that we’ll just stay at home on election day”? Can you imagine Jon and Kate or any other inter-racial couples thinking how “unnatural” it would be to get married and have kids? When it comes to civil liberties, it’s very hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube once it’s been squeezed out.

And gay people are not going back either.

Because of these 18,000 marriages, gay marriage will become legal for other couples, one way or the other. It may be through the court itself or through the ballot box. It may come about through more people realizing that equality counts for all, not for just some. It may come about when a financially-strapped state understands the boon of same-sex marriages.

Whatever way–things will change. Look at the difference between now and barely a year ago. Until May 15th of last year when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, only the state of Massachusetts allowed it. In spite of Proposition 8, 18,000 couples were legally married in California, and . . . same-sex marriage became law in Connecticut (since October 10, 2008), Iowa (since April 27, 2009), Vermont (starting September 1, 2009) and Maine (starting September 14, 2009). And it appears some of the “New” states–New York, New Jersey, and New Hampshire will approve gay marriage soon.

So for all the NOMers and other nay-sayers out there, imagine a “storm” of fluffy clouds, spring flowers, and the most delicious wedding cakes out there, because if you think you’ve won something today in California, most gay people see a silver lining that’s going to be found in more and more tuxes and wedding gowns all across the land.

In just looking at the Declaration of Independence, I see again that it says that one of the unalienable rights is “the pursuit of happiness”. Nothing in there that I can read says that working to make other people’s lives unhappy is an unalienable right. But, thank goodness, people like Maggie Gallagher, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell are a dying breed. Oh, sorry, Falwell’s dead already, isn’t he?

Advertisements

Hate Crimes Legislation vs. Marriage Equality

Appalled is the only way to describe my reaction yesterday when I saw the C-Span clip of Virgina Foxx, the Republican Congresswoman of North Carolina’s Fifth District during the debate of the hate crime legislation. This former college president and English professor said that the fact that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay was a hoax. (She has since tried to backtrack on her words.) The fact is gay people in this country are attacked and killed because of their sexual orientation here in the U.S. In some cases, gay people are targeted because they seem to some to be “easy pickings” and the real motivation for the attack is pure harassment or robbery or even rape.

There was a rash of attacks on gay people here in Houston in the 90s, one of which was the murder of Paul Broussard, which happened near where I lived. If you’ve never read about this case, I recommend that you read this article or for a slightly different perspective look here.

It only takes reading the gay press online to know that these attacks are still happening today. I can’t say what percentage of gay people have experienced physical attacks or the threat of being attacked, but I would guess that it’s a high percentage, from attacks in schools to attacks in the street to attacks at home.

In spite of all these attacks (I’ve experienced it myself as I’ve mentioned on my about page), I don’t really support hate crimes legislation. If someone is attacked, they are attacked and the perpetrator should be punished. If someone is murdered, the killer should be tried and punished according to the law, not because of who was killed but because murder is murder no matter who the victim is.

I agree with some in Congress who ask how do we determine which groups should be covered under hate crimes. Ours is a democracy and everyone should be treated equally, no slippery slopes.

And that is the rationale of those people who are against hate crimes legislation: they do not want to have to give special treatment to certain groups.

But where is that rationale when it comes to Marriage Equality? Those who are against marriage equality certainly favor the idea of a special status for heterosexual people. And those against same-sex marriage are not just limited to the evangelicals and other Republicans.

How would all of those who voted in favor of the hate crimes bill have voted if the bill were for legalizing same-sex marriage? I doubt that the majority would have voted for it. While many of these representatives may feel they are doing the right thing, this type of legislation is not the answer to stopping the attacks and murders of gay people, nor of any other group of people. It’s no different than putting that metal plate over the construction hole in the street. You can drive over the hole, but it’s still there and eventually needs to be fixed.

The only real “fix” here is to change the attitudes of individuals and of society as a whole. It’s very hard to change ideas when they have been pounded into someone’s head from an early age.

But the government can do that by making laws that bring equal rights to all citizens. (We’ve seen this when slavery was abolished, when women were given the right to vote, when mixed race couples were allowed to marry.) I don’t know if people who have not been denied rights can understand this. I’m pretty sure that most women can understand this; I’m pretty sure that people of many ethnic minorities can understand this; I know that almost every gay person knows this. Even with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of our elected officials are still heterosexual white men, and most of them do not understand what it means to be discriminated against and do not want to understand it. Because if they were to make the playing ground equal for everyone, they might lose some of their power.

Putting specific groups into hate crimes laws does not make people of those groups any stronger. It weakens them by saying they need special protection, and in reality, is a way of keeping them second class citizens.

Instead what the government needs to do is enact and enforce laws, such as for marriage, labor, and immigration, that give all citizens their due rights under the Constitution.

We can only hope that people like Virginia Foxx, who are against giving special status to any citizens through hate crimes legislation, would also realize that by expressing that viewpoint, they are advocating equal status for all citizens and, thus, would support bills that provide that equality: legislation in favor of same-sex marriage and the elimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Time for a Little Talk about Christianity and Reality Shows

1) TV is really bad these days, especially all of these talent-type reality shows. If these people were really all that talented, they would already be in show biz. Moreover, why do we have to have all these Brits and Australians judging and MCing these shows? I like an accent as much as the next person, but do they have to come with all that attitude? You can get a green card to work in the U.S. if you have some special skill, but I don’t think having an accent is any kind of skill at all. We’ve got so many Americans who can judge well, host well, and even be nasty if that’s what’s necessary to get viewers. I think we should just throw Simon Cow (Cowell? Cawell?) et al in Boston Harbor just like the tea!

2) If any of you reading this are still trying to use the bible and leviticus to maintain your prejudices against gay people, you shouldn’t be doing any work on Sundays, don’t be touching any pig (let alone eating any pork), your preacher better not wear glasses, and, oh, yes, go out and get you a few slaves because you can have some (well, somebody else could have you as a slave too, for that matter). After all these years, people just saying, “but the bible says . . .” just makes me sick. If you are one of them, you’re just a big ol’ hypocrite.