Having watched the court proceedings on television, I was pretty certain that the California Supreme Court was going to uphold Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to overturn an earlier court ruling allowing gay couples the freedom to marry.
Still, knowing that a punch to the gut is coming does not make it hurt any less. The 6-1 ruling was degrading, humiliating and a shameful day that will live in infamy. The decision upheld tyranny of the majority and promoted the idiotic idea of mob rule.
Can the voters of California now decide whether I can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast? Are they able to choose if I can own a cat or a dog? May they regulate my weight or pick what career I choose?
These are serious questions. The fact is, banning my potential marriage is more an imposition and hardship than if the voters had chosen to enact the above examples. Any non-biased person would agree that the idea of the public banning the possibility of their marriage would be both invasive and traumatizing. Yet, the voters of California, backed by the Supreme Court, upheld this Orwellian idea.
Really, what are the limits to such insanity? Are we unique individuals with inalienable rights or public property with provisional rights granted or eliminated by the whims of the fickle electorate?
In his dissent, Justice Carlos Moreno was correct to write, “Denying gays and lesbians the right to marry, by wrenching minority rights away from judicial protection and subjecting them instead to a majority vote, attacks the very core of the equal protection principle.”
There are now calls from gay and lesbian leaders to place the marriage question back on the ballot in California. The competitive side of me says, “bring it on, let’s win.” But, another side believes that the gay and lesbian community should simply boycott all votes relating to rights — and take our outrage to the streets and the halls of Congress. After all, why are we the only minority in the history of this nation that has had to explicitly win public approval for our most basic needs?
Hell, if African-Americans had been forced to win equality through referendum they’d still be drinking out of separate water fountains in the South. Yet, we are routinely forced to degrade our humanity and grovel to voters, who smugly sit on the throne, judging whether we are worthy to visit our ailing spouses (scratch that, we are now partners, again) in their hospital beds.
The only silver lining is that the very act of fighting has compelled more people to “come out” — thus eroding the stigma of homosexuality. Recent public opinion polls have reflected this shift, with supporters of marriage equality reaching more than 40 percent. Demographic trends are also favorable, with younger voters embracing the freedom to marry.
No doubt, anti-gay forces are celebrating today’s ruling as a major victory. Still, the court’s ruling upholding the same-sex marriages that already took place in California must be disconcerting. If the existence of 18,000 gay married couples did not cause God to plunge California into the ocean, why would 180,000 make a difference? Our opponents have a real messaging problem that will only deepen, as more Californians are introduced to these couples.
The “Lucky 18,000” also creates the existence of a new caste system. At the top of the hierarchy are straight married couples that receive state and federal benefits. The next rung down, we have legally married gay couples who receive state benefits. Then, of course, we have the untouchables, who receive state domestic partnerships as a result of their inferior status. It seems that until gay couples can tie the knot, the judicial system will be tied up in knots over these supposedly “separate but equal” arrangements. And, I’m confident the public will eventually see the current reality as inherently unfair.
At a rally in New York in response to the ruling, I joined thousands of protesters who turned their disappointment into determination and pain into progress. Our movement is resilient and we understand that this is merely a speed bump that will not be a deterrent from ultimate victory.
I am further encouraged by the hoards of young activists who joined me at the Union Square demonstration. Mobilized by a sense of injustice and organized through the Internet, they may be the first generation fully supported by their peers. By the time they attend their college reunions, state sanctioned discrimination will be a distant memory, like homework and drinking games. Unfortunately, that day has yet to arrive, and gay people of all ages are experiencing a nasty hangover from the California Supreme Court’s egregious ruling.