Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

California's Proposition 8 decision on the wrong side of history

Yesterday's big news, of course, is that the California Supreme Court upheld the odious proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian couples of the right to marry. Much has been written dissecting the court's opinion.

I won't cover that ground in this post. I just want to say that in this, California is on the obvious wrong side of history.

Broadly interpreted, human history is the process of recognition, by degrees, that people are more the same than they are different, and that they all deserve the same rights. Jefferson summed it up famously, thus:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The edit is mine, to point out that even those uncommonly enlightened men who framed our Constitution couldn't see the full extent of their own vision.

Over the twenty two decades since the ratification of our constitution, we've come a long way towards truly fulfilling that vision.

Black people are counted as both human beings and citizens now. They can vote, own property, start businesses, and hold elected office.

Women, so long denied their voice, have had the vote for nearly a century now.

The law recognizes the complete invalidity of the "separate but equal" doctrine which kept public schools and facilities segregated for so long after the Civil War.

You can't discriminate (not legally, anyway), in employment and housing on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, disability, veteran status, and a host of other factors, including sexual orientation.

Taking a long view of human history, and even the comparatively brief view over American history, one cannot but come to the realization that in any argument over rights, the side arguing to deny a certain class of people their rights, invariably ends up being the losing side of that battle.

Every time.

Sometimes this process takes a long time. Sometimes the pendulum swings back and forth a few times before the issue is settled.

Yet, while miscegenation laws which forbade people of different skin colors from marrying were struck down in 1967, the love between same-sex couples is still not treated equally. Richard and Mildred Loving fought for the validity of their love regardless of skin type. In California, gay and lesbian couples are still fighting for the validity of their love regardless of body type.

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court let that pendulum swing back a bit, towards the losing side. Yesterday was a sad day for all who believe in the fundamental equality of all human beings in all things.

I recognize and appreciate the Court's efforts to limit the scope of their ruling and the adverse effects on gay and lesbian couples. The Court took pains to leave intact the substantive rights of gay and lesbian couples, but it denied them the legal use of the word "marriage".

It may just be a word, a label, but words matter. Without the label, all the substantive rights in the world don't add up to real marriage equality.

There's no two ways about it. Proposition 8 is on the wrong side of history. It's time Californians wake up to that fact and do something about it.


Blogger playwrighter said...

Words don't matter. Only people with too much time on their hands obsess over words...

And as for Prop 8 being on history's wrong side, how would you know? When did you get your degree in prophecy?

May 27, 2009 1:40 PM  
Blogger Tecknomage said...

Playwrghter, "history" is NOT equal to prophecy. "History" comes from the past.

The argument of history in this context is accurately presented, and is correct. In the end, this band will fall.

My stance; I cannot think of anything that is more a Human Right than the relationship of *consenting* adults.

Think about this, would you want the government (local, state, federal) deciding if *your* personal relationships were valid or not? Really?

May 28, 2009 8:59 AM  
Blogger The Sler said...

The quote is from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, which protects "life, liberty and property," not the pursuit of happiness. The California Supreme Court's decision was difficult: can a constitutional amendment be unconstitutional? The same court already held that the discriminatory statute was unconstitutional. I wish they had decided otherwise this week, but it was not a preposterous decision in the context of what they were being asked to decide. They could have held that proposition 8 violated the federal constitution, but that would have been a stretch in light of precedent.

May 29, 2009 8:49 AM  

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