Thursday, May 15, 2008

Justice Is Served!

The California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, has overturned the state ban on gay marriage. A historic day, and history will be on our side. (Not a bad birthday present for me, either.) Bravo to the judges who wrote this clear, wise, and right decision. Opponents will be pushing a ballot (i.e. bigotry) initiative that would allow California voters to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, stripping away a right that's just been granted. To his credit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, though he's previously vetoed legislation that would have granted same-sex marriage, does not support the right-wing amendment to overturn the ruling.

As the dust settles today, reactions are coming from various quarters, some jubilant of course, others less enthusiastic. There is a good summary of responses over at Joe.My.God.

Towleroad reported yesterday about the gross inaccuracies in CNN's initial coverage of the decision. In CNN's haste to put the story on the air (quick is better than right, right?), the talking head only read a short copy about the decision rather than a "much longer" one he'd "have to click on" (god forbid!), thus presuming the decision went the other way. Meanwhile, their "legal analyst," who admitted she didn't even hear what the talking head said, went on to comment at length based on misheard erroneous reporting. As they're speaking, it's obvious they have no idea what they're talking about, and the cluelessness continues for 15-20 minutes! You can watch CNN's disgraceful reporting in a Towleroad video. Heads should roll. Apologies should be issued.

A PDF of the full ruling can be found within the LA Times coverage. Here are two excerpts from the ruling:

Furthermore, in contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an 
individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship
 with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend
 upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s
 sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a
 legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights. We therefore
 conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental
 constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution
 properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians,
whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex

A number of factors lead us to this conclusion. First, the exclusion of
 same-sex couples from the designation of marriage clearly is not necessary in
 order to afford full protection to all of the rights and benefits that currently are 
enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples; permitting same-sex couples access to
 the designation of marriage will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and
 will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage, because same-sex
 couples who choose to marry will be subject to the same obligations and duties
 that currently are imposed on married opposite-sex couples. Second, retaining the 
traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate
 and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose
 appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such
 couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely 
to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples
 enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples. Third, because of the
 widespread disparagement that gay individuals historically have faced, it is all the 
more probable that excluding same-sex couples from the legal institution of
 marriage is likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationships are of lesser stature than the comparable relationships of opposite-sex 
couples. Finally, retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-
sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex
 couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise — now
 emphatically rejected by this state — that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects “second-class citizens” who may, under the law, be treated
 differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex
 couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the
 traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest.
 Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory 
provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are

One of the important things the Court points out is that giving gay couples access to marriage will not "deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights," an obvious fact which the opponents to same-sex marriage continually fail to understand. Your "traditional" marriages will carry on as successfully or dysfunctionally as ever, but you will no longer be able to declare your own superiority, and that is something the opponents to this humane decision cannot stand.

Opposition to the ruling by a right wing inordinately preoccupied with homosexuality is hardly a surprise. They'll be spouting off till doomsday, which they probably think is soon upon us because of this ruling. What surprises me is reactions from people who might otherwise be described as liberal or progressive. On Towleroad, a liberal "site with homosexual tendencies" run by a gay man with a mostly gay readership, the reaction--while not completely uniform--was tears and joy. This decision hit our hearts, practically and emotionally, and reading the decision the long-term justness of it is indisputable. Peek in on reader comments on The Huffington Post, another generally liberal but much straighter site, however, and you'll read a different story. Comments like this:

It's also bad because it brings gays back into the MSM national debate. The media loves this wedge issue, and as of right now, it's a losing one for the left. All press is bad press for progressives when it comes to gays unfortunately. So it should be avoided. Gay acceptance will naturally occur over the long haul so long as the progressive movement is allowed to move forward.

All progressives must stand for equal rights and support civil unions no matter what. But calling it marriage is a serious problem, politically. Personally I don't care what it's called. But other people do. I just know that going beyond the support of equal rights is the wrong move and will hurt us politically and set the agenda backwards. It's also a bad idea to always want to "bring awareness" to this issue. This isn't the environment we're talking about.

And this:

Gay marriage? Oh, yes, it IS an election year.
And, more than a little interesting is the fact that it was Republican judges who made the ruling, but the Republicans are already using it to attack the Democrats with.
But since when was honesty part of our politics?
I think such issues could be handled just as well at other times -- when right might have an equal chance.

And this:

And since I don't have a dog in this fight -- I'm not gay -- I don't really care that much about the particular issue. That said as long as these couples are given legal rights in terms of finances, medical matter, etc -- as propsed in some state civil unions -- then it seems to me to be a fair compromise, satisfying those on both sides of this argument ....

As opposed to same sex couples demanding for the word 'marriage', which *is* asking for a right that currently does *not*, and never has, legally existed.

And I CAN say with certainty if I were gay, I'd realize that there are far more pressing world and national matters at hand: and I wouldn't allow this issue to galvanize all the attention and the change the result of the '08 election.

To be fair, other commentators on the Huffington Post story called these twerps on their arrogance. For them, gay rights are good, just not when it's politically inconvenient for them, and if it's not quite equal, well, that's ok, cause it doesn't really matter like the other more important progressive issues. We support gay rights, sure, but only when the right wing gives us permission to; meanwhile, you gays should be happy in the middle of the bus, almost right up there with us progressive heterosexuals. The religious zealots will probably never be on our side, but it's dismaying when supposedly liberal people don't really get it either. A sign of the selfishness of our times: if it doesn't affect me personally, it doesn't truly matter. I plead guilty of this, too, and the California victory is a reminder that all civil rights are important and should be struggled for no matter the short-term political consequences and inconveniences. Right is right, even if the timing seems wrong.

I hope Vermont, my home state and the first state in the country to adopt civil unions (something that too often gets forgotten--Vermont got the ball rolling!), will soon join California and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, congratulations California.

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