Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Equality Fail

The California Supreme Court ruled today 6-1 in favor of upholding Proposition 8, the state's ban on same-sex marriage.  Obviously this is a huge blow to equal rights activists, the gay community and thousands of committed same-sex couples who continue to be viewed by the state of California as second class citizens.  I was hoping that this decision would have gone the other way, I've often taken pride in the fact that my home state typically serves as a leader of progressive thought for the rest of the country.  

Though today's decision is disheartening, it is not the end of the struggle for equal rights in California.  There will undoubtedly be a ballot initiative in the 2010 election to amend the constitution once again, this time reversing Proposition 8.  The chances of such an initiative passing are rather good.  Public support for gay marriage in CA increased only weeks after last year's election, once people saw through the bullshit promulgated by the Mormon Church, and realized that religious freedom was not threatened by gay marriage, and that this was quite simply a bigoted ballot measure.  Despite how discriminatory Prop 8 was, I'm actually not surprised at the court's decision.  It is quite a challenge to argue that a popularly elected amendment to the Constitution is "unconstitutional" when the constitution itself has been amended by the people to define marriage as between a man and a woman.  So for now, Prop 8 is legal... it just means 52% of Californians are bigots.

The upside to today's outcome is that this issue will return to the ballot box.  When gay marriage becomes legal in this fashion, as it inevitably will, conservatives can't logically argue that "activist judges" are making social policy.

Here are a couple key points about this issue:
  • The 18,000 or so marriages which took place when the court previously ruled 4-3 that it was unconstitutional to deny the right of gay couples to marry are still valid.
  • This does not affect a gay couple's right to form legally recognized domestic partnerships.
  • This ruling also has no affect on a gay couple's right to adopt and raise children (something many people who oppose gay marriage in this state don't realize is already legal).
The majority opinion argued that they must interpret the constitution "setting aside our own personal beliefs and values."  In this respect, I disagree.  Do we not appoint or elect officials to our legislature and courts exactly because of their beliefs and values?  

The lone dissenting opinion of Justice Carlos Moreno wrote that Proposition 8 "strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution," and, "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities."

Opponents of Prop 8 could take their case to the Supreme Court.  I'd have to defer to some of our other writers, who know more about SCOTUS than I, as to how such a challenge might play out.  Though, as far as Californians are concerned, the best path for us to follow is to gear up for an electoral ballot initiative fight, which we would likely win and couldn't be turned into a wedge issue by the right as easily as a judicial decision could be.

And so it goes, we must amend California's Constitution once again... a ridiculous process that I personally think we should do away with.  I've argued for years that it makes our state virtually ungovernable (an opinion some people are coming around to)... an issue I may tackle in more depth in the future.  In the meantime, Californians need to look to progressive leaders like Iowa (wtf, did I just say that?) for a lesson in morality and civil rights before November 2010.

1 comment:

sharpberry said...

I was very disappointed in the decision, but like you said, it will likely be changed in 2010. Damn Mormons. I hope voters (and their church members) see them for the fraud they are. I'm glad I left the LDS church before they could use my money to propagate such blatant lies about gay marriage.
Debra M