Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Discrimination Issue

I'm actually going to ignore my topic for the week and share this with you instead. It's something I wrote on my personal blog about the California High Court's decision to uphold Prop 8.


"love is love is love," acrylic stenciled on my guitar, retouched using Corel.


**In light of some helpful commentary, I have edited slightly for clarification. I maintain that while the High Court did what it was supposed to do, and while we must now do our part and mobilize voters for the next ballot that holds the measure, I'm not any less disappointed by the continual slogging, on an emotional level. I know this is how it works, I'm just (like many of my friends) eager to be done with it already. Exasperation is allowed, folks, though more so for my friends than for me. They're they ones who just want to get married already. Also, if anyone can provide me with a copy of the official court document that ISN'T read as corrupted by my computer and all of it's programs, I would love to have it.


For those not in the know (seriously kids?), yesterday the California High Court ruled to uphold Proposition 8, but also ruled that the 18,000 marriages that took place before Prop 8 passed still stand. While the latter decision is certainly a victory for the gay rights movement and for those lucky couples, the former continues to be a source of irritation. Let's start with the opinion of the court, courtesy of the NY Times article I linked above:

The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.”

I will start by saying that I am not aiming to critique the court's decision here--maybe I will after I've read the primary document, but right now that is not my intention. Right now what I want to focus on is why I think that the sole option of the civil union is not enough. A civil union in California does provide the benefits (excepting those reserved at the federal level) of a California marriage to the couple who chooses the one over the other. Clearly, however, the two differ inasmuch as a heterosexual couple in California will choose one over the other, for whatever reasons they may have.

Let's do a twin study with a horrifying sample size of two people, but instead of twins, we'll use two of me. LA1 and LA2 are identical in every way with the exception sexuality. LA1 is Straight Me and LA2 is Gay Me. All other variables are controlled--same morals, same opinions, childhoods, educations, experiences, but LA1's experiences are with men, and LA2's are with women. Inexplicably, we both fall in love, and our partners propose. LA2 accepts, and in California, she can only have a civil union. LA1 accepts, and not only can she have benefits at a federally-recognized level, but she also have the choice of either a marriage or a civil union. The preference is hers.

The difference may not seem huge, but it is. Because I happened to be born with an attraction to the opposite sex, I have the right to choose how I unite with my partner. We are denying gay couples the right to a choice that I have been given by default for being straight. All other things being equal, we have created an inequality, and though one may wish to argue that we're only concerning ourselves with labels, we have to face the fact that the matter is not "just semantics" if it is encouraging and propagating inequality. Gay couples may have access to the state-based benefits of a California marriage, but they have been denied a choice that is unfairly reserved for heterosexuals.

Homosexuality is not a disorder. It is not a fetish. It is not a kink. Most importantly, it is not a choice. You can choose your faith; you cannot choose your sexuality (though you can choose whether or not to express your preference--closet cases around the world unite!). You cannot compare the relationship between two same-sex individuals to pedophilia, to bestiality, or to fetishism (which isn't even a problem if no one gets hurt, but I'm not here to talk about fetishism, so that's another story for another day), or anything else the paranoid may pull from their slippery slopes. There is nothing to fear here. Why are we practicing discrimination against these consenting human adults? Because you know, the only thing keeping up from granting them their basic human right (not just the right to marriage, but a right to choose) is their sexuality, and I'm pretty sure that is a discriminatory practice.

Religious readers, don't email me. I don't want to hear it. This is a secular issue, and as I've made very clear before, I am extremely dedicated to keeping church and state separate. If your religion says a gay couple cannot be married in your church/temple/whatever, then those are the rules, and you can deny marriage within the religion to as many couples as you want. It may not gel with what I believe, but I have no right to impose my beliefs over your beliefs. Conversely, you have no right to impose your beliefs over mine, or anyone else's. (I don't mean to target religious people in such a callous way, but I want to be clear that this is not an invitation for you to write to me about what you've been taught God thinks about homosexuals.)

Now, Prop 8 doesn't just facilitate the denial of rights to a minority group, identifying them as second-class citizens. It has also allowed the citizens of California to set a precedent: now the majority vote of a population has been used to strip a minority group of a basic right. I'm not referring specifically to the right to marry, but to the right to choose between a marriage and a civil union, the right to be on equal footing with heterosexual couples. This is not just a disappointing case of legal discrimination, but it's also a wake-up call to the fact that we need to reform the way we run our state government (I'm leaving this statement in, but it's pending my full reading of the court document; at the moment though, with what I know, it is legitimately something I am concerned about). If one group can be stripped of its rights simply because the majority has some sort of bias against them, we have no reason to believe that other minority groups (or even the same minority group) won't be targeted. As fervently as I've been discussing the Right to Choose, the thing that really worries me the most is this dangerous precedent. This should not have been allowed.

At the same time, I do want the people of California to be the ones tossing out Prop 8 and reinstating gay marriage. When the issue goes back on the ballot, I want the people, properly informed, to choose tolerance and civil rights, to show that this is not a fluke vote, but a public mandate. I'm disappointed, but I know this is far from over.

This time around we need better mobilization and more effective means of educating the public. If you are able to do so, I strongly encourage making a donation to Equality California, or to the Courage Campaign, or whatever else you may know of that will help. Donate your money, donate your time, donate both if you can. 18,000 isn't nearly enough.

And for what it's worth, I agree with my anonymous commenter: the courts aren't the problem. The proponents and their funds and their misdirection and their methods, these are the things to focus on conquering.

But I'm still impatiently waiting for the good day to come.


Luis said...

It's all a cluster fuck of frustration but people will eventually see the light.

Just a short comment: I'm not really keen on it being a ballot initiative again. Even if we do get Marriage approved, it'll then be at risk for meeting another future referendum against it. The "tyranny of the majority" and all that jazz.

And I'd love to meet the Lesbian You! Though I'm not sure she could beat the awesomeness that is Straight You. I mean, you're a hetero who's all about gay rights! How awesome is that?

Barbara Lorraine said...

Haha, Lesbian Me would be such a dude! Because she'd be like me now, where I'm all "guys, you're so ridiculous, but you're my bros" and "ladies, you're all crazy, why you gotta play that way? Give me my space!"

And I do have to say, while I know support-wise it's awesome that I'm a Str8 Against H8, realistically it irritates me that my stance is touching, because it's not about the fact that you're gay and I'm not--it's about how none of that should matter. Still glad to be your Hetero Homie though!

I share your uneasiness, but at the same time I think we need to get the people to vote for change at a less tenuous percentage so that we can present the state with a clear mandate from the people. And we will also need to work on introducing legislation that the courts will find legally sound in order to avoid future mishaps. And probably a lot of other necessary stuff that I lack the degree to understand.