Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why California is wrong

1) They've upheld a ban on gay marriage yet are agreeing to recognize those marriages that have already taken place. This represents a complete contradiction. Either something is constitutional or it is not. There can be no middle ground-you either respect and recognize the civil rights of all the citizens of your state or you don't.
2) The choice to yield to a public vote on a constitutional matter represents a horribly flawed notion of the law. Someone's rights are not/should not be determined by a populace. Either they are entitled to the rights or they aren't. It's not a matter of popularity or public opinion: someone is either allowed their full civil rights under the law or they're not.
3) And, that, frankly is what the bottom line is. Millions of people are being denied basic civil rights in this country because of their sexual orientation, a stance that is specious at best. And, it seems to me, that is also a stance that is rooted in a fundamentalist Christian belief system. It was this same belief system that advocated laws against interracial marriage for far too long-even after recognizing Black citizens as equal members of this society. (Don't believe me? Look it up. Jim Crow laws and the like made it a crime well into the 1960's for a interracial couples to marry with many of the same 'destruction of society' arguments that we're hearing today about gay marriage.) And, for the record, civil unions are nothing more than an attempt to reinstitute a 'separate but equal' policy. I have no problem with the idea that a gay couple cannot walk into a Baptist church and get married. That's a religious ceremony and, as such, is governed by the bylaws of the synod that leads the denomination. What I'm talking about is that any citizen who has reached the age of majority in this country should, by virtue of his or her citizenship be able to marry any other citizen who has reached the same benchmark and call it what it is: a marriage. All citizens are equal under the law and the idea of separate but equal was struck down by the Supreme Court of this COUNTRY (not an individual state, mind you) in order to integrate schools when the justices finally realized that separate cannot, by definition, be equal. It simply can't. And, to deny a great portion of our citizens the right to commit themselves to one another because they happen to love someone of the same sex is nothing more than a repeat of that idiocy. We discarded that policy for a reason. It's a bullshit policy based on an attempt to appease those who would mark people different than them as deviant or wrong simply because they are different. It wasn't right when we did it to African-Americans, refusing to recognize their basic humanity, their intelligence and their potential contributions to this country. It wasn't right when we did it to women, refusing to allow them a voice in the way they were governed or to hold property in their own names. It wasn't right when we did it, in various forms to Asian Americans, Irish Americans, Native Americans, etc. It was wrong then and it's wrong now. More so, perhaps, because we should have learned these lessons in the last century even if we were late to them, even if we went kicking and screaming (some of us, anyway). What's happening in California represents a step backward for far too many people. Gay men and women in this country are citizens and, if for no other reason than that we are supposed to be a bastion of freedom and individuality, they deserve and have earned the right to have it recognized. To ask them to take anything other than the full rights of American citizens-to love whomever they choose and to be able to declare that love by marrying freely and having that marriage recognized in all fifty states is abhorrent, wrong, and anti-American.

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