Thursday, March 5, 2009

Arguments begin in California

The airwaves and the newspapers and the blogs have all been a twitter about the Prop 8 hearing today before the California Supreme Court. But sometimes, I really wonder how much mainstream America cares about this.

Perhaps sneaking under the radar, at least in terms of news coverage, was an announcement from Equality Illinois that a bill in the Illinois House that would create civil unions in that state had cleared committee and was headed to the full House for consideration. By the way, I really hate the way their Web site is set up.

Anyway, like other civil union bills, this would create marriage-lite; an arrangement similar to marriage, that would bestow “some of the rights” inherent in marriage, but still would not be marriage. You queer couples, go to the back of the class.

This is not equality.

Meanwhile, Prop 8 got its day in court in California, and the speculation about how it went today is interesting. The San Francisco Chronicle indicated that the court appeared willing to uphold the voters’ decision regarding Prop 8. Quotes The Chronicle: “There have been initiatives that have taken away rights from minorities by majority vote” and have been upheld, said Chief Justice Ronald George. “Isn't that the system we have to live with?” However, it also reported that the court seemed inclined to assert that all the same-sex couples married after its ruling and prior to Prop 8’s passing would remain married.

The Associated Press, however, noted that part of the argument was over whether Prop 8 merely amended California’s constitution, or revised the document.

I know there has been considerable lucid argument by some in the gay community that gaining equality in marriage is not going to be won in the courtroom. This argument has some appeal because it relies on a romantic notion that rationally thinking people can be persuaded to accept same-sex marriage as a reality of life without giving up on their heart-felt religious beliefs. There is a part of me that wants to buy this argument. But I can’t.

Not one single societal injustice in this country’s history was ever won by turning the hearts and minds of the majority. Not one. Every societal wrong this country has committed – from slavery to the subjugation of women and on to brutal child labor – had to be rectified through legal means, often against the majority will. More than 90 years passed after the emancipation before a court finally said enough with segregation, and another 40 years passed before America was willing to elect a black president.

The other side knows this. That’s why it attacks “activist courts.” It knows that as long as it can hobble the judiciary with guilt that it can continue with its bigoted ways.