31 October 2008

Ignorance is Bliss

Those darned 'Activist Judges' are 'Legislating from the Bench'

While having a discussion with a proponent of California's Prop 8, I asked why they were in support of this obviously unconstitutional proposition. This is their reply:

'Marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court of California did not have a right to redefine marriage, even Justice Baxter of the California Supreme Court said the majority of the court was not within its rights when it changed the meaning of marriage. If people are scared about losing rights, they should be worried about courts changing the meaning of words and redefining social institutions. California already had very inclusive domestic partnership laws and those rights would be preserved if Proposition 8 passes next week. It is not tyranny from religious organizations the people ought to fear. They can only recommend their members support/oppose certain causes. California's Supreme Court was legislating in May; something it is not allowed to do. Now, that is something all Californians and Americans should fear.'

There are so many things wrong with this...starting with the complete inability to understand the function of the Supreme Court. Supreme Court does not 'redifine' or 'change the meaning of' anything. The role of the Supreme Court is to ensure a stable and predictable system of justice by serving as the final arbiter of disputes involving the state's constitution and laws. They can't CHANGE the constitution... they just assure that laws aren't VIOLATING the constitution, which is exactly what they did in overturning the ban on marriage between same gender partners. They determined, after hearing the evidence presented by BOTH sides of this issue, that there is no compelling reason to deny same gender partners their right to marry the person of their choice, and denying marriage to same gender couples was unconstitutional. That's all.

There are more than 1000 federal rights, benefits and privileges associated with marriage...this isn't an exaggeration, it comes directly from the General Accounting Office of the Federal Government. Domestic partnerships and civil unions, while a step in the right direction, don't even come close to conveying those rights, and will NEVER be equal to marriage. No matter how many times people say it, it still won't make it true, my friend. Separate but equal will never work.

California's Prop 8 (along with PROP 102 in Arizona and PROP 2 in Florida) absolutely IS tyranny by religious organizations. The majority of the support, financial and otherwise, for this mean spirited and discriminitory proposition is coming from religious organizations, and mostly from OTHER states. They have fired up religious conservatives by intentionally blurring the line between religious marriage, or the 'RITE' of holy matrimony, and civil marriage, which the Supreme Court has determined is a 'basic, fundamental RIGHT' of American citizens. Their ad campaign contains nothing but fear mongering based on complete and utter lies. We know it, and the sad thing is, they know it too.

I'd like to point out that the Supreme Court doesn't legislate...as anyone who paid attention in 8th grade civics class will tell you. The California General Assembly, who were elected by Californians, DOES legislate. In fact, they twice passed legislation in support of marriage equality, and both times it was vetoed by the governor. THAT is where the legislating takes place...not the courtroom. That's the difference between 'legislating' and being the final 'arbiter' of justice.

29 October 2008

The 'Rite' of Marriage vs. the 'Right' of Marriage

Beginning June 17th, county clerks in California began issuing marriage licenses and performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, thanks to the recent California Supreme Court ruling that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, making California the second state in the US where marriage is legally recognized for same sex couples. In addition, the California Supreme Court refused requests to stay the decision pending the outcome of the November elections, specifically, before the voters cast their ballots for or against Prop 8. This is important to me for a number of reasons:
  • I am a native Californian, and it makes me feel proud that my home state is taking steps to eradicate discrimination against g/l/b/t/q people.
  • California is a trend setting state. By this I mean that historically speaking, what happens in California in regards to civil law tends to have a far-reaching impact; it spreads across the rest of the United States, not necessarily quickly, but consistently, and occassionally with the help of the United States Supreme Court.
  • Thanks to dubious efforts by religious conservative groups, California voters are going to the polls to vote on a proposed amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only. This is happening in Florida and Arizona, as well. Because the Supreme Court refused to stay their decision, Californians will have the opportunity to see the results of same-sex marriage (or as I like to call it - marriage - calling it anything other than what it is contributes to the notion that it isn't equality for a basic civil right we are asking for, but a special right or privilege in addition to the rights we already have, and that is a lie) and recognize that, just like Massachussetts has shown, marriage equality will have absolutely no negative impact on society. In fact, the positive economic impact on the state of California is expected to exceed 600 million dollars over the course of the next 3 years.
  • Anyone from any state can get married in California, and perhaps as a result, Massachussetts took steps to open their doors to out of state couples as well. Starting in a couple of weeks, Connecticutt will be the third state to practice true Marriage Equality. It might not be recognized in their own state, but lack of current state recognition does not make the marriage any less meaningful or valid in the eyes of the couple, their friends and family, or to God, for that matter.

I admit that I have not always been much of a marriage equality activist in my lifetime. It was never really that important to me, as I never thought I would truly want to be with someone for the rest of my life. My view of relationships was this - people come into your life for a variety of reasons, stay awhile and then leave when there is nothing more you have to offer each other. Why would you want to muddy the water with marriage, making it more of a hassle to make a clean break? This is how I used to think, until I met Angie, and we started dating. Now, two years later, we own a house together, we share our lives together - and suddenly I find myself looking at her sometimes and thinking things like 'This is the woman I'm going to be with for the rest of my life' and 'What would happen to her if something bad happened to me?' I imagine this is how many people who are considering marriage think - gay or straight. I want her to be protected, the same way I want to be protected. When we bought our house, we made the decision to go ahead and have a lawyer draw up our wills, powers of attorney for healthcare and general decisions, etc...$1200 for some documents that provide us about 1/4 of the rights and protections a straight couple gets just as soon as they sign on the dotted line of their $35 marriage license. When I forked over that money, I recognized what g/l/b/t/q people have been fighting for...equal protection under the law...and I deserve it just as much as my straight counterparts. I'm going to marry Angie next year. We are planning a religious ceremony (the 'Rite' of Holy Matrimony) in Georgia through the United Church of Christ, which is open and affirming, and recognizes marriage equality, even thought the state does not. Then we plan to exercise our Constitutionally guaranteed, basic, fundamental civil 'Right' to Marriage by having a civil ceremony in one of the states that respects our right to marry. Once again, lack of recognition on my state's part does not make my marriage any less meaningful or valid to me or to Angie, and we feel confident that it will be recognized in all states in our lifetime.

03 October 2008

Internalizing Shame

I've been communicating with a lesbian mother in Texas through a couple of online sites, and lately, we've been talking a lot about families, and shame. That was what inspired my last post, and now this one as well.
I felt that way (shameful) for a long time, and it was a large part of my distancing myself from family. When everyone in the world - family, media, people at school, people at work - is telling you one thing, even when you know deep down in your soul that the truth is something else, it's hard not to buy into shame, to actually think that there is something wrong with you, even though you didn't do anything wrong. I think with me, the thing that got me past that point of feeling shameful about my life and believing I had to keep secrets and hide who I truly am (and I am by no means an expert, because it's still hard and uncomfortable for me to be so open with them about my life) is my passion for equality. Shame causes the oppressed to buy into their oppression, to just accept that somehow one deserves to have less rights than others. Somewhere along the line I figured out that I am no different than any other American, and I deserve every single right every other American has. Once I accepted that, I became very focused and driven to just live my life as openly as possible, no matter how uncomfortable it made others. I do this for primarily two reasons:
1. I'm happier, less stressed and more successful when I live openly; and
2. The people around me, including my family, see that my life is no different than theirs, regardless of the gender of my partner.

I also talk about real things with them - things like my fear of what will happen if Angie or I get sick, and the steps we have had to take (and the money we've had to spend, to the tune of $1200, so far) to protect our rights, the difficulties we have faced in our relationship because we are unable to get married legally in our state, like not being able to add our partner on the deed to our home because the loan is only in one of our names and we aren't related by blood or marriage, and like having to wait an entire year for 'domestic partner benefits' when if we were legally married, there would be no such waiting period. I think if I live unashamedly and family members and other people get to see the actual affects of discrimination, it at least makes them think about things a bit more. It might not change their minds, but maybe, just maybe, they will think of me, and feel a little guilty inside the next time they proclaim 'marriage is only for a man and woman.' I feel a little guilty myself for saying this, because normally I would never wish negative feelings on another person, but actually, I hope they do.