Law and Justice
Proposition 8 decision sows seeds of discord.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
It was Election Night 2008, and amidst the general newsroom euphoria about the Obama victory (let’s dispense with the false pieties about “objectivity” – everyone here was relieved that our long national nightmare was coming to an end), there was a dissonant note:
Across Fremont Boulevard, in front of the Burger King, a small but noisy group of protesters were holding placards and shouting to motorists and passers-by.
It had nothing to do with presidential politics – the band of believers was forcefully making clear their support for Proposition 8 – and, more directly, their opposition to gay marriage.
It dampened the general good will of the evening, and some among us were upset about the demonstration. One of our wiser colleagues put it in perspective. He shook his head, more in sorrow than in anger, and said: “They’re afraid.”
Flash forward to the recent California Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 8.
Let’s be honest. The mini-controversy over Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the highest court in the land reminds us that judges, like the rest of us, live in the political world.
While there were legal grounds to uphold – or to overturn – the homophobic measure, it was extremely unlikely that the justices would overturn the “will of the voters,” as marshalled by a surprisingly forceful alliance between right-wing Republicans and the Mormon Church.
That the justices were troubled by the morality of the decision was evidenced by the fact that they grandfathered existing gay marriages in, on the deliciously flimsy grounds that the ballot measure made no specific reference to them – so they were not required to undo a decision that had brought joy to hundreds of thousands of couples in and out of California.
One can respect the sincerity of many of the so-called “values voters” who supported Proposition 8 while abhorring the inherent divisiveness that keeps one class of citizens in this democracy subjugated without the rights of the people whom they live next door to, work among and, in many cases, worship with.
California has been through all this before – in the successful fight to overturn the racist laws forbidding mixed marriage and segregated housing.
We have recently been reminded of the consequences of hateful thoughts – and actions – by the vile assassination of George Tiller, the Kansas physician who became a lightning rod for anti-abortion forces because he performed late-term abortions.
Hate and prejudice respect no boundaries of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.
In this week’s cover story (see story, pg. 16), Weekly News Editor Jessica Lyons quotes Nickolas McDaniel, who says he was raped in the shower of the girl’s locker room at his Salinas high school by girls who were threatened by the fact that he had a different sexual identity than they were comfortable with.
McDaniel, who later successfully underwent sexual reassignment surgery, survived his ordeal, but many have not been so lucky. He told the Weekly that seeing the movie Boys Don’t Cry helped teach him to accept his sexual identity, and humanity.
Gay, lesbian and transgender groups are commendably working to create the first diversity centers in the history of Monterey County in order to to provide support for the community.
But, as the Proposition 8 ruling and the slaying of Dr. Tiller remind us, the battle is far from over.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s campaign to become the next Democratic nominee for governor has become an uphill battle because of the successful efforts of the right to demonize him for his decision to OK gay marriage in the city in 2004.
His leading (though as yet unannounced) Democratic opponent, former Gov. Jerry Brown, also opposed Proposition 8 – it was his appeal that was recently overturned by the state justices. The other Democratic contenders agree it should be reversed.
Even our current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has said it’s only a matter of time until the law is changed.
One hopes this is not just wishful thinking.
The left – and even those who count themselves among the merely tolerant – were largely blindsided by the outcome of the ballot measure, the slickness of the television campaign supporting the measure and the depth of passion of those who believe in depriving others of their rights.
There may be another ballot measure in 2010 seeking to undo the damaging legacy of Proposition 8.