Prop 8: Pass the Soapbox

I don’t want to get into the habit of using this here blog for political soapboxing, for three reasons: 1) there’s enough of that on the web already, 2) it would be like bringing a spork to a gunfight, as I am just not well-versed enough in political rhetoric to engage any devotee in a debate, and 3) that’s largely because the political landscape in America depresses me these days.

But. I have been inspired to soapbox on something for one hot second. Feel free to ignore this post if you’re a fellow spork-wielder.

Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the famous Proposition 8 (or Prop 8 as you probably know it) with a uniquely narrow justification that the proposition, though voter-approved by a slim majority, violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by eliminating through a constitutional amendment the right of a same sex couple to marry. Translation? Invalidate is the key word…

The judges’ 2-to-1 decision avoids the complication of granting that gay couples have a  constitutional right to marry by offering the ‘legalese’ argument that these couples had been granted the right previously, and Prop 8’s retraction of that equality is illegitimate. From what I understand, they may have done this to give the Supreme Court less room to argue around it and uphold the Proposition. But my question is, is this really a victory? Or is this an example of a legal authoritative body finding a loophole that allows them to do what they think is right, without saying that they think it’s right?

My other question is, isn’t the ultimate goal of the marriage equality movement (of which I am a supporter) to convince us that the marriage of a gay couple is equal in legitimacy to the marriage of a straight one? If so, does legal pussyfooting around the real issue get us to where we want to be? I think if I was the head of said movement I’d secretly be a little peeved that this is the way we might take California. I’d want them to say it flat out: “the Constitution guarantees equality on all fundamental levels, including marriage, as a basic right,” not “well, guys, they could before, so you can’t just say they can’t now without a good reason (that doesn’t mention Jesus, because let’s not forget about that whole church and state issue).”

I guess after reading about this, I think it was kind of a wimpy victory. To put my anti-cynical spin on it: I’m proud to be a resident of New York, a state that declared the equality of our gay citizens as an issue of social justice. And, to briefly give into my natural tendency, I’m a little annoyed with my home state for being the least bit dodgy about the whole thing.

Rather than going into all the civil rights violations I associate with banning gay marriage, I’ll just say this. As someone who just began planning my wedding and thinking about marriage on such a real and accessible level—imagining my vows, my entire family gathering together for the first time ever, and our rapidly approaching public declaration of our love and commitment for each other—I can’t help but think…how can a legislative body possibly have the power to deny a grown adult the completion of this rite of passage?

I leave you with Zach, who you’ve probably seen before. He’s a 19-year-old (now 20) who soapboxes way better than I do, and has way more of a stake in the game.

Thanks to my ever political friend Dan, for posting the question about the court’s decision on Facebook, and getting my wheels turning. Hope I did okay.

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2 Responses to Prop 8: Pass the Soapbox

  1. dagolub says:

    You did more than great! This is really essentially what all the legal nerds are nerdily arguing about on all our nerdy blogs.
    The counterargument is just to say: sure, it’s wimpy! If we had a strong liberal majority on the Supreme Court, we could be bolder! But we don’t. It’s the best we could get away with, and hey, it will result in Californians getting back the right to marry, which is nothing to sneeze at. If we had written a bold opinion — saying that marriage equality is required by the constitution, which would mean EVERY state (Montana, Idaho, etc.) would have to have it — it just would have invited the Supreme Court to reverse us, and then nobody gets anything. Meanwhile, we can keep pushing to change hearts and minds (and Supreme Court justices) until we win the big victory.

    • All true my nerdy political friend! As I typed I imagined us debating about this over a beer. I buy every word of the counterargument too, and I do celebrate the victory for what it allows. My anti-cynical blogging persona should have played devil’s advocate with myself and ended on the point that you end on (but it was 2 in the morning and I was running out of gas). These guys have to focus on the bottom line, and rights are being protected at the end of the day. But as we win the battles and after each one stop and remember what the real goals are, and accept that victories on technicalities are somewhat less exciting than the real thing, we at least are able to see still the forest for the trees. It’s like when I watched my fiance’s favorite team get to the Superbowl because the opposing team’s kicker blew an easy field goal–a lot of fans were less than thrilled that that’s the way they got there, and a lot of fans were just psyched that they got there at all! I guess sometimes embracing technicalities is just another tactic.

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