Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The New Jim Crow, Or a Sad Night for Equality

Despite the elation of bringing change to the White House (and keeping Caribou Barbie as far away from it as possible), there was a big vote last night that fell solidly on the sordid side of history: it appears Proposition 8, aka "Proposition Hate," has passed in California.

Several states had ballot initiatives which addressed the rights of those of us who differ from the majority only in their sexual orientation, from three decisions on the legality of same-sex marriage to another which banned adoption by gay couples, but ostensibly California's Proposition 8 was the most important such measure to see the ballot, ever--for not only is California the largest state and thus carries a heavy impact upon the rest of the nation, but also its courts had thrown out a prior ban--making Proposition 8 a measure not only denying a right, but one which would explicitly take away an existing right.

That these issues were even on the ballot at all is a sad enough commentary on the United States electorate and the backwards views and bigotry apparently so prevalent in our country.

I'm a happily-married, heterosexual male, and I just don't get it why anyone feels their own marriage is somehow threatened by allowing a basic right to all.  Or why allowing gays to marry somehow threatens children.

I also don't understand how people can be quite so bigoted--particularly so many people who collectively have historically themselves been the victims of discrimination and persecution.  The Mormon church, for example, has certainly been one of the more persecuted religious groups in the history of the United States--and has even faced its own share of non-traditional marriage issues--yet they pumped tens of millions of dollars into California from out of state to ensure the passage of Proposition Hate.  African Americans by and large voted heavily in favor of 8 as well--reminding me of the gay black character in Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy, who lamented being "a minority of a minority."

One thing is for sure: we're seeing the creation of a new Jim Crow, and it's not a pretty sight.

Now, for the fallout.  I am neither a lawyer nor do I play one on television (and I most certainly did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), but I wonder if the passage of 8 can see legal challenge in courts in California?  Ballot initiatives do not give anyone the right to violate the Constitution, so perhaps "equal protection" arguments can successfully be made, either at the state or Federal level (though with the latter, said challenges need to wait to for some of the damage done by George Bush's conservative appointees to be remedied--I would hate to see a Supreme Court of Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Thomas taking up such a crucial issue).

And will existing same-sex marriages be rendered void, ruining the lives of many happy couples?  Surely that will be a sordid spectacle both in the legal courts and that of the public spectacle.  Is it time to push our Congresspeople to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act at the federal level?

I just don't know.  But I nonetheless find this a very sad day to be an American, making the triumph of the election of Obama bittersweet.  I don't even have a dog in this race, so to speak, with my happy, "traditional" marriage.  Yet I find I must shed a tear for this step backwards for equality and the civil rights of all Americans, and the dark blot on the pages of history Proposition 8 and its sister measures across the country represent.

1 comment:

John Nolley II said...

Take action! The Mormon church (aka Church of Latter-Day Saints) contributed tens of millions of dollars to help pass California's Proposition 8--which skirts if not outright flaunts IRS rules on political activity by a church.

You can help by visiting this online petition to revoke the Mormon's tax-exempt status with the IRS. Let the LDS know that what they did is unfair, and potentially even illegal--and let them know where it hurts by forcing them to pay taxes as a consequence of their politicking.