I spent quite a bit of my summer and a ton of this semester (August-November) organizing, phonebanking, visibility-ing, canvassing, rallying, and, perhaps most significantly, Facebooking, against Prop. 8.
For those of you who don’t know, Proposition 8 would take away the right for gays and lesbians to marry to ones they love. The literal text is that Prop. 8 “defines marriage in the state of California as between a man and a woman.” Gay marriage was legalized in June, which means that the passage of Proposition 8 actually ELIMINATES rights people already had. It passed. Regardless of what you think about marriage rights, there is no doubt that this was a civil rights disaster.
As an ever-vocal NO on 8 campaign co-organizer at my school, I had a lot of people coming up and asking me: what’s next? In a lot of ways I wish these people had asked me this question BEFORE November 4th, but either way, I’m glad to have them on board.
What’s Going On
First, what has been happening. As most of you are probably aware, last Saturday thousands of people came out in support of the marriage equality movement, in California and nationwide. As a Californian, it is really fascinating for me to see people around the nation coming together to fight a statewide ballot initiative. 12,000 showed up in Seattle. 1000 in St. Louis. 4000 in Denver. Thousands in NYC, DC, Chicago, and Boston. Dozens of smaller gatherings in places you wouldn’t expect it- Missoula, Montana; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Anchorage, Alaska; Fargo, North Dakota. Andrew Sullivan and Calitics have round ups from around the nation (and world). I highly recommend you read them, the accounts are inspiring and amazing.
A quote that struck me the most from this whole thing was a message that someone sent to Sullivan:
A week ago I wrote you just to vent and express my sadness about the ban on gay marriage … but today after attending our rally in South Beach, I won’t be any more. I am not sad nor do I want to be angry any more. I just want to do what needs to be done.
Fired up. Ready to go.
I am so proud and so very excited to be involved in a movement like this. I am absolutely positive that we will win sooner or later, hopefully sooner. The passage of Proposition 8 fired up the gay and lesbian community and their allies and told them they had to fight for their rights. So we will fight. And we will win. History will see Prop. 8 as not as the end but rather as just the beginning.
What is next for the movement? Proposition 8 was a Constitutional amendment, which makes it much harder to overturn than just a law banning gay marriage (which is what Prop. 22, the ban passed 2004 that was later struck down by the CA Supreme Court in May which then started this whole battle, was). California only requires a simple majority (50% +1 vote) in order to pass Constitutional amendments, which is why Prop. 8 passed to begin with. The problem, however, is that since the majority of voters in California voted to TAKE AWAY rights people ALREADY HAD, they are unlikely to want to give them those rights back. Gay marriage has seen a huge wave of support (Prop. 22 passed by over 20%, Prop. 8 only by 4%) in the last few years, but it will be hard to create such a huge electoral shift by 2010, when a new ballot initiative to overturn Prop. 8 could potentially happen.
Taking It To the Courts
Hopefully, that won’t have to happen. There are currently 3 lawsuits that challenge the legality of Proposition 8 up for review by the CA Supreme Court. They could decide which to take as early as Wednesday (SF Gate). The basic arguments behind these cases are:
1) Prop. 8 sets a dangerous precendent of the majority voting on the rights of the minority.
2) Prop. 8 was not an amendment but rather a “revision”- that is, a fundamental change to the CA Constitution, which has an Equal Proteciton Clause and therefore grants equal rights to all. Revisions require 2/3s vote in each house of the CA legislature, as well as a 2/3s vote by the people.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown, aka the one usually charged with enforcing things such as Constitutional amendments (as well as just normal laws) opposed Prop. 8 and is working to overturn it. As of today, he requested that the CA Supreme Court hear the cases, deny requests to hold off enforcing Prop. 8 until a decision is made, and to also hurry up please and make that decision. He is a good person to have on our side, and I trust that he will do a good job in handling this.
So a Court showdown is almost definite. If that fails, a new ballot measure will have to be the way to go. Looking far into the future, the federal Supreme Court will probably have to tackle this issue eventually, although hopefully after Barack Obama has appointed a few more liberal, open-minded judges.
Ready to Go
As one sign said at the San Francisco rally I attended, “Civil Rights have never been advanced by popular vote.” It’s unfortunate that we continue to allow the majority to oppress the minority in this country, especially with issues of civil rights that should be guaranteed to all. But I am confident that I am on the right side of history: we will win this, and equality will be acheived.