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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vote No on Prop 8 - Equality for All

WCG reader (and columnist) Tish Levee writes on the ‘‘the ultimate rite of love and commitment’’ - a RIGHT for everyone to enjoy. There will be a mobilization event at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, Oct. 5th, from 3-5 P.M, presented by the lgbt alliance of the Jewish Community Federations of the Bay area.

Equality for All Vote No on Prop 8

by Tish Levee

Pioneer activists married
‘Freedom to Marry’ came just in time for Del Martin. “We’re not getting any younger,” the long time lesbian activist said, a few days before she and her partner of 55 years became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in California. Mayor Gavin Newsom married them at 5:07 P.M. on June 16th. Less than three months later, when Del Martin died at 87, he ordered the flags at City Hall lowered to half-mast. Her widow, Phyllis Lyon, 83, said, "Ever since I met Del…I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side…[or that] there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married,…I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."

These two women were finally able to marry when the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22, in response to a suit brought by them and others. Proposition 22, passed in 2000, declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The Court’s 4-3 decision ruled that people have a fundamental 'right to marry' the person of their choice and that gender restrictions violate the state Constitution's equal protection guarantee.

Proposition 8––a re-run of Proposition 22
Now Proposition 8––the “Protection of Marriage” amendment to the State Constitution, using the same definition of marriage as Proposition 22––is challenging that decision. The arguments offered for Proposition 8, as were those for Proposition 22, bear a striking resemblance to the arguments made in favor of anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages. The California Supreme Court, in a precedent setting ruling, declared those laws unconstitutional just sixty years ago. For 65 years a string of post-Reconstruction judicial precedents had upheld these laws, some of which dated back to 1664. In the California Supreme Court’s ruling, Chief Justice Roger Traynor stated, "A member of any of these races may find himself barred by law from marrying the person of his choice and that person to him may be irreplaceable. [italics added]" "Human beings," he continued, "are bereft of worth and dignity by a doctrine that would make them as interchangeable as trains." "The right to marry," Traynor insisted, "is the right of individuals, not of racial groups." Finally in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “…restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause." By and large, Americans adjusted remarkably quickly to the new judicial consensus that interracial marriage, like marriage itself, was, "a basic civil right,” as Chief Justice Earl Warren insisted. However, opposition to interracial marriage didn’t end overnight––Alabama only removed laws against it from the constitution in 2000, the year Proposition 22 passed in California
Sound Familiar?

In post-Reconstruction judicial rulings against interracial marriages, some of the same arguments, now being used to argue against same-sex marriage, were used again and again, especially that interracial marriage was contrary to God’s will and was “unnatural.”

Despite efforts beginning as early as 1913, there was little movement on this issue until civil rights groups began challenging these laws. The first group to do so was a small but very effective pressure group, the Catholic Interracial Council of Los Angeles, founded in 1946. They argued that anti-miscegenation laws violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Today, many denominations and religious leaders support the rights of same-sex couples to wed, and, therefore, it would seem clear that laws prohibiting their marriages violate their religious freedom, too.

Protection of Marriage––what does that mean?
Proposition 8 is entitled “The Protection of Marriage Act” by its proponents; in 2000, Proposition 22 was called “The Defense of Marriage Act”. How does denying anyone the right to marry ‘protect marriage?’ The freedom to marry, implicit in the constitution, is as sacred a right as freedom of speech or freedom of worship. In their ballot argument Proposition 8 proponents assert, that, “Marriage is at the core of family security and is an essential element in our society. The [California] Supreme Court effectively rendered marriage meaningless at a time when we should be taking steps to strengthen families.”

Marriage is an essential element in our society, and we do need to strengthen families. However, I fail to understand how the legal marriage of loving, committed same-sex couples can be a threat to anyone else’s marriage. The California Supreme Court’s ruling repeatedly invoked the words "respect and dignity,” framing the marriage question as one deeply affecting couples and their children. In 2000 California had more than 100,000 same-sex families, with 58,000 children.

Like freedom of religion and freedom of speech, the freedom to marry is fundamental to our society. As the No on 8 ballot argument states, “Marriage…conveys dignity and respect to the lifetime commitment of any couple…committed and loving couples who want to accept the responsibility (italics added) that comes with marriage should be treated like everyone else.” Regardless of how you feel about marriage -- for straight or gay and lesbian couples -- it’s wrong to single out one group of Americans and prevent them from having access to the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens.

For more information go to While you are there, you can also take the” Vow to Vote No.”

There will be a mobilization event at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, Oct. 5th, from 3-5 P.M, presented by the lgbt alliance of the Jewish Community Federations of the Bay area.

© Copyright Tish Levee, 2008. All rights reserved