On May 26th, 2009, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling to uphold Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that won the majority vote in California to effectively bar same sex couples from receiving marriage licenses. The majority, by the way, was slight...52% over 47%, due to several factors. Loads of money from churches and religious organizations played a large part in the passage of Prop 8, many of whom have laws stating they are not to donate money or even moral support to political causes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints donated at least $189,000, which doesn't include individual donations from members of their church to make up the additional millions poured into the "Yes on Prop 8" campaign. According to this article, nearly $3 million came from the state of Utah alone.
Regardless, I come here to discuss Prop 8, not just to lament its blatant violation of campaign finance laws. I live in Louisiana; I know there are some folks wondering why I care what happens in California. I care, because the sooner larger, more progressive states (whoa...Iowa?) take the step towards recognizing gay marriage, the closer my bass-ackwards, deep south home will be in turn. Such decisions in other states affect the entire queer community.
Feverishly drowning in my own despair after the ruling was announced, I began scouring for information online. A local protest, a petition...something. Some glimmer of hope, some action I could take; all I wanted was to put my anger and outrage somewhere. A co-worker of mine sent me an article via Facebook from a conservative political blogger, who happens to believe same sex marriage is a solid, conservative cause to back. I was hesitant to take ANYTHING from anyone who dares to identify themselves as conservative, but I took away some hope from his brief observations...that this was actually a victory for same sex marriage, not the dismal failure we were taking it for.
As I started reading the actual 180+ page opinion issued by the California Supreme Court, something occurred to me. That it is, in fact, a victory for gay marriage, albeit an obscured one.
Essentially, Prop 8 accomplished just two things, both of which effectively cancel the other out, if you are ruled by logic:
1.) Only heterosexual couples can be legally considered "married".
2.) 18,000 same sex couples can stay legally "married" because they got married before 11/4/08 when Prop 8 passed.
Great moons of Neptune...the conservative fuck was right. In retaining the legality of the 18,000 same sex marriages that occurred in California before November 4th, the court has offered the California queer community an opportunity.
It seems to me that in Massachusetts, and other states that have legalized same sex marriage, the most effective way to calm a nervous heterosexual public over the existence of same sex marriage is to let them witness it casually. Not in angry courthouse battles, outrageous gay pride parades or in heated protests; while these occurrances are vital and necessary to our civil rights movement, they are not effective at calming the heteronormative society that finds same sex marriage unnerving. I can hear my understandably upset queer brethren groaning..."Why calm the first class citizens? Why bother to care what they think?"
Because, like it or not, our civil rights are up for popular vote...and they will be, over and over, until the United States of America grants state and federal recognition to same sex marriage, or banishes every queer person to Barbados because they get sick of us fighting for it. California's queer community lost their marital rights by a 5% margin. Of over 13 million votes, they lost the right to state marital recognition by a mere 599, 602 popular votes. I believe that demonstrations, pride parades and legal battles are necessary. However, I think there is much merit to those who are focused on being families, not dancing down the streets of San Francisco in assless chaps, in the war for the country's sympathies and votes. When the battle for same sex marriage comes to Louisiana again, and it will, it will be up to our families, friends and neighbors to decide whether or not same sex marriage is a good idea. I don't like it any more than the next member of the queer community, but it's true: we are at the mercy of the majority. We're at the mercy of a majority to grant rights and protections to a minority...and people wonder why I drink.
My burgeoning alchoholism aside, I am holding onto hope. Those same sex couples who have obtained the right to marry and have managed to retain that right are our best chance at a victory in California next time, and let me reassure you, there WILL be a next time. Marriage strengthens communities and builds strong families, and it is up to those of you who managed to get hitched prior to November 4th, 2008 to prove that same sex families have the same merit as heterosexual families do. Eventually, California will succeed in this great endeavor. No civil rights movement in America's history has failed....this one won't, either. It simply can't.
Until then, I will be waiting and watching, rallying and protesting, until its our turn. Until Louisiana gives all of its sons and daughters equal rights. And when it's all said and done, when all of the states have voted to permit state-level equality, the federal government will grant us every right and responsibility bestowed upon our heterosexual counterparts.
If I live to see that day, I will be grateful. Profoundly and righteously angry, but eternally grateful.
For the complete lowdown on Prop 8, visit Wikipedia, the bastion of all things truthful and educational.