Wednesday, November 05, 2008
First of all, my apologies for the potty-mouth earlier. Words said in the heat of the moment after less than usual sleep. I still feel violated by our nation's anti-gay votes in this election, but I should have stopped short of degrading speech.
Still, there are encouraging signs on at least a couple of the front. Opponents of Prop 8 in California are taking a multi-faceted approach to stalling recognition the proposition's victory yesterday. First, they are not conceding defeat until every single vote is counted. As returns were reported, the proposition was winning by a slim 400,000 votes while there were still 3 to 4 MILLION absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. There is hope defeat may be snatched from the jaws of victory when the total vote is tallied.
Additionally, the ACLU and the plaintiffs in the original case that the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had an equal right to civil marriage have filed suit to block adoption of the measure, arguing that writing discrimination into the state's constitution does not make it constitutional. For example, as a nation, we could ratify an amendment to the Constitution that outlaws any religion founded in Missouri after 1800. And, whereas many good Christian folk would find any relgion founded in Missouri in the 19th Century objectionable to the practice of their own religion, and may even vote overwhelmingly to outlaw the practice of this religion, it would violate the Bill of Rights to our Constitution and certainly would not be ratified. Furthermore, this hoary mob could hold a referendum and vote to repeal the First Amendment that guarantees these 19th Century Missourians (and even themselves) the freedom to believe whatever they want and gather together peacefully to share in that belief. But it would also not be ratified. Because the principles behind it are ultimately enshrined in the very foundation of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Our government is set up with a series of checks and balances on power in order to protect minorities against the tyrannical mob-rule of the majority.
Amendments to the Constitution, where they enumerate the rights of citizens, are not made to make something constitutional. Rather they are put in place guarantee each person's right to Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness. Was slavery ever constitutional? Clearly, no. Yet it was written into our government's founding document as a "peculiar institution." In the course of time, and after a bitter struggle that nearly tore our nation apart, we finally recognized that one human being has no standing under any law to own another human being. Only Prohibition, codified in the 18th Amendment has ever sought to limit the rights of US Citizens, and it was repealed a mere 13 years after it was enacted. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be ratified, however, equality before the law, for all persons, is recognized as a foundation of constitutional theory. Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment would just explicitly state what is already understood to be the implicit intent of the document and its framers. In that regard, Prop 8 is undemocratic, popularly elected, though it may be, and may yet again be rightly rejected by the California Supreme Court, provoking cries of "judicial activism" from tyrants within the majority nationwide.
But even if Proposition 8 is allowed to stand, it is just one ballot initiative away from being repealled in the state of California. Eight years ago, over 60% of the California population opposed marriage rights for same sex couple. Today, it was a hard-fought battle to scrape together a bare majority. In another eight years, same-sex marriage rights will be supported by a majority of voters. In fact, all of the ballot initiatives nationwide found less support for curtailing the rights of gay and lesbian citizens than previous initiatives in elections past, even if they still garnered majority (or even super-majority) support. Time is on our side. Even if it takes a little while longer to get there.
Finally, yesterday was an emotional day for me. Even though I'm disappointed by the ballot initiatives that passed in California, Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida, seeing Barack Obama elected President of these United States is truly one of the greatest moments of my life. It is, simply, a turning point in history. One that had me literally weeping tears of joy at several moments over the last two days, particularly reading accounts of parents including their children in this teaching and transformative moment in our nation.