It’s Just Not Good Enough

Calitics can be very 30,000 feet. We look broadly at the policy issues that face Californians, point out what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s stupid.  On occasion it turns personal, in that one member of our community or another is affected by the decisions made in Sacramento and throughout California politics. I’ve seen people struggle with EDD, and people get laid off and furloughed. These are all very real and poignant to me.

But the decision to uphold Proposition 8 deals a devastating blow to so many Californians, and it does for me. Marriage equality is really a whole lot less about any one specific marriage, my own or any other, than about the fact that the state draws a line between a marriage between those of the same gender and an “opposite marriage” as Carrie Prejean likes to say. In a very real way, the Supreme Court said today that second-class citizenship is sufficient for a suspect class.  

More broadly, this decision strikes at the heart of California’s equal protection clause. It is far reaching in that it allows the people of California to vote on people they do or do not like.  It turns our bedraggled system of initiatives into a high school popularity contest, where the cool kids get to do as they like. Or, as Justice Moreno summed it up:

The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized in the Marriage Cases, it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities.  It weakens the status of our state Constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority. (Justice Moreno’s dissent, at 2)

Yes, this does affect me personally. Sure, sure, my marriage is still valid, but frankly so what? My marriage now carries an asterisk. A footnote, an exception that only mocks those who bear it. What a prize, I get to keep using the word “marriage” but I’m simultaneoulsy slapped across the face.

Ultimately, this too shall pass. At this point, it is merely a question of when Prop 8 will be repealed.  It is a question of campaign strategy, and of polling, and of money. But never doubt that this decision was an anachronism before the ink was dry. It is a stain upon our legal heritage, but a stain that can be smudged, with enough hard work, into something that we can point to as a moment of transformation through adversity.  

Because now it is up to us to turn that stain upon our legal system into a piece of art worthy of the masters at the ballot. It is not enough to merely state that we oppose Prop 8. We must do the very tough work to defeat the measure. We must build a campaign structure that combines the energy of the grassroots support for marriage equality, but also the best lessons from campaigns in the past. We must have a structure that is responsive, yet nimble. Our failures in the past must be a lesson.

But, this is the last blow of a dying effort.  We’ve tasted marriage equality here. We have it elsewhere. As Eva Patterson states in the video, life will go on. We will have to work harder and smarter in the future, but the days of such nonsense will get rarer and rarer. Because some truths really are self-evident:

But even a narrow and limited exception to the promise of full equality strikes at the core of, and thus fundamentally alters, the guarantee of equal treatment that has pervaded the California Constitution since 1849.  Promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different from promising equal treatment to all.  Promising treatment that is almost equal is fundamentally different from ensuring truly equal treatment.  Granting a disfavored minority only some of the rights enjoyed by the majority is fundamentally different from recognizing, as a constitutional imperative, that they must be granted all of those rights. (Justice Moreno’s dissent, at 6-7)

One thought on “It’s Just Not Good Enough”

  1. I’m just wondering, Brian, since I’m also married with an asterisk, whether there’s anything we can do with our status to make any points before 2010, when I think we’ll have “Bleeding California” over the repeal referendum.  I’m at a loss at the moment.

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