Saturday, September 17, 2005

Equal Marriage Rights Update

One stop shopping for important equal marriage rights info that you may not have noticed in the news:

In July, Canada made it legal for same-sex couples to marry, making it the fourth country to protect families like mine. The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain also recongize same-sex unions.

England is set to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in December 2005. My friend Dave told me he knew that already because Sir Elton John and his long-term partner David Furnish are planning a December wedding. Dave has made no decisions about what he will wear. I hope the knight's wedding will be televised. It would be the third broadcast British wedding I've seen. Hopefully it will have all of the pageantry and hopefully longer lasting results than the other two. In any case, what an excuse for a tv party--bring your tulle and your rhinestone sunglasses! More details to come.

Here in the U.S.:

In MA, a legislative bill failed to reverse the state's judiciary decision that same-sex marriage is constitutional. Both gay rights groups as well as some conservative Christian groups were pleased with the vote. The proposed bill, while denying marriage rights, would have provided limited but not full protection for same-sex couples. (Christian right groups didn't want same-sex families to have ANY protections). An attempt to put a "new and improved" amendment on a ballot with NO protections is in the works, but it will be 2008 before it could go before MA voters. While this battle is far from over (I've learned never to underestimate just how powerful fear and the religious right can be) the discussion in the MA legislature appeared to be less rancorous during this last round of debate. Seems MA civilization has not been destroyed because more people are allowed to make their lives together more secure.

This month in CA, the LEGISLATURE passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples equal marriage rights. However, Governor Schwarzenegger said he will veto it. He says the decision should be put to a popular vote or, strangely enough, be approved by the judiciary (I thought conservatives didn't like that idea).

From the Online Journal:

The veto statement concluded with “Out of respect for the will of the people, the governor will veto AB849.'” The reference is to Proposition 22, an initiative passed in 2000 that banned same-sex marriage in California. But as the San Francisco Chronicle and Mr. Skelton pointed out, the views of rational, reasonable, socially conscious, fair-minded people evolve:

"Two months before voters passed Prop. 22, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that likely voters favored a ban on same-sex marriage by 57 to 38 percent. In a poll taken last month by the same group, likely voters were split evenly on the question, 46 to 46 percent, although nearly 70 percent of [conservative] Republican voters continued to disapprove."

A September 9, 2005 New York Times editorial also took note of that poll and the changing views toward marriage equality, as well as other aspects of Schwarzenegger’s ridiculous explanation for the swift veto:

"For years, social conservatives have accused judges of deciding social issues that should be left to legislators. Now Mr. Schwarzenegger wants to ignore his Legislature and leave gay marriage to the courts or the voters at large to decide. . . .
"Mr. Schwarzenegger also seems to have forgotten that this nation was founded as a republic, in which the citizens elect legislators to govern on their behalf. Such representative democracy is especially important when it comes to protecting the fundamental rights of minorities, who may face bigoted hostility from some segments of the electorate."

Aside from ignoring the essence of “republic,” letting the voters decide every issue sounds “democratic,” but Tocqueville was right: there is a worm in the American apple. Canada’s Prime Minister Paul Martin put it most succinctly when he said that civil rights is not a popularity contest. The point had been clearly made by a 1968 Gallup poll that showed a whopping 72 percent of Americans opposed interracial marriage a year after the Supreme Court legalized it (Loving v. Virginia). A “popularity vote” in 1968 would have delayed interracial marriage equality for years. A popularity vote on codifying racial segregation in some Southern states—and probably a few others—in 1950 would almost certainly have delayed African Americans’ civil rights for years if not decades.

Civil Rights delayed are civil rights denied, Mr. Schwarzenegger. History is quite clear on that, as it will be on your political pandering and moral cowardice.

I think we're going to make it after all (throwing tam skyward). On a related note, if in times of trial you need to be reminded why you are proud to be an American, you may want to check out the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington . John and I rented it (it had been years since I'd seen it), and it is a good remedy for cynicism. Stewart is the perfect ideal patriot. And Jean Arthur is great as the sweet but jaded beltway insider who figures out how to overcome legislative pathology. I attribute this movie with saving the filabuster this past year, and the Lincoln memorial is practically part of the cast. Pass me a tissue and long live the Republic. Wait, that sounded kind of French. God bless America!


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