My Two Cents On New York’s Legalization Of Marriage Equality

On Friday, June 24, 2011, New York joined five other U.S. states by legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill passed in both the Assembly and Senate and was immediately signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Equality won in New York. However, gay couples in 44 other states are still treated as second-class citizens.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington D.C. and now New York are the only areas of the country where gay couples are seen as equal in the eyes of the law. Civil unions (rights nearly identical – but not equal to – marriage) are legal in five U.S. states, including New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island. Domestic Partnerships (rights very similar to – but definitely not equal to – marriage) are legal in eight U.S. states, including California (where they are essentially civil unions), Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. A total of 30 states have discrimination etched into their constitutions…despite the 14th Amendment.

Times are changing. For the first time in U.S. history, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, according to a Gallup poll released earlier this year. Gallup found that 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, including a whopping 70 percent of young people (18-34).

Here in California, Prop 8 is most likely on its deathbed. The Ninth Circuit Court is continuing to review Judge Walker’s monumental 2010 decision that overturned Prop 8. I predict his decision will be upheld (thanks to his brilliant review) and that same-sex marriage will once again be legal in The Golden State before 2012. If not, gay activists and supporters have vowed to push for a ballot initiative in the 2012 election that would overturn Prop 8 and legalize same-sex marriage (what a sad statement on the justice system in this country if it comes to that…). If public opinion and changing attitudes are any indication, it would have no trouble passing.

When will the federal government of the United States treat all of its citizens equally? It is the 21st century and our knowledge of what it means to be human has progressed and evolved. Love transcends gender. Most people see their gay friends and family as deserving of all the rights they receive. 10 nations around the world have passed marriage equality. Isn’t the United States supposed to be a beacon of liberty and an example for the rest of the world to follow? One can only hope that the United States legal system doesn’t continue to drag its feet, trampling over the rights of an entire group of people.

A Manhattan crowd reacts to the passage of marriage equality in New York. Photo credit: Associated Press 2011

Judge Walker’s Ruling Stands

Today, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled that Judge Vaughn Walker’s 2010 decision (declaring Proposition 8 “unconstitutional”) is still valid even though Judge Walker is gay.

Proponents of Prop 8 motioned to have Walker’s monumental decision vacated because the judge was a gay man ruling to allow same-sex marriage in the state of California (for the second time).

The short ‘n sweet summary of this latest ruling: Who cares if he’s gay or not?! His ruling is judicially sound.

 

Below is a section of Judge Ware’s ruling:

After considering the Oppositions to the Motion and the governing law, as  discussed below, the Court finds that neither recusal nor disqualification was  required based on the asserted grounds. The sole fact that a federal judge  shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of  the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a  proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be  affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification under Section  455(b)(4). Further, under Section 455(a), it is not reasonable to presume that a  judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality  of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the  proceedings. Accordingly, the Motion to Vacate Judgment on the sole ground of  Judge Walker’s same-sex relationship is DENIED.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still considering whether Walker’s ruling is constitutional. My two cents: same-sex marriage will be legal in California (again) before 2012.

Judicially and even in modern-day American society, legal prohibitions against same-sex marriage are unsound, discriminatory and rely on faulty/discredited studies claiming homosexuals “hurt” children or somehow “destroy the fabric of society.” It’s 2011. It’s time to move forward. The constitution gives EVERYONE equal protection under the law.

It’s A Non-Issue

Gallup now reports that 70 percent of young people (18-34) and a majority (53 percent) of Americans in general support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. However, only 39 percent of people aged 55 and older are in support.

Most young people personally know or are friends with gays and lesbians. As opposed to the older generation, we see who “the homosexual” really is: a doctor, lawyer, parent, sibling, writer, elected official, police officer, business owner or artist.

Even young Evangelicals increasingly consider same-sex marriage a non-issue, according to a 2008 study  conducted by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

Just because someone accepts the legality of an issue or law does not necessarily mean they approve/affirm that issue or law on moral grounds. That’s the beauty of Separation of Church and State.

Rather than seeing negative stereotypes or misconceptions (perverts, mentally ill, etc.), young people understand that gays and lesbians are every bit as human as their straight counterparts.

Modern stereotypes of gays and lesbians are rather complimentary, in my opinion; Gay men are clean-cut, artistic Apple computer owners and lesbians are eclectic, charismatic coffee shop owners (the stereotype appears to be confirmed in independent coffee shops with gay men on their on MacBooks or iPhones…).

It is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal throughout the nation. The only obstacle to equal rights is dogmatic adherence to outdated, discriminatory values (only 28% of self-identified conservatives support legal same-sex marriage).

Young people get it. When will Capitol Hill and 45 state legislatures?

Gallup results by age group

 

The Proposition Must Be Abolished

The proposition (aka “ballot initiative”) is a horrible way to make law. California has been afflicted with it since the early 20th century, when it was introduced with the Progressive Movement. Since then, the state has become a fractured, unworkable, special-interest-driven disaster. If enough signatures are gathered – and millions of dollars raised to spread propaganda – a proposition is placed on the ballot where it is approved or rejected by voters.

Propositions strike at the heart of what a republic is: smart government. After all, California is modeled after the federal system: It has three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – and a bicameral legislature, made up of the lower-house Assembly and the upper-house Senate. Under this system, the idea is balance of power. The people elect lawmakers to the legislature who in turn make laws. Those laws are then approved, rejected (vetoed), or enforced by the Executive and checked by the Judiciary to determine if the laws are constitutional. Lawmakers are [supposed to be] intelligent and educated individuals who reason with each other and make compromises; through this, we get wise government. If we the people are unhappy with their performance, we can either elect someone else during the next election or recall (impeach on the national level) them. The proposition completely bypasses this checks-and-balances system.

There have been many terrible propositions in California over the century. Some of the worst are Propositions 8, 13 and 140.

Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, banned same-sex marriage. Earlier that year, the California Supreme Court struck down the previous ban on same-sex marriage – Proposition 22 (2000) – and said that homosexual couples had the legal right to wed. Opponents of the decision claimed that the court’s decision would lead to societal breakdown and with nearly $40 million and backing from the Mormon Church and conservative groups, Prop 8 was added to the constitution. This is a classic example of what Thomas Jefferson called “Tyranny of the majority,” where the majority (voters) took away the rights of a minority (same-sex couples). Whether one approves of same-sex relationships or not is not the point; a minority had its rights denied simply because the majority said so.

Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, put a limit on the amount of property taxes levied on property owners. At first glance, it sounds like an excellent idea; limit the government’s ability to increase taxes on property. However, after Prop 13, local governments – whose main source of revenue had been property taxes – had to find other ways to generate revenue once money was severely reduced. Thanks to Prop 13, the state is now responsible for supporting local budgets and schools while local governments are left scavenging for funding from sales taxes and fees. Voters were angry at the government for raising taxes and rather than research where their communities get funding, they passed a proposition that essentially crippled them.

Proposition 140, passed by voters in 1990, put term limits on politicians into place. It sounds good in theory: limit assemblypersons to three two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms. Arguments for Prop 140 included claims that it would eliminate professional politicians, make the legislature more diverse and break special interest networks. Now, we have bitter, partisan lawmakers who don’t work together to make law in a reasoned manner. These days, legislators are too busy trying to bring their own agenda to Sacramento or running their campaigns for their next term or next position. Prior to 1990, it took a couple terms for an assemblyperson or senator to truly understand and grasp their office and its responsibilities. Now, by the time they know what they’re actually doing, they are term-limited out of office. California is complex and experience and reason are desperately needed.

There are many more examples because the proposition itself is a flawed way to make laws. Instead of relying on intelligent lawmakers to design policy, anyone who’s registered to vote can simply make their own laws if they don’t agree with what the government is doing. With this, minority rights are threatened, local governments are crippled and politicians are more partisan than ever. This is why direct democracy is a horrible idea. The proposition must be abolished.

 

Walker, Legal Ranger

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker – who has the distinction of being the judge to make the monumental and historic decision that overturned California’s Proposition 8 – wrote a well-thought out and articulated analysis explaining why not allowing two people of the same sex to legally marry is unconstitutional and regressive.

From the anthropological and evolutionary roots of marriage to the discriminatory laws and attitudes that hold back human progress, Judge Walker left no holds barred in his stunning and precise analysis. One of the many notable sections include the following:

The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. FF 21. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. FF 19-20, 34-35. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. FF 33. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. FF 48. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Whether social conservatives admit it or not, human society is always evolving and changing with new ideas and breakthroughs as well as through human evolution itself. To ignore this simple fact in favor of antiquated views and prejudice is ignorant and contrary to the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thankfully, we’re closer to equality for all in this country.

Prop 8 Overturned!

Prop 8 has been overturned. Today, California joins Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington DC in recognizing same-sex marriages. Regardless of how you feel about gay marriage, this is a great day for the Constitution.

Since all Americans receive – or are supposed to receive – equal treatment and protection under the law, logic would dictate that this also includes two people who are in a committed relationship.

America is a beacon of liberty and equality for all who are privileged to live here. If you’re not depriving anyone of their life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, you are encouraged to make your own life, live free and pursue your own happiness.

Just because one group – or groups – of people get together and declare another inferior does not in any way mean they then have the right to legally enslave them. Thomas Jefferson warned against this: he called it the “tyranny of the majority” in which the majority decides and dictates the rights of the minority.

In November 2008, California voters – many mislead through deceptive television ads and misinformation through “family” groups as well as the Mormon Church’s finances – approved Proposition 8 by a narrow 52%, which overturned the state court’s decision five months earlier allowing same-sex marriage in the Golden State.

21 months and two court challenges later, gay couples can now once again marry if they decide to.

Opposition has already planned to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, whom I expect will uphold the decision. Should the US Supreme Court pick up the case (doubtful), they will either uphold today’s decision or maintain the ban. In that situation, I expect them to agree that homosexuals do in fact have the right to marry. This would strike down same-sex marriage bans in 41 states and overturn President Clinton’s “Defense of Marriage Act,” making the United States the 11th nation on the planet to legalize same-sex marriage.

Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Sweden all recognize same-sex marriage. Isn’t it time that the pioneering and forward-thinking United States joined?