Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Justice For All loses again

What a truly depressing day for everyone in this country who (actually) supports egalitarian principles. Maine voted 53 to 47% in favor of repealing same-sex marriage, which had been legalized (though not yet legally binding) by the legislature last spring. 

What an embarrassing travesty of justice that a majority of American citizens actually voted to strip their fellow American citizens, their very neighbors, of rights that had finally been recognized in the state.

It was bad enough to me when, for instance, my state of Missouri voted 71% in 2004 in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (even though it wasn’t legal in the state anyway). It was jarring to me that even in the 21st century such a large majority of people would vote to completely marginalize and in fact actively penalize a segment of the population, all to satisfy their own personal and religious comfort levels.

The fact that clearly a great many Democrats must have voted for this to have passed by such a margin confirmed to me that for all the lip-service about being progressive and standing for equality, the Democratic party is actually completely full of shit. Like the GOP, it is made up mostly of selfish people who are only out to advance their own interests, they don’t give a damn about the suffering of others. Concepts such as social justice, equality, civil liberties, and civil rights are just catchy words meant to portray them as being caring and enlightened.

As bad as all that was — legislating discrimination into our state’s constitution — I could at least say that all they had really accomplished was to impose some overkill by denying us something that was already not recognized by law. In the case of California, and now Maine, however, intolerant mobs motivated by their personal prejudices and misguided fears managed to revoke civil rights that had been granted (or were soon to take effect) by judicial or legislative action. It doesn't get much more personally insulting and confrontational than this.

So where do we go from here?
I’ve long believed that nothing short of a verdict by the U.S. Supreme Court is actually going to grant & protect civil marriage for same-sex couples. Just as it did in the Loving vs. Virginia case in 1967 when it repealed anti-miscegenation laws, it is imperative that the high court strike these discriminatory laws & amendments down as violating the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. constitution.

While there is currently an effort to accomplish this very thing, I admit that it isn’t likely to succeed. We have a mostly conservative court right now. And if we were to lose such a case it would be a total disaster.

No doubt there will be fresh calls among some, especially among centrists, that we should just accept civil marriage. The only problem with that is that separate is not equal. Interracial couples weren’t forced to settle for interracial civil unions, nor should they have been. Neither should we be forced to settle for second-class to satisfy the personal prejudices of bigots.

Still, there is another side to this civil union compromise. We may well have no other recourse than to give the fascists a taste of their own medicine. They argue, almost entirely on religious grounds, that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Fine, then respecting the wall of separation between church and state, “marriage” should have no legal basis whatsoever. It should only be a religious institution.

Perhaps it is time to get serious about establishing ALL civil “marriage” as civil “unions”, with all the legal protections and privileges that implies. The government would have to grant such unions fairly, without unreasonable discrimination. Every couple, same-sex and opposite-sex would have the same legal status, the same contract with the same name and the same legal benefits. And those with religious hang-ups would have no claim that their “traditional” view of marriage is being violated. Churches could marry or deny marriage to whomever they like for whatever reason they like.

A debate I've been involved with about the issue at the Daily Beast

[Edit: Here is an interesting article at the Daily Beast arguing that civil rights, like same-sex marriage, should not be put to popular votes for historical reasons; also one of my comments]

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