Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prop-8 Struck Down In California--Weekend Journal

I am reminded of the final line in Part 1 of "Angels in America", delivered by the Angel as s/he descends on Prior Walter in visitation:

"The great work begins."

Judge Vaughn's ruling effectively overturning the ban on gay marriage in California is the end of a trial, but the beginning of a struggle that could decide the future for same-sex couples for generations.

With the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court, the split along ideological lines would seem to be intact. 

And therein lies an insidious irony:

Conservatives argue that Judge Vaughn should have recused himself because, as a gay man, the judgment he rendered could not be impartial.  They also insist that Supreme Court Justices be completely impartial, with no opinions whatsoever; and so they refused to support Kagan's nomination on the basis of potential "activism" and "bias" in her court decisions.  The irony here is that the SCOTUS is a partisan as ever; there is so little expectation that the current Justices will rule in a case except according to party lines, that most assume that the Gay Marriage appeal to the Court will be decided by the swing vote of one judge: Anthony Kennedy.

Although I believe Judge Vaughn's decision is a milestone, and will be a necessary and measured piece of thinking during the appeal, I remain, as always, cautious.

Just as the House of Representatives' vote to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell has not yet stopped military discharges (Lt. Dan Choi is the latest high-profile victim), there is no guarantee that the nation's highest court will overcome its ideological blinders in the gay Marriage case.  Ideally ( and idealistically) however,  the court has a duty to protect the Civil Rights of citizens beyond the irrational thinking and superstition of the electorate, the "tyranny of the majority".  This is not an issue to be decided in the voting booth. 

As far as the Executive Branch, Mr. Obama has a tricky line to walk.  A large segment of voters who supported Prop. 8 are the same minority voters the President needs to have any hope of winning a second term.  He is inextricably linked to these voters, and they represent a voting block larger than the gay and lesbian constituents who nevertheless fought hard to elect him.  It's unfortunate, but Obama is doing the politically expedient thing by keeping his response to the California trial muted. 

It's no wonder many of Obama's gay supporters feel confused and betrayed:

Asked for White House reaction to Wednesday’s ruling, spokesman Ben Labolt pointed out that President Barack Obama has publicly opposed the same-sex marriage ban “because it is divisive and discriminatory.” However, he said the President “will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans.”
Nevertheless, Obama has also publicly opposed same-sex marriage, and a White House aide said the president’s position has not changed.
“He supports civil unions, doesn’t personally support gay marriage though he supports repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, and has opposed divisive and discriminatory initiatives like Prop. 8 in other states,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
It's unfortunate, to say the least, that Mr. Obama may not have to do much more for gay and lesbian constituents except ride out the present controversies over gay marriage, DADT and Employment Non-Discrimination with empty promises and platitudes.  Because in 2012, what other choice will we have?  Mr. Obama knows that, and sadly, so may we.

But it need not be so.  We can be aggressive, be more vocal...keep on writing....gathering....marching....

We can't rest satisfied simply because "it could be worse".  Gotta push a little....

1 comment:

  1. I loved waking up to this news, but I know it's still a long, rough road ahead. Progress, though, progress!