Tuesday, May 26, 2009

and what say you now, california supreme court?

Today is D Day, or Day of Decision, as the California State Supreme Court is expected to announce its opinion on three cases filed shortly after the passage of Prop 8, all of which sought to overturn the proposition that amended the state constitution to include the refusal of equal rights for gays.

At the time of its passage, I really couldn't find the words to express the extreme disappointment in my home state (ugh. By the looks of the previous statement, I still can't). After all, this state is the home to San Francisco, Hollywood, and Disneyland (which would all be nothing without the gays). How could the state relegate gays to second class citizenry? How could the Mormon and Catholic Church wield their political prowess and still be tax exempt in this day and age? Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? How soon until we become a theocracy? How can we allow religious bigots to determine the rights of a minority?

In their decision to legalize same sex marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court said it best:

While unexpressed, religious sentiment most likely motivates many, if not most, opponents of same-sex civil marriage and perhaps even shapes the views of those people who may accept gay and lesbian unions but find the notion of same-sex marriage unsettling. Whether expressly or impliedly, much of society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained—even fundamental—religious belief.

...Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates. State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation. As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals.

However, that is not the case before the California Supreme Court. The question is the validity of Prop 8--a so-called amendment to the state constitution that actually dramatically changes the intent of the constitution because Prop 8 essentially denies gays equal protection under the law. Prop 8 is more than just an amendment. It's a re-write. And how can a simple majority of voters basically re-write the state constitution? The prosecutors in these cases are arguing that such a decision of monumental consequence such be left up to the state legislature.

The court can rule one of three ways:
  • Uphold Prop 8 and nullify all same-sex marriages that were legal before.
  • Uphold Prop 8 and let stand all same-sex marriages that were legal before (thereby creating a class divide between married gays and those who now can't get married).
  • Strike down Prop 8.
This past Thursday was the anniversary of the White Night Riots, a not-so-peaceful protest following the conviction of Dan White (the man who killed Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone). He had been facing a charge of 1st Degree Murder and would've been sentenced to death if found guilty. Instead he was found guilty of the most lenient charge of voluntary manslaughter (and was in jail for 5 years).

This past Friday would've been Harvey Milk's 79th birthday.

June is gay pride month. And June 28th marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Will today's date be just as significant in the history of the gay rights movement?

At 1 pm Eastern time today, we will find out the answer. 

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