Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Historic US Trial has repercussions for all of us.

From the great guys at Gay Family Values

"O.k....Brace Yourself...the mother of all Gay marriage trials has just begun. This is the first trial to bring marriage equality to the Federal court system and the first step to bring it to the U.S. supreme court. We are playing for all the marbles this time! Cross your fingers and say your prayers!"

The Prop 8 trial currently taking place is an extremely important and historic event in US civil rights. Although there are many who argue that the fight for gay rights is not a civil rights issue as compared to the black rights movement, this court challenge to the Proposition 8 referendum has repercussions that will affect American society almost as profoundly as the Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs Board of Education in 1954.

This ruling stated "that the segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws."

Even more significant, let's take the Loving vs Virginia ruling of 1967 that struck down state laws that made inter-racial marriage a felony. In 1958, two residents of Virginia — Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man married in the District of Columbia and when they returned to Virginia (where time seems to have stopped), they were arrested and charged with interracial marriage:

"...On January 6, 1959, they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in jail. Their sentence, however, was suspended for a 25 year period on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. According to the trial judge:
    Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Frightened and unaware of their rights, they moved to Washington, D.C., where they lived in financial difficulty for 5 years. When they returned to Virginia to visit Mildred's parents, they were arrested again. While released on bail they wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, asking for help.

In 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Loving decision, Mildred Loving released a statement dealing with the denial of the right to marry to persons because of their race and/or sexual orientation. She wrote:

"My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry."

Let's hope that Mrs Loving is right and fear and prejudice will give way to a willingness to treat everyone with respect and equality.

The lines in this battle have been clearly drawn. The vast majority of those opposed to same sex marriage rights are those that argue and fund the case from the position of family values, a thinly veiled aphorism for religious intolerance. That this is clearly an affront to the enshrined constitutional separation of church and state matters little to these hypocrites who would hide their bigotry behind the words of the bible just as Muslim fundamentalists justify all sorts of atrocities by citing the Koran.

There is much concern that the battle for same sex marriage is moving too fast. That by rushing this to the Supreme Court, especially the current one which is decidedly conservative, risks setting the movement irrevocably back. It's a huge gamble that can only be won if the court actually makes its decision based on the 14th amendment as it did in the aforementioned "Brown vs Board of Education" and "Loving vs Virginia" cases.

A lot rides on this fight, and not just for Americans. As a beacon for freedom, the United States of America shines its light of democracy across the world and espouses its constitution as a model for other nations to strive for.

I'll take our Charter of Rights anytime. However, if the most powerful nation on the earth officially sanctions civil discrimination against gays and lesbians, what hope is there for those living in countries where they can be imprisoned or hanged for being gay? This would tell all those young gays out there that:
"You are inferior and sinners and although we'll take your tax money and benefit from your community service, you will never be one of us; oh, and stay away from our kids."

The fight against Proposition 8 isn't just about gay marriage, it's about whether a democracy should protect it's minorities against the tyranny of the majority. It's about the separation of church and state. And it's about the right to life, liberty, economic freedom, and the "Pursuit of happiness" as being a basic American truth or a faded mythology.

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