Thursday, August 5, 2010

NY Times on Marriage as Constitutional Right (and the Quandary the Prop 8 Decision Creates for Democrats)

If you can absorb one more piece of prop 8 commentary: the New York Times editorial today about Judge Walker’s decision ruling prop 8 unconstitutional is brilliant.  It’s entitled “Marriage Is a Constitutional Right.”

As does my previous posting today, the Times editorial emphasizes how this ruling situates itself within a long trend of history in democratic societies, in which not merely gays and lesbians, but one targeted minority after another has been excluded from full personhood in democratic societies.  And in which those societies have had to see that their refusal to recognize the full personhood of stigmatized minorities (and that’s what denying human rights is about: it’s about excluding people from full personhood)  undercuts the meaning of democracy and must be changed.

The Times editorial states:

The decision, though an instant landmark in American legal history, is more than that. It also is a stirring and eloquently reasoned denunciation of all forms of irrational discrimination, the latest link in a chain of pathbreaking decisions that permitted interracial marriages and decriminalized gay sex between consenting adults. 

One of the fascinating effects of Judge Walker’s lucid, closely reasoned argument will be to put the Democratic party out on Front Street for what John Aravosis of America Blog calls its “political homophobia.”  The prop 8 decision yesterday was handed down by a judge nominated by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  One of the two key players in exposing the tissue of lies on which those opposing gay marriage base their case, Ted Olson, served as Solicitor General under George W. Bush and is a longstanding Republican leader.

Judge Walker’s ruling shames our Democratic president and Congress.  It shames these political leaders for professing weak-as-dishwater support for gay rights, while they drag their feet on even the tiniest legislative initiatives to overturn the legal and societal oppression from which LGBT citizens suffer.

When Chelsea Clinton was married recently, I held my tongue about some of my reflections re: this wedding (a spectacle I didn’t watch and about which I’ve only read headlines).  I held my tongue because I do wish this young couple starting their married life all happiness.  It’s not easy to be in the limelight on a routine basis, and it’s easy (and tacky) for people to snipe at anyone who enjoys celebrity status.

Still, it did occur to me—and this has to be said, I think—that there’s heavy irony in the fact that the man giving his daughter away for this wedding (a man who, let’s face it, hardly exemplifies fidelity to the values of traditional marriage) signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law.  A Democratic president brought us DOMA, and another Democratic president who is tragically misguided in continuing the playbook of that previous Democratic president has done nothing to overturn this discriminatory legislation.  Nothing at all.

While making vague noises about unspecified support for gay persons—support for our human rights and our human status.

I wonder if anyone thought, as the Clinton family celebrated its daughter’s wedding, about the fact that through most of the nation, same-sex couples do not have the rights and privileges this young couple will enjoy now that they’ve married.

I had expected Mr. Obama to know and do better.  When I chose him as my candidate in the last election, blogged in support of him, worked to put him in office, and then pulled the lever to vote for him, I had high hopes that his experience of unjust discrimination as a man of color would predispose him to understand the struggles of another minority group unjustly dehumanized by laws that enshrine prejudice.

I was wrong, as it turned out.  Will what happened in California yesterday cause our Democratic president and Democratic party finally to grow a moral backbone?  I won’t hold my breath.

If you wish to sign an open letter to President Obama asking him to declare support for marriage equality, click on the last link above, which will take you to an America Blog posting that leads to the petition.

Addendum: just now seeing this—Jason Linkins at Huffington Post on how yesterday’s prop 8 decision exposes the weak support and toxic inaction of the Dems when it comes to LGBT human beings.