Friday, May 11, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #56 - Part 1

Bad news and good news on same-sex marriage

I've often enough started with good news on this topic; I might as well start today with the bad news.

North Carolina has become the 29th state, including all of the South, to enact a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman. Indeed, this one goes further than most, declaring such marriages to be "the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."

Which means it not only bans same-sex marriage, it bans civil unions and domestic partnerships for both same-sex and straight couples. It threatens the domestic partnership health benefits now available for local government workers in the state. It could strip unmarried couples, both same-sex and straight, of their rights to make financial or emergency medical decisions for an incapacitated partner. It could even deprive unmarried women of protections against domestic abuse, while restricting child custody and visitation rights for, again, both unmarried same-sex couples and unmarried straight couples. It is truly hideous.

I've wondered if some of those effects could make the provision subject to a constitutional challenge in federal court. Remember that California's Proposition 8 - or PropHate as it came to be known - has been successfully challenged in federal court (pending appeals, of course) largely because it took away a right that already existed, which this North Carolina amendment could well do. But no one seems to be talking about that, so perhaps for some legal or political reason that's unfeasible.

Six states and Washington, DC now recognize same-sex marriage; two more states - Washington and Maryland - have passed appropriate laws but those are not yet in effect. So in effect, eight states and DC.

Bringing up those laws brings up - well, I don't want to call it a silver lining; perhaps a break in clouds is a better description.

The first, of course, is that literally an hour before I was to do the show, Barack Obama came out in support of the right to same-sex marriage. While not a surprise, still, actually having him say it is a boost to the cause.

Getting back to North Carolina, though, there is also a point to be made: Since 1996, the state had a law defining marriage as one man and one woman. So why go to the trouble of enacting a constitutional amendment to do what the law already said? Because, proponents said, the amendment was needed to keep "activist judges or politicians" from overturning the law. Note well: It wasn't just the perpetual right-wing boogeyman "activist judges," it was "activist politicians." They were (and are) afraid that some future state legislature, some future elected state government, would overturn that law. And they wanted to keep that from happening.

Equally revealing was the statement of one Tami Fitzgerald, chair for the victorious coalition of cretins, who said after the vote “We are not anti gay, we are pro marriage.” Now, besides the obvious absurdity of being pro-marriage by preventing people from getting married, Fitzgerald's statement unintentionally revealed the necessity of concealing the anti-gay bigotry driving her group's efforts.

And here's the point: These people are on the wrong side of history and they know it. They are losing and they know it. They know the polls. They know that even in places like North Carolina the next generation will come to adulthood wondering what all the fuss over same-sex marriage was about. What, they will say, is big deal about two men or two women getting married?

These people, these haters, these bigots, they know that history will come to regard them with the same contempt it has come to regard those who insisted that not that long ago that blacks and whites must not marry each other. And they just want to do as much damage, to do as much harm to the tide of justice, as they can before they - happily for the rest of us - die off.

I've said it before but it bears repeating: It's still a good ways off but we can say that on this cause, justice will come.


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