I could almost hear the celebrations 170 miles away in San Francisco after the news broke that a federal judge had found California's infamous Proposition 8 -- which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby taking away homosexuals' existing right to marry -- unconstitutional.
My colleague, DailyFinance columnist Abigail Field, did an admirable job explaining the legal technicalities of the ruling, and it's gratifying to see how thoroughly Judge Vaughn Walker demolished the "logic" of the proponents of Prop 8 and showed that same-sex unions are as legitimate as heterosexual marriages.
True, the case will doubtless be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, conveniently right there in San Francisco, and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court. But today, it's a victory for marriage equality and simple human decency: recognizing that people don't choose their gender, that gender doesn't determine marital worthiness or success, and that California has no legitimate interest in stigmatizing lesbians and gays or denying them and their children whatever benefits there may be from legal marriage.
Why Such Fear of Same-Sex Marriage?
I've never understood why so many straight people fear homosexuals so deeply. A line from the trailer of the film 8: The Mormon Proposition quotes an opponent of same-sex marriage as saying, "They're probably the greatest threat to America that I know of." How does one even begin to react to that? What could possibly be the reasoning behind that? None, just superstition and stereotypes.
I once asked my stepfather, in an argument about gay marriage, "When did you choose to be heterosexual?" Or for that matter, when did he choose to be a male? Because if the contention is that homosexuals stubbornly and naughtily choose to be gay, logically the rest of us must have chosen to be straight. And picked out our skin and eye color as well. Who would choose to be a class of person likeliest to suffer discrimination, social disapproval, threats of eternal damnation and, depending on where you live, the death penalty?
One of my married colleagues at Bloomberg News, back in the day, used to put in her email signature: "My marriage is not threatened by gay marriage." What scary thing would happen if gays all over America could marry? Aside from resuscitating the wedding industry, that is? A study by a UCLA think tank found gay marriage in Massachusetts has resulted in $100 million in economic gains for the state. Stop me before I pull out all the studies finding gays and straights equally capable of good parenting and long-term relationships.
Let's face it, if marriage is under assault, it's not by gays. Marriage rates are dropping, and the only groups clamoring for it are gays and lesbians.
A Deeply Emotional Issue
Given my conservative Christian upbringing, I understand, of course, that same-sex unions are a deeply felt, emotional issue for many people, who just will not be persuaded, no matter what logic or evidence is presented, because their opposition to it is based on religious dogma -- and perhaps discomfort with the idea of same-sex attraction. But really, isn't it a bit unseemly to get so hung up about what other consenting adults do in their own bedrooms, away from your prying eyes?
And as Judge Vaughn Walker said in his 138-page ruling, "Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians ... the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples ... the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."
I like comedian Wanda Sykes's take on the issue: "If you don't believe in same-sex marriage, then don't marry somebody of the same sex." It really should be that simple. People are people. Most of us, at some point, long to form a lasting union with a partner with whom to share the ups and downs of life. Is it so terrible for gays to have that, too?
So, how did I celebrate the overturning of Prop 8? I finally wrote that letter that I've long been meaning to write, the one where I resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The church's role in encouraging members to contribute time and money to get Prop 8 passed in California in 2008 deeply upset me.
The most lasting lesson I learned as a Mormon was to follow my conscience, no matter what. So, I had no choice but to renounce my membership as a tiny symbolic act of solidarity with gays and lesbians, and to protest the blatant interference in politics by a tax-exempt religious institution.
The rest of my celebration will be watching 8: The Mormon Proposition. I've moved it to the top of my Netflix (NFLX) queue.
How I'm Celebrating the Ruling on Proposition 8