Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fighting for our lives!


This week Judge Vaughn Walker heard closing arguments in the California Proposition 8 trial. He is expected to rule in July either to overturn Prop 8 (this would allow Same Sex Marriage again in California), or to uphold Prop 8 (this would continue the ban that stripped Same Sex couples of their legal right to a Civil Marriage License). If the judge rules in favor of overturning the ban and restoring marriage equality, the proponents of Prop 8 will seek a stay of that order. Regardless of the ruling on Prop 8, the losing side will appeal the case to the Federal Ninth Circuit Court.

Regardless of how the Ninth Circuit Federal Court rules, the losing side will then appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court may decide to hear the case, or not. If they decide not to hear the case, then the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court will be the rule of law in that jurisdiction. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear the case (probably in 2012), then their ruling on Same Sex Marriage would become the law for the entire United States of America.

This presents both a great opportunity and a great risk for marriage equality. The Court’s famous ruling in Loving v. Virginia eliminated prohibition of inter-racial marriage instantly and gave force of law to equality. There would probably still be some jurisdictions, even today, where inter-racial marriage would be illegal. Following that precedent the Court represents a hope for any disenfranchised minority, since one of the functions of the judicial branch of government is to protect minorities and their rights against the tyranny of the majority.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court has at times issued infamous rulings which have been an affront against justice and in fact represented a legal enshrinement of injustice. One of the most infamous examples of this was the monstrous Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. It was that grotesque injustice that prompted Abraham Lincoln to become radicalized in his opposition to the institution of slavery.

As the U.S. Supreme Court is currently constituted with a 5-4 membership that tends to vote in favor of conservative positions, bringing a social justice question before the Court represents a serious risk.


If you live in California the Election in November of this year will have a tremendous impact on Same Sex Marriage and Equality legislation. There are specifically two elected positions that are important to secure.

Governor of California. Vote for Jerry Brown (D) and donate (time, talent and money) to his election campaign. Presently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has refused to defend Prop 8 in court Brown’s opponent Meg Whitman (R) supports the “Yes on Prop 8” side, she is in favor of bigoted and discriminatory laws aimed against Same Sex Marriage. She would use her authority as Governor to actively defend the “Yes on Prop 8” ballot decision using State funds and resources towards those bigoted ends.

Vote for Kamala Harris (D), who is running to be Attorney General – says that she, like Brown, would refuse to defend Prop 8 in court. However, her opponent, Steve Cooley said he would defend Prop 8 in court.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is already gearing up for the election fight in November. It is imperative that those working for marriage equality and to defeat Prop 8 get into gear, too.

Regardless of who you are, or where you are, fight for justice. Speak to your family, your friends, your co-workers. We have made much progress towards full Civil Rights (including the right to a Civil Marriage License), but there is still much more work to be done.

Here is something to help you remember what this is all about. MILK


Philip Carrizosa said...

Excellent analysis for anyone not familiar with what's going in California. I agree there is great risk in letting the US Supreme Court eventually rule on this issue. But the benefits could be enormous.
I will be watching closely to see what questions Justice Anthony Kennedy asks if the case gets argued before the high court.

In the Kitchen With Don said...

Dear Fr. Geoff, not really a comment about this post, but rather something I wish you would comment on:

I find it very significant that it is a traditionally Catholic country that has started to take the abuse crisis so seriously. If they had done this in the USA some time ago, can you imagine how much farther along we would be in dealing with this crisis? But here the secular courts didn't want to touch it for so long and still don't if they can help it. And because of this, the church was able to avoid having to deal with it herself...just swept it under the rug and hoped no one would notice. Would that more countries would begin to be this aggressive in responding to what is not only a crime, but a tragedy that cries out to heaven for correction. Of course, being a survivor of abuse makes me more sensitive to things...but I keep playing over in mind my bishop telling me "don't talk about it, don't even tell your parents, because of the scandal it would cause. Just let me handle it." and then his handling it was doing nothing, allowing my abuser to go on abusing and then allow him to move from diocese to diocese for another 30 years before being removed from active ministry. Thanks for hearing me out! Don Davidson