Friday, June 06, 2008

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO Ca, for June 5. 08

I Do, I Do, You Too, Part II

“And individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” With that, the California Supreme Court ruled that, when it came to “marriage,” California would end its separate-but-equal, second-class status for gay people.

Naturally, another class of people are busy getting a Constitutional Amendment Initiative ready for the November ballot that would return second class citizenship to the constitution by once again making the rights and responsibilities of “marriage” available only to straight people.

If the court does not issue a stay on its ruling, gay couples throughout the state will be allowed to marry by mid-June. Which adds an interesting wrinkle to the proposed Constitutional Amendment: If the measure passes, what will happen to all the gay couples who got “married?” Would The State now force them to get a divorce? And what of those who had their civil “marriage” also sanctified in the Church of Their Choice? Should The State also have the power to say -- to certain couples only -- “Sorry, but YOUR “holy matrimony” isn’t the right sort of “holy?”

Sadly, this entire issue is really the result of intellectual laziness. So before anyone rushes to enshrine discrimination and soft bigotry into our constitution, maybe it’s time to ask and seriously answer some key questions.

1. First, remove ALL “cultural,” “traditional,” “religious,” ”God,” “Bible,” “love,” and “romance” references, and then answer the following: What – really – is the purpose/point of “marriage” and what’s The State’s compelling interest in regulating it? Is it for the protection of children? Then why does the State “marry” childless straight couples while refusing to “marry” gay couples with children? If gay couples are to be relegated to separate-but-equal second class citizenship, what of their children? Second class too? What’s The State’s compelling interest in setting up that kind of two-tiered system?

2. Is the compelling State interest in “marriage” the regulating of real property and issues of inheritance & etc? Then why doesn’t the State only allow property owners to “marry?” Instead, prior to this court ruling, straight people without a dirt clod between them were allowed to get “married,” while landed gay people were not.

3. Is “marriage” simply a religious issue? Many people believe that “matrimony” is Holy, a sacred rite. What’s The State’s compelling interest (or even legitimate interest) in deciding what constitutes “holiness?” Right now, many churches and synagogues conduct official religious “marriage” ceremonies for gay couples, thereby “sanctifying” their “marriage” according to their beliefs. If this initiative passes, the State will have to notify all those gay folks who got “married” in a civil ceremony AND then went to a church or synagogue of their choosing for a religious ceremony, that their “Holy Matrimony” is no longer “Holy.” Do the people backing this anti-gay marriage amendment really want The State to decide which religious rites are legitimate and which aren’t? Really?

4. The initiative’s backers need to demonstrate – exactly – how granting full “marriage” civil/legal rights to all California citizens will jeopardize or destroy their own full “marriage” civil/legal rights. No fudging here with intellectually lazy, hot-button buzz words that are really code for: I and My God don’t approve of you so that gives me the right to take away your equal secular/civil/legal rights.

The California Supreme Court justices were asked to think about these same questions. Trained in civil/secular law, they had to know the difference between what was to be rendered unto Caesar (“civil” matrimony) and what was to be rendered unto God (“holy” matrimony). The result is a court ruling that finds no ”legitimate basis” to deny equal civil/legal rights to all California citizens, while leaving untouched any and all religious options those same citizens choose to make.

That separation of church and state is vital to what this country is all about. If the petition to amend our constitution to deny and then go back to remove equal legal rights from a certain group of people comes before the voters in November, will they also know the difference between Caesar and God? Or, whipped up by baseless fear, demagogued by sly bigotry, blinkered by intellectual laziness, will they vote to enshrine in our constitution the right to keep some of our neighbors, friends and family members second class citizens forever? If so, that would be a sad legacy, indeed.

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