Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay But Not Happy

I should be happier about this. The California Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved gay marriage ban. Despite the threats of social conservatives and the Christian right to overturn this decision in the November elections, now is a time of joy for same-sex California couples who have waited for years to receive equal treatment under the law.

My issue with this is not the Supreme Court ruling, of course. It's that...well, you know, they overturned a voter-approved decision. The people of California, or at least a majority of the voting populace, didn't want this. And as much as it pains me to say this, we are a nation founded on the wishes and principles of its people, and changing the law won't change people's minds about this issue.

Back in 1954, when Brown beat the Board of Education, public schools across the nation were required to admit both black and white students. But not everyone accepted this law; for instance, in Virginia, the state Senate initiated a Massive Resistance that served to preserve its state's educational segregation. In other parts of the country, race riots and racial violence exploded. In 1957, Eisenhower even had to send federal troops to Arkansas to enforce desegregation.

Obviously, the Court's ruling was a major landmark for civil rights and social equality, and obviously they made the right choice by actually enforcing the new laws. But to say that the country, especially the South, was suddenly racially tolerant is naive and just plain wrong. The struggle for civil rights continued well into the 1960s, and indeed remains in the present day.

Well, what about gay rights? Sure, California passed this new law, but the people might try to overturn it in a few months. And even if these conservatives don't manage to overturn it, homophobia--both personal and professional, and every level in between--will remain. If a state's Supreme Court has to force tolerance down its citizens' throats, then there is clearly still much to be done to educate and encourage tolerance. I truly hope that gay-rights activists, while celebrating this legal milestone, can see that in the scheme of things, the state court's ruling is but a minor victory, and that it will take more than just laws to make ours a truly tolerant nation, with liberty and justice for all.


1 comment:

Bianca Reagan said...

I agree with your points. However, I do think that "tolerance" should be forced down people's throats. Meaning, everyone should have the right to have a legal marriage in the United States, and it shouldn't be up for a popular vote. For hundreds of years in US history, the voting populace (meaning people who were deemed worthy to vote) agreed that killing Indians, enslaving black people and banning women from voting were acceptable actions in this country. Some people still think that those things are okay today. But the government outlawed those actions because they were wrong actions. Everyone else had to keep up.

That's how I feel about this situation. You can't let other people's bigotry take away your civil rights. If some people don't like gay marriage, then those people shouldn't get gay married. But don't prevent someone from exercising their right to pursue happiness.