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How Full Is Your Glass?

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2009

The California Supreme Court gave us a half-and-half opinion today concerning same-sex marriage in that state. They upheld Proposition 8 as a valid state constitutional amendment, while also holding that the proposition’s passage does not retroactively invalidate the approximately 18,000 same-sex marriage that were solemnized last year. While it’s small consolation, it’s not nothing — especially to those who are married and had a very personal stake in the decision.

Given the tremendous gains we’ve seen in Iowa and the Northeast, this California setback is sobering if not unexpected. But we must remember that the advancement of civil rights for any marginalized group has never been a smooth progression. It has always been a history of fits and starts, advances and setbacks, defeats and victories. Ours has been no different.

So if you might be discouraged, I would encourage you to look at where we are today and compare it to where we started ten years ago. And ask yourself this: Where do you think we will be ten years from now? Just imagining that has me more energized than ever before.



May 26th, 2009 | LINK

This comment has been deleted due to violations to our comments policy. Specifically, the advocacy of violence will not be tolerated — JB.

May 26th, 2009 | LINK

All straight people are our enemy? Even the ones who voted against Prop 8 last November?

Real mature attitude you’ve got there, Trovore.

May 26th, 2009 | LINK

(Jim, feel free to delete my previous post as well as this one since you’ve rightfully moderated Trovore’s comment.)

May 26th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t share Trovore’s pessimism, but I don’t share Jim’s implied optimism, either.

I can’t predict what will happen in 10 years, and when Prop. 8 originally won, I never foresaw gay marriage in Iowa.

Still, we have to remember that state constitutional amendments are very difficult to undo precisely because they depend on popular opinion, unless they’re trumped by federal law or higher courts. Let’s acknowledge a big but often overlooked reason why Prop. 8 won: not just because of lies, but because 52% of voters were willing to believe them.

That means 52% of voters, whatever they might say to your face, are prejudiced against us. Now that Prop. 8 has been upheld, the religious right will be even more emboldened to go after our rights in California and elsewhere because now they feel the winds are blowing in their favor. I don’t doubt for a minute that they’ll try to appeal the decision to preserve the 18,000 marriages and also try to ban same-sex marriage in even more states.

I think that time is ultimately on our side. The question is the amount of time. I highly doubt we’ll win in California in 2010, and I would be surprised if we won in 2012. Again, I can’t predict the future, and I’m not trying to, but remember that every single person who voted yes on Prop. 8 in November did so because he/she either hated gay people from the start or was prejudiced enough to believe we’re a danger to children and that our marriages endanger society.

Let’s also be clear: We’re dealing with fundamentalist Christians, many of whom live in exurbs, gated communities and small towns in southern California and the Inland Empire with little or no exposure to people who are different, especially gay people. These people are already stubborn in their beliefs (‘cuz they’re ordained by God and therefore absolute truth) and also difficult to reach geographically, with the only major centers of community being their churches. Many of them are also uneducated and therefore not well-versed on the intricacies of civics or schooled in logical argumentation. I’m sorry if that sounds arrogant, but it’s the truth.

And here’s another thing to consider: Most European countries enacted laws emancipating the Jews in the 1860s and 1870s, but we all know what happened less than 100 years later. Not to say that will necessarily happen here, but we shouldn’t take good fortune for granted just because things might be going relatively well now.

I guess in conclusion, I would say I don’t want to go with “half-empty” or “half-full.” But we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking this fight will be easy or that we have no direction to go but forward. I really want to think that we’ll win in California in 2010 and have nationwide marriage equality by 2020. It’s still possible. But it’s also possible that we’ll suffer a major backlash and not have full legal equality in this country for decades.

May 26th, 2009 | LINK

Censorship? Mature… just what one would expect from collaborators.

May 26th, 2009 | LINK

As a person wanting marriage equality to come to my own state too, I think the glass is more than half full. Striking down Prop 8 would have given marriage opponents effective rhetoric to use in instances. Eg, here in Illinois where civil unions is being debated, opponents could point to CA and say, “If you pass civil unions, the IL courts will force it to expand to marriage.” That could kill the current bill and postpone future bills including marriage bills. Even more important than law is hearts and minds. I’ll prefer the person on the street respecting my choices over the law any day.

For what it’s worth, the Bible instructs to avoid questionable acts so that your enemies will have no reason attack you ad hominem. That’s good advice. We’ll reach equality and we’ll do it by persuading the law, not forcing it.

Even if that’s not true, it makes me feel better to be optimistic!

Bruce Garrett
May 26th, 2009 | LINK

The glass is half full. So I’m only half dying of thirst. The water is half clean. So I will only get half as sick drinking it. My plate is half full. So I’m only half starving to death. Things are getting better and better every day.

May 26th, 2009 | LINK

How about asking yourself THIS, how many gay people will die in those ten years never living in a country that recognized them as full citizens, deserving of ALL the rights of American, or Californian, citizenship?

How many couples will have a partner die in the next ten years leaving a surviving partner without the protections, rights and benefits that would automatically be his/hers were they allowed to marry?

Even still we have people telling us the lie that Domestic Partnerships provide ALL of the rights, or at least ALL of the rights provided by the state of California that they provide to heterosexual married couples. I’ve heard this lie told, even by gay people who should know better, for well over a year now. If that’s the case then WHY is it that every few months the CA legislature passes a new law that opens up a NEW right to domestic partners that has ALWAYS been a right of marriage? Why did the California Sutpreme Court, JUST LAST WEEK, ruled that domestic partners are entitled to a property right that straight married couples have ALWAYS had? Why is there a need for such a ruling if it’s an established fact that marriage and DPs are EXACTLY the same?

Bruce Garrett
May 26th, 2009 | LINK

Does anyone still remember when the California supreme court first handed down its decision on same-sex marriage? Anyone still remember the words of the chief justice? How (and I’m summerizing freely here) marriage wasn’t just a word and civil unions weren’t enough and denying same sex couples the right to marry took something of their fundimental human dignity away from them? Remember how stirring everyone thought that decision was? All those fine noble words. Are they still as stirring now, or only half as stirring?

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