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Thu

04

Jun

2009

The California Supreme Court’s Decisions: America at Its Best and Worst
Thursday, 04 June 2009 04:16
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D
On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage declaring it was unconstitutional discrimination. As Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten recently noted,

That ruling, … written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, drew deeply – in spirit, at least – on philosopher Michael Walzer’s insight that American moral progress consists not of the creation of novel rights, but of the extension of rights recognized as fundamental to those to whom they have been denied. As such, the earlier decision stood in a distinguished line that includes Brown v. Board of Education, in which courageous judges tried to synchronize the law with the social conscience of their age.

But those who make their living by promoting discrimination against gay Americans rallied their forces and got Proposition 8 put on the November ballot:

PROPOSITION 8

ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME–SEX COUPLES TO MARRY.
INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.

Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact:

Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly from sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments.

In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state and local governments.

The Christian Right sprang into action. Determined to eliminate the existing civil right “of same-sex couples to marry in California” – and with major donations from the political arm of the Roman Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus ($1.275 million), James Dobson’s Focus on the Family ($657,000), Don Wildmon’s American Family Association ($500,000) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints ($189,000) – the “Yes on 8” campaign spent $48,000,000 on a campaign based on misrepresentations, distortions and outright lies delivered via scare tactics. To wit:

A lesson about Prop. 8: Despite what proponents say, its defeat would not change what California's schools teach

… the well-financed and savvy backers of Proposition 8 have produced waves of advertising aimed instead at making voters believe that supporters of same-sex marriage are intent on stripping away everyone else’s rights, and that this ballot measure is the only way for traditionally religious people to retain them.

With the defeat of this proposed ban on gay marriage, they say, schools would begin indoctrinating children as young as kindergartners to be wholehearted supporters of such marriages. …

This is emotional stuff for many parents. But the dry reality of California education law tells a different story. Under SB 71, which passed in 2003, the Legislature set out the framework for comprehensive sex education, which includes the brief reference to marriage from which these dire Proposition 8 warnings are drawn: "Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships." Schools aren't required to teach comprehensive sex education, but if they do, this is one of many rules they must follow. The law also gives schools the option of discussing gender, sexual orientation and family life, though that's not required as part of the more comprehensive program.

Most important, the law contains paragraph after paragraph guaranteeing parents the right to review the material being taught and to have their children excused from all or any part of it. …

Proposition 8 would change none of that. The measure would do one thing: use the state Constitution as the device to take away an existing, fundamental right from a particular group of people, so that a loving adult in that group could not marry the person of his or her choice. …

On October 21, 2008, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin further exposed the deception:

State Education Officials Slam New Ads For Prop. 8

State education officials spoke out … against a series of ads released by the “Yes on 8” campaign that claim same-sex marriage would be taught in public schools if the statewide initiative fails. …

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and his predecessor Delaine Eastin spoke out against the campaign today, along with California State Board of Education president Ted Mitchell, saying the proposition is not tied to public schools.

“There is nothing about Prop. 8 that is connected to public education in any way,” Mitchell said. “There is nothing in California state law that would require the teaching of marriage in any of its forms.”

Mitchell said state law allows parents to opt students out of lessons they find to be out of keeping with their personal beliefs. The “Yes on 8” advertisements suggesting that students will be taught about same-sex marriage if the proposition fails are untruthful, he said. …

Despite such exposures, and despite Americans’ supposed belief in civil equality for all, Prop 8 passed, 52 percent to 48 percent. A simple majority is all that’s needed to amend the California state constitution. (In light of what happened in May 2009, hopefully California lawmakers are considering the appropriateness of a simple majority being able to amend the state’s constitution.)

A legal challenge to Prop 8 was filed with the California Supreme Court, and everyone waited for the Court’s decision. That came on May 26, 2009. What was “won” by misrepresentations, distortions, outright lies, and scare tactics “won” again, and Americans’ – and presumably Californians’ – belief in civil equality for all citizens was trashed.

I’m not a lawyer or schooled in California law, but I can say what the California Supreme Court’s May 2009 decision says to all minority citizens: BEWARE… Your civil rights are just as vulnerable.

All it takes in California is a simple majority – in the case of Prop 8 that was about 7 million people in a state with a population of about 37 million – who have a problem with you andyour civil rights could be striped away. Pouf. Gone.

Syndicated columnist Diane Silver said it well:

The California Supreme Court’s recent decision on gay marriage is a tragedy. It hobbles families, discriminates against mothers and fathers and children, and endorses the horrific idea that civil rights can be repealed by a vote. …

In its 6-1 ruling, the court allowed a mere majority of voters to strip thousands of their neighbors of a legal right and, thus, of the ability to fully protect their families. …

The Yes on 8’s campaign used children in their scare tactics. The Christian Right continues to use “protect the children” in their campaigns against gay Americans’ civil rights. Consider therealty of “the children.” From the gay youth news blog:

Doc Gurley, an Internist Physician writes:

“I found out the ruling was handed down on Tuesday when a colleague friend of mine logged onto SFGate and said, on a shuddery exhale, ‘Huh – so they didn't divorce me. Am I supposed to be grateful?’

“As the day passed, I learned that her elementary-school-aged son had been furious for weeks that the state could even consider taking such a violating step against his moms. Then I found out from another professional friend that her three kids (also all young elementary-school aged children) asked tearfully in the car, ‘Are we still married?’” …

Prop 8 was unprecedented in this country for many reasons – the courts ruled on the stripping of family rights from a minority, by the majority. The children of families affected knew what was going on – children often know more than adults assume, especially about emotionally charged issues within relationships. …

So how many kids might be feeling the fallout of Prop 8? Thenon-partisan Urban Institute cites:

— More than one in three lesbians have given birth and one in six gay men have fathered or adopted a child.

— Adopted children with same-sex parents are younger and more likely to be foreign born.

— An estimated 65,500 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent.

— Gay and lesbian parents are raising four percent of all adopted children in the United States.

— An estimated 14,100 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents.

— Gay and lesbian parents are raising three percent of foster children in the United States.

— More than 16,000 adopted children are living with lesbian and gay parents in California, the highest number among the states.

These numbers are likely even larger today than when they were compiled. …

Statistics are one thing. Real life stories are another:

Evangelical: Christians Owe Gays Apology
June 01, 2009

A prominent professor of Christian ethics says Christians should ask for forgiveness from gays and lesbians in his review of a new book chronicling the pain experienced by gay youths when religion is used to justify prejudice and discrimination [Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, edited by Mitchell Gold with Mindy Drucker]. …

Dr. David P. Gushee says Christians need to seek forgiveness from gays and lesbians.

“… after reading these stories, it seems to me that Christians have something to request from God, and from the gays and lesbians among us,” he concludes. “We need forgiveness.”

Gushee’s review,“Church-based Hate, appears in Tuesday’s edition of The Christian Century.

To all those who supported and voted for Prop 8, to all those who use jaundiced religion to justify civil discrimination and hurting families, please answer Diane Silver’s questions:

I have some questions for the proponents of Proposition 8 and for all those around the nation who want to horde the legal protections their families receive.

Would you ever accept such discrimination?

Would you decide that your children don’t deserve the protections marriage provides families? …

And then understand the resolve of the gay community, as Ms. Silver so well expressed: “This fight won’t end until my son and all the sons and daughters of lesbian and gay parents get the same protections other children receive. To give up on our families now is unthinkable.”

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