The road to equality has some potholes


The last two days of Supreme Court arguments involving gay marriage were a bit of a disappointment to me, I have to admit. It is always somewhat stomach churning watching people arguing in the abstract about your humanity and right to be treated equally before the law. Going into these two cases, I felt much better about the prospects for finally achieving full legal equality. Now, after hearing the arguments, I am a bit less sanguine about them reaching the more sweeping (and correct) conclusion. To be fair, I don’t think they will reach the two worst possible outcomes (upholding Prop 8 and DOMA), but it seems from the way the arguments went that they will probably fall far short of declaring a federal right to marriage.

The issues at stake are huge, and the conservatives on the court seemed to be falling all over themselves to limit the possibility that gays might found to be a suspect class, despite the obvious animus reflected in both Prop 8 and DOMA. Many of them seemed to wish that the whole discussion would just go away. One of the most nauseating examples was Roberts‘ line of questioning in the DOMA case yesterday, where he seemed to assert that gay people had plenty of political power, evidenced by the fact that they had even made their way into the Supreme Court arguments in the first place. Oh yeah, who needs to overturn these hateful laws, the people are on our side! Fundamental rights never seem important from the vantage point of people who see you as “less than”, nor for some odd reason do they see these rights as fundamental, despite them readily agreeing that they are fundamental to the groups that have them.

If I had to guess based on all the reporting and listening to the audio of the trials, I would say that they will leave in place one of the lower court rulings on Prop 8, and strike only one provision of DOMA, the one that pertains to federal recognition. This would be a huge mistake for a number of reasons, inevitably kicking the can down the road. That will leave us with a patchwork of laws and rights, and messy consequences for gay couples who travel or move to states where they are still not treated equally. Only a federal decision that removes these differences in treatment across the nation will be justice. I have no doubt that one day we will have full legal equality, but after fighting this fight for more than 20 years (I came out in 1990) I am ready to be done with┬áthe┬álegal aspects of it. You can’t make society accept you fully (note the continued existence of racism for example) but we must rid ourselves of the inequality before the law.

It would be a mistake to pretend to know what the court will eventually decide in these cases based on nothing but the reporting and the testimony. I dearly hope that my analysis is overly pessimistic, and it is certainly possible we will have equality come June. And if we do, I will be out celebrating like never before, arm in arm with friends and family and people of good will everywhere.

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Hi there. I am stepping out of my travel writing for a moment to ask for your help. I feel very strongly that the upcoming election is the most important one of our lives, and will largely determine what kind of country we are to be going forward. I am feeling some comfort that at least on a presidential level, we will make the right choice as a nation. But recent polling out of my adoptive state of California has me worried. As you may know, the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, finally making gay and lesbian residents full and equal citizens in the state of California. Unfortunately the culture warriors on the extreme right have put an initiative (prop 8) on the ballot to repeal this fundamental right and write discrimination into the California constitution.

This is truly the last gasp of the hate mongers (at least with respect to equal rights for gay people). With fast growing support for equal rights among the general population, they know that their time is running out. While I fully believe equal rights for gay people in the US will one day become a reality, if this amendment passes that reality will be set back by several years. If they should lose this battle we will see countrywide equality much sooner, as California is a often a bellwether for the rest of the nation.

Initially, it looked like this proposition would go down to an easy defeat. But the right wing YES on 8 campaign has vastly outspent the NO forces on ad buys, and the most recent polling now shows them to have a lead. We need to raise more money and awareness quickly if we are to win. I am asking anyone out there who may have found interest or enjoyment from this blog to please make a small stand for my equality. If you live in California, please make sure you are registered to vote and vote NO on prop 8. If you can afford to give a little bit of money, please do so at the following website:

Thank you! We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming…