E is for Equality

Booker noted: “I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.”


The news that made the recent headlines in terms of marriage equality in the United States was that a federal appeals court ruled Proposition 8, the California plebiscite overturning gay marriage, violated the Constitution, setting up an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or possibly not. Meanwhile, the Washington state legislature passed a bill legalizing gay marriage; here is part of the debate. Also, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has vowed to veto efforts to repeal that state’s same-sex marriage law.

Discussing specifically the California judicial ruling, writer Mark Evanier noted: “I still wish this thing could be settled by a vote of the people rather than to reopen silly arguments about ‘judicial activism.'” And in an ideal world, I would tend to agree with him.

But I was struck by something that Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, a Democrat, said. He broke with Governor Chris Christie, a Republican with whom he has previously been aligned. Booker opposed Christie’s call for a gay marriage referendum, and his threat to veto a gay marriage bill because, as Christie put it, “I need to be governed by the will of the people.”

In response, Booker noted: “I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.” He submitted that leaders are elected to make difficult decisions, not submit to a public referendum. “Equal protection under the law – for race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation – should not be subject to the most popular sentiments of the day. Marriage equality is not a choice. It is a legal right. I hope our leaders in Trenton will affirm and defend it.” You can watch Booker here.

I was fascinated by a lengthy article in Salon: The making of gay marriage’s top foe: How Maggie Gallagher’s college pregnancy made her a single mom, and a traditional marriage zealot. “The organization she founded in 2007, the National Organization for Marriage, helped organize the successful effort in 2008 to pass Proposition 8 in California…

“Gallagher’s opposition to gay marriage seems to have very little to do with gay people, indeed with people at all. What really excites her is a depersonalized idea of Marriage: its essence, its purity, its supposedly immutable definition…For Gallagher, gay people are the enemy only insofar as their desire to marry is yet another attack on Marriage…”

Except that marriage had already been on the decline, at least in the United States, long before the first gay nuptials. I suspect it’s a function of children with divorced parents being less likely to tie the knot. It’s almost ironic that gay couples, for whom marriage had long been out of the question, are now a growth segment in the matrimonial business.
A brief history of the Gay Rights Movement.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a legal challenge to the (so-called) Defense of Marriage Act.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

31 thoughts on “E is for Equality”

  1. So, I started to leave a comment then accidentally quit my browser—whoops!

    Maybe it was for the best. You know that I despise the very idea of letting the majority dictate by ballot what rights minorities may or may not have. I’m with Mayor Booker (and I’m certain that if the civil and human rights of African Americans had been put to a popular vote in supposedly enlightened Illinois in the 1960s and into the 1970s, they would have lost). Had my original comment remained, it may not have been as restrained. 😉

    One thing I’d add to your post is that the state with the lowest divorce rate in recent years was Massachusetts —coincidentally, the first state with full marriage equality. In fact, the states with the highest divorce rates are also the most strident in blocking the right of gay citizens to marry. There’s irony aplenty in that, no matter what one’s ideological opinion on the matter!

  2. It’s a tough decision, and I’m not sure what side of the fence I’m on. Arizonans like to point out that their state is the only one in the union that approved MLK Day as a holiday by popular vote, even if it lost the first time around. The other 49 states got the holiday by executive fiat, and who knows if all of them would have approved it? In much the same way, it would be nice to have tough governors and legislatures simply make gay marriage legal (there’s no good argument against it, after all), but would that entrench the bigots even more? Many people make the point that the reason anti-abortion people are so virulent is because the Supreme Court legislated it into existence instead of having states vote on it. That’s not a bad point.

    Anyway, it’s thought-provoking, to say the least. It also depresses me that there are people in this country who want to deny people freedom when it has absolutely nothing to do with their rights. But that goes without saying.

  3. Fortunately gay marriages are quite normal here in the Netherlands, albeit that there are still registrars who refuse to perform gayweddings. Fortunately indeed is that the majority has not the last say in the matter.
    Have a wonderful week, Roger!

  4. I’ve know what “gay” was since I was five, because my mother answered my question about Uncle Tony and Uncle John not bringing “dates” to parties quite simply. No big diatribes. Look, people are people. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Newt Gingrich, on and on… they treat (or treated) marriage licenses like toilet paper. People are people; love is love. Do homophobes really want a closeted gay man marrying their daughter? That scenario has played out time and time again. And then there are the prize couple, Michelle and Marcus Bachmann.

    I’m a committed follower of Jesus and a pastor’s wife who says the Bible has NO SAY in this debate, simply because of poor interpretation, as well as the Founders’ insistence that religion never hold sway over legislation in this country. What’s to debate about that? The “family values” folks are always the biggest hypocrites, anyway. Thanks, Roger. (Don’t hold back, Amy; tell them how you REALLY feel!) Peace, Amy

  5. Legislating morality is a slippery slope and one I’m not prepared to go down. I think there are far greater concerns in our culture today that should be addressed.

  6. I seriously love Booker. I have been hoping for a few years now that he would consider running for a higher office… and he is right. Had civil rights been left to a vote…well…I find the likely results horrifying.

  7. Gay marriages, abortion… in my opinion both should be left to the individual(s). And what, passion crimes and extreme violence are alright – setting bombs in/at/near institutions supporting gay rights and abortion is OK? So much for my opinion though and I agree with Lisa, there are so many more important issues that need to be addressed. Have a great week.

  8. The idea of settling such issues with a vote of the people horrifies me. A typical case in the UK is the death penalty. The public continually want it back in popular polls. Parliament has always rejected it thoroughly. The best form of democracy is representative for a good reason. Gay marriages – civil partnerships – have been legal here for a while now and seem to be working well.

  9. Very interesting post Roger. I will never understand why people who believe in marriage are opposed to marriage between same sex couples. But then again there’s a lot I don’t understand. I think the rights of all people should be equally protected.

  10. Equal rights is important but I don’t want to say my opinion about gay marriage.

    Happy valentine’s day!

    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

  11. You have chosen a difficult subject, Roger, and I think to some extent your opinion on marriage and the importance of the family depends upon what generation you belong to.

  12. Hildred may be right, Roger, much of it might be generational, and a lot of the problem might be gone as one generation passes the torch on to another, but the question here is EQUALITY. Such a terribly important question as equality ought to be decided, in your country and in mine, by the people elected and entrusted with making difficult decisions. Sure, it doesn’t always work. If the Tea Party had as much power as the neo-Conservatives have in Canada right now, very unpopular legislation might be laid down.
    There is no easy answer to such a difficult question as Equality. It ought to be easy, it ought to be obvious, but it isn’t.

  13. Live and let live, equal rights for all. We’ve had civil partnerships for a while now but there is a bit of a heated debate, (well more a lukewarm one, the Church of England don’t do passion), whether to allow the marriage to take place in churches.

  14. I was horrified when my daughter decided to live with her boyfriend (of 6 months) when she was 22. Here it is 15 years later and they’re happily married with 2 children. My younger daughter is living with her boyfriend with no marriage date in mind – as am I now with my Lorne. Times change and we must adapt, but not necessarily give in to what we consider immorality.

  15. I’m with Lisa, legislating morality is a slippery slope. Funnily enough, like Sharp Little Pencil I too am a committed follower of Jesus and a pastor’s wife, but I don’t believe the same as she does. Even so I would never call her derogatory names. Because I believe homosexuality is sin I am called a homophobe, a bigot or a hypocrite. I do not hate homosexuals. I have several among my friends. I also have friends who have committed adultery. I too am a sinner and you can call me that any time.

  16. What does the Bible say again about homosexuals? I’m not sure I’m keen on a vote of the people. These are interesting times we live in. I’m keeping my eyes and ears on ‘red alert.’

  17. I think what Amy had to say is what rings with me. I am a practicing Catholic and the bottom line is, ‘love one another as I have loved you’.
    A very thought provoking post as usual and I love that so many share their thoughts. Dialogue is important!

  18. Highly charged is right! I remain constantly amazed at the stance some religions take on important issues of equality because of their mission to enlighten and reinforce the concepts of charity and love. It seems so simple to me and many others. Let’s hope that our citizenry refuse bigotry and bias!

  19. A thought-provoking post. There’s going to be a vote about this issue here in NC this spring – scares me to think how it might go. I’m “white knot” all the way.

    And I enjoyed your interview! I love that Kermit song. 🙂

  20. I have nothing against gay marriages, as long as they don’t want to adopt a child. In Belgium this law exists already for a few years and the funniest thing is that at the beginning lots of gays married and now lots of them divorce ! Apparently they just wanted to have the right for marriage and now they do like the “normal” couples today … they divorce ! From 7 couples amongst our friends, with whom we celebrated Mr. G’s 50th birthday only 2 are still married ! We and another couple all the others divorced even after more than 20 years of marriage.

  21. Very thoughtful post, Roger, thank you. I echo Booker’s statement: “Marriage equality is not a choice. It is a legal right.” Amen brother.

    As a Candidate for Ordained Ministry in the United Church of Canada, I look forward to the joy of marrying loving couples…their gender orientation will be irrelevant.

  22. Roger, thanks for bringing me back to this post. As to being a pastor’s wife, this of course does not mean I have a monopoly on what’s right and wrong. “Homophobia” literally means fear of gay people, and I’m sorry, the concept of one thing being a SIN (especially when it’s not you) is rooted in fear. Slavery was justified by the Bible; keeping women from having equal rights is still making Fundies turn to Paul’s Letters to the Church in Corinth. Jesus said LOVE. End of story. Thanks, Amy

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