Sunday, August 8, 2010

Harvey Milk

In light of the California Prop 8 ruling I re-watched the documentary on the life of Harvey Milk, not the Sean Penn movie.

If you haven't seen it before, or if it's been a long time, take 90 minutes and watch it. It's a great reminder of how far we've come as a society and how far gay rights have progressed.

When the Prop 8 ruling came down I remember thinking to myself how someone like Milk, if you could magically transplant them to today, would have reacted? What would they think about the place where we've come? Attitudes and values have changed so much for us to get to this place with gay marriage. Not that I'm naive enough to think that there aren't those who want to go back, to put gays back in the closet or worse, but for the majority of us who think that gay rights is the same as African-American rights, is the same as human-rights, we've come so far in our country and I'm proud of us.

I just read a book called "The Lacuna" where the main character is gay and it's set in the 1950's. He has NO place to go. Coming out isn't even an option. His gayness is the only reason needed to hate him and fear him. But today, thanks to people like Harvey Milk, that is no longer the case.

I think too, that part of what has gotten us here is that we all have children, friends, family-members or co-workers who are gay. And what was once fearful and other is now common and day to day..and finally simply someone just like us. It's hard to hate your own child, it's hard to hate someone you deal with every day at the office. And it's especially hard when they seem to have the same sort of lives and loves, fears and hopes that we all share. We are humans and so are they, whether we want to see it or not.

To hate minorities of any kind, be it color or sexual orientation, country of origin, or whatever...when you fall into those positions you demean the whole of humanity.

We have to treat all people with dignity because that is the way we ensure a world worth living in.

More on Prop 8

Here are two articles from Time that really say a lot about the arc of this historic case. The first was written before Judge Walker ruled. It says that no matter what the outcome this case has changed assumptions:

But the trial, win or lose, has put on the dock a series of basic assumptions about what living in America should be like for millions of its citizens. For decades, governments at every level have created one set of rules for heterosexuals in America, and another set for its gays and lesbians. What the challenge to Prop 8 — California's 2008 vote to change its constitution to ban gay marriage — is all about is gathering hard evidence about the roots of that uneven playing field.

The second examines the outcome.

I thought both were well written and worth reading.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prop 8 ruling

I just read the ruling against Prop 8. Some of the ruling was based on the idea that gender roles have changed. The judge said that since marriage is no longer based on unchangeable, rigid gender roles (men provide and rule, women raise kids) that it was not possible to based marriage on antiquated ideas of gender.

"The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The exclusion [of gays from marriage] exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed."
So if you live in a country like Saudi Arabia you could legitimately argue against gay marriage since there men and women have totally different defined and unchanging roles. But we live in a free and open society, not bound by rigid stereotyping of gender so it's impossible to find gay marriage wrong. In other words, since the roles of men and women in our society are NOT based on gender: stay-at-home Dads, working Moms, there is no way to base "marriage" on gender.

He also based it on the Constitutional argument that a majority cannot subjugate a minority just based on numbers. The judge said that you can't base laws on majority opposition unless that opposition was based on FACTS. The framers were wise to realize that just because "everyone knows" something, it doesn't mean it's true. Since the lawyers arguing for Prop 8 never proved that gay marriage was harmful based on scientific research, their views were only opinions and in the court of law only facts based on solid research count.

The entire ruling is really worth reading.