Aman and I awoke this morning with unfortunately heavy hearts. We found ourselves unable to fully enjoy or celebrate Barack Obama’s historic win, because of the heartbreaking passage of Proposition 8, which enshrined discrimination against gays and lesbians into our California constitution. We found ourselves thinking of our two beautiful children and of our own marriage, which 45 years ago would not have been possible in much of the country because of very similar ignorance and fear.
Proponents of Proposition 8 do not like it when parallels are drawn between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. But the similarities are to overwhelmingly obvious to be ignored. Forty-five years ago, in much of the country, Aman and I would not have been allowed to marry and have a family. We would have been denied the right to choose who we want to spend our lives with.
We would have been denied these rights because so many folks felt that interracial marriages were “unnatural,” “contrary to tradition,” “contrary to how marriage has always been,” and “against God’s will.” Sound familiar? These same arguments were all heard from Proposition 8 supporters. The Yes on 8 campaign advertisements focused on allegations that children would be taught about same-sex marriage in the schools and that free speech rights would be limited because individuals and churches would be forced to officiate and accept marriages that they believed were ungodly. These were also arguments that were regularly voiced with respect to interracial marriages.
As we sat with our two kids early this morning – they got us up at 5:00 a.m. again – we found ourselves wanting to fully celebrate what President Obama’s incredible victory represents for this country. But we found ourselves unable to fully do so because of the heartache of knowing that yesterday Californians enshrined discrimination into our Constitution by denying certain Californians the right to marry the person of their choosing.
For those who think that the same-sex marriage issue was pushed too fast and too soon, I would point you to the poetic words of Langston Hughes (pictured) who said:
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
Our hearts ache this morning for all our gay and lesbian friends and family members who last night were told by the people of California that they can not marry the person that they loved — that they can not fulfill their dreams in the same way that the rest of us can.
Our hearts ache for the gay and lesbian boys and girls who are struggling, as all young people do, with who they are and what their place is in the world. Last night, the people of California once again told these young people that they were unnatural and deviant, and that they are not entitled to the same rights as the rest of us.
Our hearts ache for our two children, whom we love more than anything. Last night the American people helped to make the world a better place for our children by electing Barack Obama. But last night, the people of California said “not so fast, there is still much work to be done.”
Just like the struggle to allow interracial marriage, the struggle for full marriage equality for all will not be won overnight. These fights began with individual couples who refused to give up on their love and their dreams just because others said that such love was unnatural and wrong. They spread to friends and family who become allies in the cause. As they picked up strength, political leaders began to speak out, the courts came around, and eventually the general public did as well – we are obviously still working on this last step with respect to same-sex marriages.
What we learned from last night is that we still have a lot of work to do – especially in low-income communities and communities of color. At root, I believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in fear and ignorance. Fear of something that for generations we have been describing as icky and unnatural. Ignorance of the love and commitment that infuses so many same-sex unions. We can change these things. We will change these things.
There is hope in the exit polls from Proposition 8, which found a massive generation gap: the under-30s voted for marriage equality by 67 to 31 percent; the over-65s voted for discrimination by 57 to 43 percent. I have no doubt that there will be many other struggles that we will bequeath to our children. But this will not be one of them. It will take longer than we had hoped, and that makes us sad. But, make no mistake about it — this is fight that we will win.
Although we feel much anger and sadness, Aman and I are still hopeful. Barack Obama is correct when he says that much of America’s genius lies in its ability to change. In his speech last night – which was as inspiring as he so often is — Obama used many lines that were used by Martin Luther King. At one point Obama referred to “the arc of history.” After the famous march to Selma, King was asked how long it would take to achieve justice. His answer is well worth remember at times like this:
“How long? Not long. Because the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”
In solidarity and love,
Inner City Law Center