Prop 8: Last Night’s Defeat

langstonhughes.JPGby Adam Murray —

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.

MurrayAlthough 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,

Adam Murray
Executive Director
Inner City Law Center


  1. says

    There is a piece up today at the CA NOW blog by Meredith Patterson, “Prop. 8 Postmortem” that breaks down the current challenge to the passage of Prop. 8, the legal background for the challenge, and why it may work to preserve marriage equality in California.

  2. Scott Robbins says

    After yesterday’s election, I felt left out. My joy for the new president elect was overshadowed by the defeat of proposition 8, the same-sex marriage band. It was like a slap in the face. My gay boyfriend (Miguel) and I have lived in Highland Park and built together for five years. I’m sorry to have to announce that because of the passage of Proposition 8, Miguel and I will not be getting married in March as we had planned. It’s constitutional. We are, white and brown, second-class citizens.

    Looking back, I remember my suburban 1960s Maryland elementary school. It was first grade. “Jim Crow” had just been officially discontinued years before but the shadows were still there. I remember the four bathrooms in a row in the auditorium lobby, two for the boys and two for the girls. I have a memory of waiting in line to drink from a wall fountain in City Hall, where my mother worked, while the unoccupied water fountain to the left stood idol. My much older sister, without explanation, jerked me back when I dashed to drink from the idle and the “wrong” water fountain.

    The words above were removed from the wall years before, but the government beige paint failed to cover the faint silhouette of the letters left behind. At Ten O’clock A.M., the winter sunlight lined up thru the skylight and one could see the faint letters, “Colored Only”… Colored what only? I remember asking myself.

    In the cafeteria, a gaggle of middle aged women serving lunch every day on the line. The name tags revealed the lingering shadows of “Jim Crow”. The white women’s name tags might say “Mrs. Thompson”, all last names, wile the black women, all sporting wedding bands, read “Miss Thelma”. The black women? first names only, I later recalled.

    My mother traveled sometimes with work. That’s when I’d spend a fun week across town at the house of her friend, Miss Abby and the kids. We’d take the bus everywhere and I’d always sit one seat in front of her, in the exact middle of the bus…, I asked here why we sat like that once, she answered…, but from her tone, the reason she gave sounded fake.

    Flash forward 40 years, It’s a week before the 2008 election. On the TV news, A very old black woman, bible in hand, Purple brimmed hat on head, and a Compton church as a back drop, interviewed “man on the street” style by a junior reporter. “What do you think of same-sex marriage?” she was asked… here response sent me into a tirade of profanity. “God crated Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” she quipped with her nose stuck up. That back stabbing old HAG! I blurted out. “what’s wrong? Why?” My younger L.A. born boyfriend asked.

    I explained that I grew up watching women like her, settle for less, live half lives, ride in the back of the bus out of habit and always get the short end of the stick under “Jim Crow”, and here it is 40 years later, this old black woman is telling the world that she is entitled to marriage rights that I, the gay Iraq war veteran, am not. that “Jim Crow” is ok for the gays; that my humanity is not as valid as hers! And that (God told her personally) I have neither the necessity, nor the humanity to be getting married to “the wrong gender”. Talk about climbing up the tree and pulling up the rope ladder !!! I said.

    I had falsely assumed that every person who ever faced discrimination would learn from it, and not practice bigotry themselves, out of common sense. I was wrong.

    Bigots and hetero-supremacist come in all colors, ages, races, and religions. Even some of the people who actually can remember and may have lived thru “Jim Crow” will gladly vote to take away your rights, and deny your humanity, if given the chance.

    But even in the (mark single, never married) dark four years ahead, I must remind myself that 48% of those who voted No on Prop 8 election day actually were allies of all colors, ages, races and religions and they did vote to affirm our humanity and vote for marriage equality. Perhaps equality voters had learned from bigotry once received. Or maybe they just believe in equality for all. Unlike sexual orientation or gender or race, fairness and equality and yes even bigotry ARE “lifestyle Choices”. I guess we never know who our real friends are until election day.

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