i support the fight for gay marriage rights, though i have little stake in the issue as a straight man. but proposition 8 bothers me for reasons that are only incidentally tied to gay marriage.
our constitutions, both federal and state have what are called “equity clauses”, which generically grant equal rights to all citizens of country and state in the eyes of law. but proposition 8 has to this point proven that the equity clause holds no true power. i believe that this should be cause for alarm for all americans, and i expect at some point the equity clause will have to come under very public scrutiny.
i think it is safe to make a small assumption here, that when this country and it’s states were being founded and constitutions were being written, civil rights for gay people were probably never even considered. i don’t think it would be fair to blame the current situation on a lack of foresight by our early-era lawmakers, and it is also unfair to judge a previous society by the values we hold today.
in any matter of civil rights, it should be a simple matter of citing the equity clause and moving on. the state, in effect, is claiming willful agnosticism toward the the little quirks that make us think we are all different from each other such as race, gender, religion, income, sexual preference, etc. there should be no mechanism in our system that should allow for debate over who should or shouldn’t have a right that is expressly granted to all.
yet proposition 8 has shown that the people can initiate and vote in laws to do just that. this is a problem. in american law, precedent can be a very powerful thing, affecting decisions in the future. essentially, proposition 8 makes the equity clause state that, “all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law, except…”, in this case gay people seeking the right to marry.
but now that precedent is set, it is a small stretch to imagine the people, and by people i mean well-funded special interest groups, passing laws that wind back other civil rights issues under the argument that proposition 8 set the precedent that the equity clause can either be amended, or holds no actual power under legislation.
suddenly no social group has any reason to assume that their constitutional rights will be protected in perpetuity.
the equity clause is one of the simplest statements in american law, and yet probably the most powerful and far-reaching. i also believe it is a rare all-or-nothing concept. by altering it for something as ultimately trivial as gay marriage, we are opening the door for things that may be much more damaging in the future.
despite propaganda since 9/11 that insists the constitution is a majestically perfect political document, and to criticize it is an act of treason, at some point we will have to examine the constitution and determine whether it is still valid in our modern social context. it is obvious that if the foundation of our constitution can be altered so easily that it simply isn’t as perfect as we are told.