Writing the Equality Narrative
Published Thursday, 12-Aug-2010 in issue 1181
Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling for equality and striking down Proposition 8 was powerful.
Judge Walker reminded us all that in America there are laws, principles and freedoms that are fundamental, and guaranteed to all citizens. The people cannot simply decide to discriminate against a group they don’t like just because they don’t like them. After hearing days of testimony, he declared that he found not one rational argument for denying gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry. From the bench of a federal court he declared that discrimination imposed through the ballot box by a slim majority is still discrimination, and therefore, not legal.
It’s a simple truth and an incredibly powerful moment. It is one of the first times the court has heard directly from gay and lesbian couples and families about the real harms this sort of sanctioned discrimination does to their lives, their relationships and to their families. And with his ruling, every LGBT person, couple or family who has stood too long listening to bigotry, ignorance and hate had a moment when they could celebrate the dignity of their love.
Now we wait again. We wait to see if Judge Walker will find reason to stay his own order while the appeal moves forward to the 9th Circuit, or if the 9th Circuit will find reason to stay the order, pending the appeal. We wait to see if the fact that the Attorney General and Governor of California have opposed a stay and declared the State of California ready to marry gay and lesbian couples will leave any group with sufficient legal standing to appeal. We wait to see when gay and lesbian couples will again legally marry in California.
But we have to do more than wait.
Judge Walker’s ruling is a part of an unfolding legal narrative across the nation — and even across the world. Denying basic freedoms to LGBT people just because you don’t like them is unjust and unconstitutional.
But equality can’t rely only on the courts. The courts don’t operate in a vacuum. Supporting this narrative and moving it forward means continuing to do the work on two critical fronts.
Visible Lives: We know that most people who have real, meaningful, human to human contact with LGBT people come to feel less fear and more compassion, and are less willing to discriminate or hate. And, over time, they come to support equality. The visibility of our lives and our everyday stories of dignity, success and integrity matter.
Visible lives and visible stories means continuing the work of teaching many that we are not the enemy. We are their friends, their neighbor, and their co-workers. We are police officers, nurses, accountants, small business owners, teachers, executives, labor leaders, ministers and electricians. We care about community, about our city and state. We volunteer, we raise families, we cut our grass and enjoy farmer’s markets. The visibility of our real, everyday lives matters.
Vote for Equality: Every time, every election cycle, every race is a struggle for equality. Voting for the candidates who support full equality — who support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” who support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, who support Marriage Equality and who are willing to ensure LGBT youth and LGBT families have safe and affirming schools — is vital. From school board to state Attorney General to Governor and to Congress, from the top of the ticket all the way down to the ballot races, every office matters and every election matters. And every vote matters. We have to ensure that every eligible voter in our community and the communities who support equality, votes. Vote by mail materials will be mailed out Monday, October 4, for the November 2 election.
The court cannot stand alone. We have to do our part. l