The folks in California are celebrating, and for good reason. Last week the California Supreme Court ruled to overturn the lesbian/gay marriage ban which could soon lead to legalized queer weddings in the nation's largest state. If so, California would be the second state after Massachusetts to allow same-gender marriage.
In a 4-to-3 decision, the state's high court determined that domestic partnerships are not a good substitute for marriage. And while the justices did not say that same gender couples must be allowed to marry, they did determine that same-gender couples must be treated equal to opposite-gender couples. For example, the state could decide that marriage is for churches and offer civil unions to opposite gender-couples.
But then same-gender couples must also be offered civil unions. If the state recognizes opposite-gender marriages, then the state needs to recognize same-gender marriages. Since California already offers domestic partner benefits that include legal rights and responsibilities similar to marriage, it seems only logical that the next step is to extend full marriage rights to all couples.
This court decision is a result of a lawsuit filed in 2004 by the city of San Francisco, a few dozen same gender couples, Equity California and several other LGBT rights groups. The lawsuit was in reaction to the court's halting of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to perform same gender marriage and a proposed constitutional amendment banning same gender marriage that won the popular vote by 61 percent in 2000.
The California legislature has twice passed full-marriage legislation, neither of which were signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the governor has said he would support the decision of the Supreme Court, he does not support the marriage amendment, and he believes that voters should decide the issue.
Such inconsistency does concern us because once again a high-ranking official is playing politics with our lives.
It is interesting to note that six of the seven judges were appointed by Republicans, and all of them were reconfirmed by popular vote of over 70 percent. This just proves to us that party representation varies across the country and not every Republican or Democrat fits neatly into conservative or liberal categories.
We realize that California is one of the more liberal states, and yet there is movement afoot by a coalition of religious and social conservatives who are attempting to put a measure on the November ballot banning same gender marriage within their state constitution.
We doubt they will be successful given the court's recent decision, but then that's California, and our confidence in such fairness does not come to mind when we think of our own state of Indiana. It has already been conjectured by many that what happens in California will set the tone for other states.
We wonder if what happens in California has more impact on the Midwest than actions taken in Massachusetts? We believe that the resistance to same gender marriage is greater in the Midwest, and while decisions in coastal states may be somewhat influential in helping to desensitize those fearful of change, we sense an evangelical zeal (a resurgence at the very least), over passage of SJR7 (the constitutional amendment banning same gender marriage in Indiana).
We predict (and we don't need a crystal ball to do so) a marriage protection amendment to the Indiana Constitution in the next Indiana General Assembly, perhaps affecting all unmarried couples. Of course this move will be as misguided now as it has been in the past.
We know that Eric Miller and the American Family Association (AFA) have never stopped making noise about same gender marriage and how it is supposedly a threat to traditional marriage. We've never understood their argument because we see no rational reason why our relationships and contracts would have any impact on their lives, relationships or contracts.
In fact, their narrow-minded perspectives and desire to control the lives of others is much more detrimental to us than we are to them. However, as much as we disapprove of their message, their tactics and their often misleading and twisted logic, we recognize that they are a large, tightly organized and well-funded group who must be taken seriously.
They are strong advocates of Sen. John McCain for President (eeeks!), and we wouldn't be a bit surprised if some of them slipped over to the Democratic side temporarily and voted for Hillary Clinton in the Indiana primary because they think she is more likely to lose to McCain than Barack Obama. Of course, they might not want to vote for a black person either, but we aren't talking about racism at the moment (we'll leave that for another column).
The AFA is the leading proponent of the same-gender marriage ban in Indiana, and the organization is not going away any time soon. Several politicians, who are perhaps weary of the issue and probably really do believe in justice and equity, have tried to point out that Indiana law already confirms marriage as legal only for opposite gender couples, thereby making an amendment unnecessary.
Undaunted by such rational fact, the AFA folks continue to browbeat us with their own religious and political fervor to institute hostile discrimination into our state's constitution. Ignoring the separation of church and state issue completely, they use biblical references to validate their own homophobia and draw on arguments of fear, hell fire and damnation to control their ranks. Never defining their own agenda (which is really to make everyone just like them--conform or suffer and die) they attack what they refer to as the homosexual agenda as a destructive social force.
Now we've never actually heard any lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender folks talk about an agenda. So we think the AFA is probably just confusing the pursuit of life, liberty, happiness and equity with fascist thought control driven by contempt for those who actually do enjoy life and love one another. Ever been to a Pride celebration? Well, they are fun and everyone enjoys themselves with laughter, music, dancing and --uh, oh, we see why they don't like us. We just enjoy life too much.
Well, excuse us -- get out the cat 'o nine tails and horse hair shirts and let's suffer!!
Seriously, folks, with all of the Pride events coming up in June, where you'll be having a good time celebrating, keep in mind that we have a long way to go before we can enjoy democracy and equality with everyone else.
There is strength in numbers, so stand up, stand together and be strong. And while we do salute the victories of our comrades in California and Massachusetts, we know that the battles are not yet won for everyone. We must continue to speak out and stand tall and proud.
We look forward to the day (and we believe it will come eventually) when the civil unions and marriage issues are behind us. Why? Because we need to focus our attention on broader social issues, such as racism, sexism, poverty, overpopulation, unemployment, spousal abuse and violence, ecological matters, health care and improving our world image.
We also must make changes to a government that basically serves the wealthy and cuts support for programs that help those most in need. State and federal government must stop recognizing, and using, those who distract the populace with harmless social issues such as marriage that really are insignificant in the larger picture and instead focus its energies on uniting folks in an effort to improve life on this planet for everyone.
Helen Harrell and Carol Fischer can be reached at and .