They accost you when you’re leaving the grocery store when you’re really not in the mood to deal with politics and have, I’m told, accosted citizens minding their own business in other public spaces. Most seem to be kids in (or just out of) college. And despite their education, they remain clueless about the meaning of the word, “legal.”
I do believe they mean well, but somehow in coming out of the closet, they join the gay organization on their college campus where they are often taught that activism is part of being gay. Unless they engage in some kind of political activity (almost always for a left-wing organization like the folks in California laboring for the state Democratic Party front group, “Equality California” (EqCA)), they’re deemed selfish or self-hating. (Hopefully, more on this expectation of activism in a subsequent post.)
I’m not entirely sure why EqCA has engaged these young folks to press for the legalization of something that is already legal — gay marriage –but they do seem to frequent grocery stores (and shopping malls) frequented by our Angeleno readers.
Now, you may say, as do many of our critics, that, well, didn’t the citizens of California vote to ban gay marriage when they passed Proposition 8?
And I will tell you that in fact they didn’t. Prop 8 had nothing to do with making gay marriage illegal. It had everything to do with what type of unions the state recognizes as “marriage.”
Let me build on my answer with a question: in the 19 months since Prop 8 passed, can you name one person who has been arrested or otherwise punished by authorities from the State of California for getting married?
You may reply, well, but, you see, the state doesn’t recognize same-sex unions as marriage even if the partners involved call themselves married. Still, the fact that we can call our unions “marriage” and to have religious institutions perform them means we are free to get married. Now, you may contend as did one of our readers that:
Under the law, if you do not have a marriage license, you are not married. You are legal strangers. W/o that license, you must create special contracts and legal arrangements (a costly process) to get some of the benefits of that legal institution. And you still won’t get all of those benefits.
And he is right as go most of the states, but not for California. Here, the state recognizes same-sex unions as domestic partnerships and confers on them all the benefits of marriage, save those granted by the federal government (which it lacks the authority to grant).
Given that these energetic young folk are in (have come to?) California, it’s important to understand what Prop 8 did. Let’s recall first that advocates of that ballot measure were often at pains to say that same-sex couples still had domestic partnerships. Even they did not seek to take away those benefits (though I would daresay some of their fellow Prop 8 voters like to). Not just that, in upholding Prop. 8, the California Supreme Court made clear that its ruling did not affect state recognition of those partnerships.
Thus, not only is it legal for gay people to get married in California, but while the state won’t call their unions marriage, it still confers a great number of benefits on the partners.
Now, you ask, why am I at great pains to make a point about semantics. It is because, I believe it is a distinction with a difference. Yes, I realize most states don’t even recognize same-sex civil unions, which would accord benefits similar to or the same as marriage. And I do think they should. Unlike many gay activists, I’m not beholden to the word marriage — and am not unhappy with the system currently in place in California. I do believe the federal government would recognize such unions, particularly for awarding Social Security survivorship benefits and for facilitating citizenship requests of same-sex foreign partners of American citizens.
That said, I think the distinction matters because we need to understand what we’re fighting for and how far we’ve come. We can increasingly live openly as gay people. The state does not arrest gay people for getting married. (Recall that the Lovings (of Loving v. Virginia) had three choices, get divorced, leave Virginia or go to jail.)
We are not victims, as some advocates of same-sex marriage suggest (and which the expression “legalization of gay marriage” implies). Those advocates are pushing for a serious social change. They are asking for the state to treat same-sex unions as it does different-sex unions and confer upon them a status, a marriage recognized by the state, long reserved for such different-sex unions.
Instead of whining like victims, make the case why our unions should be privileged as are different-sex unions. But, I’ve said this before, more times than I can count, so let me repeat it once again: advocates of state recognition of gay marriage are not fighting for the legalization of an institution, but seeking to have the state privilege certain same-sex unions as it now privileges different-sex ones. So, we need to make a positive case for why our unions merit such privilege.
Let me repeat, his is not about rights, it’s about privileges. If it were about rights, there would be no issue.
Perhaps, I’m repeating myself a bit here, it’s late, I’m tired, but this topic was on my mind today. And it does seem all the really important stuff is below the “jump.”
*It’s just that the states don’t recognize those unions as marriage nor, in most of those states, confer on them the benefits it offers to individuals in different-sex unions who elect to call their unions marriage.