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August 11, 2010

Rational nation

I’m all for committed relationships, but personally I’m just not the marrying type. When same-sex marriage is (eventually) legalized on the federal level, I don’t know that I will be running to City Hall in my wedding dress, or white tux, or whatever it is I might choose to wear. What I have a problem with is that some dude with a “God Hates Fags” sign has more rights than I do. That just doesn’t make any sense.

Caution: political language coming. Void where prohibited. Some restrictions may apply.

If you haven’t already heard, Proposition 8 (California’s ban on same-sex marriage) was overturned in federal court last week. If you are anything like me, a sentence like this requires much explanation, a dictionary, and maybe even a TI-82 calculator. Political language continues to be as confusing to me as high school algebra, so I will try my best to sum it up and keep it interesting.

In May of last year, the California Supreme Court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage, a move opponents of the measure cleverly coined Prop H8 (as in “hate”). This was after much hoopla and an estimated 18,000 gay couples being wed during the period while the ban was not in effect. So basically, lots of gays were legally married in the state and then, after voters approved the ban, the government said, “Oh no, you can’t do that. There’s way too much same-sex wedding kissing going on here.”

More than a year later, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned the ban, arguing it “fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gays and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.” In other words: It’s unconstitutional to ban rights. So, in short, Prop 8 has been introduced, passed, lifted, passed again, and then overturned.

This is certainly a step in the direction of equal rights, right? According to Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman, who knows a thing or two about political activism, “When unjust laws like Proposition 8 make it to the law books, opposing them in court may ultimately be effective, but it is a long, arduous and uncertain road to tread toward fairness and equality. This defeat of Prop 8 is an exciting first step, but there are many more steps that will follow. Because we struggle so much to overcome senseless opposition to LGBT civil rights, it makes us truly cherish these moments when justice is upheld.”

Judge Walker had a lot of sensible things to say in his ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional, like “Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital union,” and “Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.” And when rational thinking like this begins to rear its big sexy head in a court of law, I have to admit, it’s pretty exciting. What’s fun is that the arguments Judge Walker presents will be hard to fight against rationally.

“We know the other side will appeal in the 9th Circuit, which will likely lead to a Supreme Court appeal,” Hartman says. “From there, it may be anyone’s guess where the ruling will land, but we must hope that the equal rights guaranteed by our United States Constitution will be upheld.”

So, what can overturning Prop 8 mean for Kentucky?

“Each time there is a victory or defeat for LGBT civil rights in the nation, its ramifications are far reaching, and its effects reverberate far beyond state lines,” Hartman says. “Each step for fairness anywhere moves us one step closer to equal civil rights in places like Kentucky, where lawmakers must see the changes coming and the inevitability of fairness and equality across the whole United States.

“Currently, it is still legal in most of Kentucky to fire someone from their job, deny them a place to live, or kick them off a bus or out of a restaurant based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. We must all call our local legislators’ attention to these victories and encourage them to follow suit. As more and more cities and states move toward fairness, our lawmakers can see the ‘sky has not fallen’ over places that protect their citizens equally, and they may step more boldly into the battle for fairness.”