It had all the passion of a “Here We Stay” Sacramento Kings rally. With a slug of elected officials dying to get their picture taken in front of the Rainbow flag, Sacramento came together on the west steps of the state Capitol to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling sticking down the Defense of Marriage Act and taking no action on a lower court’s decision that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional clearing the way for gay marriage in California.
Marriage equality: political football
While many of the speakers lauded the hard work they have done on behalf of marriage equality, the reality is that our system of government should get as much condemnation and celebration for the victories of logic over bigotry. In 1996 politicians eager to be re-elected passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to show constituents their fervor for traditional marriage. A bi-partisan congress passed DOMA and President Bill Clinton signed it. There was no rational for passing this legislation of discrimination other than politics. It was a low tide in the sea of rising recognition for equality in the LGBT community.
Federalism on display, state’s rights
Our federalist system of government allows states to have laws that are seemingly in opposition to national laws. People were still working at the state level to pass same-sex marriage laws even though the federal government wouldn’t recognize it. California’s Prop 8 in 2008 was the conservative answer to stop marriage equality, and similar to DOMA, sought to enshrine discrimination in the state constitution. The year Prop 8 was passed might have been the high water mark for the proponents of the traditional marriage definition.
Justice, not people, have spoken
DOMA was not repealed by congress. Prop 8 was not voted out by the people in a new election. No elected official introduced or passed any laws that worked to strike down DOMA or Prop 8.
The un-elected justices of the Supreme Court did what no politician could; remove the discrimination against same sex couples from getting married.
I had argued in my blog The Supreme Court will uphold the ban on Prop. 8 that state’s rights would trump national consensus. Those sentiments were somewhat express by Justice Kennedy who wrote that the decision on DOMA had no bearing on how states define marriage. The court refused to pass judgement on Prop 8 because of the “standing” issue by the defendants.
Public awareness and acceptance pushed marriage equality
What truly was being celebrated was our slightly dysfunctional form of government that eventually gets it right. We have seen over and over bad laws passed to curry favor with those with money or votes. This type of legislation and constitutional amendments are eventually exposed for what they are, unconstitutional. It is not the political maneuvering of politicians that helped defeat same sex marriage discrimination. Marriage equality has slowly become a reality because of the men and women who are willing to attend rallies and parades to show politicians and justices that our society is ready move beyond fear of the unknown and embrace equal rights for the LGBTQI community.
Voices change laws
We all politely nodded our heads at the words of the elected officials proclaiming victory for marriage equality. But the victory lies not on impassioned rhetoric of politicians looking for their next donation, but with thousand of people out on a hot afternoon to affirm the United States of America moves in the right direction when people are willing to let their voice be heard.
More photos of the rally after the recordings.
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