By: Tracy J. Thomas
I sat on my couch yesterday nursing a bad head cold as I followed a live blog that fed directly from the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco. The closing arguments for Perry et al. v Schwarzenegger et al. were finally being heard by Judge Vaughn Walker following a three-week trial held earlier this year. The Plaintiffs’ aim in this case was to overturn voter-approved Proposition 8 which invalidated the California Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed same-sex marriage in the State.
I was moved to follow this trial for a multitude of reasons. The first being my deep love of Constitutional law which was embedded in my soul by my 8th grade Civics teacher, Mrs. Herman. Since that class, I had always harbored the secret dream of becoming a judge and was encouraged by my mother’s insistence that I could out argue any lawyer on this earth. I ultimately took the LSAT, applied to several law schools though never committed, became a Paralegal and worked for multiple attorneys in various disciplines. Over time I came to realize that law was just not the perfect fit for me and moved on to pursue my more artistic passions. The second motivator for me for following this trial so closely is far more personal in nature. It is a motivation in the purest sense: love.
The push to get Proposition 8 placed on the ballot and passed was backed by a somewhat shady group who feared that gay marriage would threaten the sanctity of heterosexual marriage in our country. This group behind the push, the Mormon Church, vehemently denied a role in the Prop 8 campaign until recently being fined for political malfeasance. The Church failed to report $36,928 of contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. Prior to the election, when questioned by ABC-San Francisco about their involvement in the Prop 8 campaign, Don Eaton, spokesman for the Mormon Church stated, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints put zero money in this” –arrogant lies that were later exposed by the truth that the Mormon Church was deeply embedded in this campaign to stop gay marriage to the tune of more than half of the $45 million that funded the Yes on 8 campaign. In addition to these embarrassing realities, the Church’s front organization, National Organization for Marriage (NOM), is being investigated for money laundering and failing to file required campaign reports in the state of Maine for the state’s Question 1 campaign which took away the right of gays to be married in Maine. It is also believed that they have been involved with 30 other state same-sex marriage battles.
But I digress. This post is not meant simply to bash the Mormon Church, its blatant lies, hypocrisy, and seedy underhanded attempts to derail yet another equality movement in this country, nor is it to speak directly to its history of prejudice. Furthermore, I am not about to touch on its historically poor treatment of women, of African-Americans, its history of [gasp] polygamous marriage and sexual abuse through the act of marrying off its own young female children to men for the sake of “procreative” intercourse.
No, the focus of this article is to touch on the reason the Prop 8 trial came about in the first place. The defenders of Prop 8 have a fear. A deeply embedded, irrational, and unfounded fear. Their fear is based in the belief that marriage should be preserved for procreation only and is the sole means to provide children with that perfect model of a mother and a father, of male and female. And of course we all know that heterosexual marriages in this country are perfect incubators of ethical behavior in children. What with the high percentage of alcoholism, wife abuse, child sexual abuse, extramarital affairs, and divorce in our country, why would anyone think otherwise? I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have had two mothers than the father I had to put up with in my “traditional family”. But that is a different blog post altogether.
As argued in the trial, Charles Cooper for the Prop 8 defense exhibited skewed logic when he insisted “the marital relationship is fundamental to the existence and survival of the race. Without the marital relationship, your honor, society would come to an end.” So, in essence, Mr. Cooper, allowing gay people the right to marry other gay people will destroy heterosexual marriage and in effect wipe out all of society? Really? Something tells me heterosexuals have already played a far more prevalent role in undermining the sanctity of marriage prior to a single gay couple ever stating a marriage vow in our country. No worries, there are plenty of heterosexual people still having babies out-of-wedlock [gasp] and through in-vitro fertilization without a known partner [double gasp] who will continue to supply a steady stream of additional plebes. The sole purpose of these births will be to repopulate our doomed society when all the heterosexuals marriages suddenly dissolve in this country after same-sex marriage is deemed legal and as a result wipes out any hope of “responsible procreation”. I know, the whole thing is silly, isn’t it?
Let the truth be known. The Yes on 8 campaign propaganda prior to the vote never once mentioned the preservation of responsible procreation as a reason to deny same-sex marriage. That would have been laughable by the majority of consenting adult voters, most of whom have probably had “irresponsible procreation” at some point in their lives outside of marriage, heterosexual or otherwise. No, the brochures and voters guides chose instead to touch on a nerve that has a way of springing each one of us into action, no matter what our sexuality. It has to do with our children. The Prop 8 campaign turned and twisted reality and once again played on unfounded fears in order to garner votes. Our children needed to be protected from these scary gay people who were out to recruit them. If gays were allowed to be married, then our children would view it as being “okay to be gay.” Gasp! But gays are not okay…there is something inherently “wrong” with them. Isn’t there?
Hmmmm…take a whiff of the past for a second (the not-so-long-ago past may I remind you) and imagine if you will, what interracial marriage might do to our children and to our race, er um, I mean our society, if it were allowed to occur in our country?! Funny thing, the defense in this trial never once brought up the argument of gay marriage having any negative influence on our children in court. Most likely because they knew beyond a reasonable doubt, it would be massacred as discriminatory animus. It would scream homosexuals are a “suspect class” and the plaintiffs would have a field day with shouts of “blatant discrimination!” They chose instead to lean heavily on the heterosexual tradition of marriage based on the importance of “responsible vs. irresponsible procreation.” So, they chose to beat a dead horse instead, I suppose…
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Conservative Republican Ted Olson [wait, a Conservative Republican arguing for gay marriage, you say?], argued the case not from a premise of unfounded fear, but instead on the basis of its Constitutionality. “The Supreme Court has said that: Marriage is the most important relation in life. Now that is being withheld from the plaintiffs. It is the foundation of society. It is essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness. It’s a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights and older than our political parties. One of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause. A right of intimacy to the degree of being sacred. And a liberty right equally available to a person in a homosexual relationship as to heterosexual persons. Marriage, the Supreme Court has said again and again, is a component of liberty, privacy, association, spirituality, and autonomy. It is a right possessed by persons of different races, by persons in prison, and by individuals who are delinquent in paying child support. It is the right of individuals, not an indulgence dispensed by the State of California, or any state, to favored classes of citizens which could easily be withdrawn if the state were to change its mind about procreation. In other words, it is a right belonging to Californians, to persons. It is not a right belonging to the State of California. Heterosexual persons can marry the person of their choice. If they are a child molester, if they are a wife beater, if they are in prison for 15 murders, they can marry the person of their choice if they are heterosexual.”
Because they have a fundamental right to do so based on our Constitution. Yet in reality, homosexuals are treated differently in this respect and are not allowed to take part in that basic fundamental right, which does in essence make them a “suspect class”. This is nothing less than discrimination.
The State is taking away a fundamental Constitutional right that was never in its history based on procreation alone…nor was that fundamental right ever meant to discriminate against a group of people (“suspect class”) feared by a few in a select class who chose to spin unfounded non-truths into the hearts and minds of voters in order to keep this group separated from the inalienable right to marry.
To me the argument should alone be based on love. But pardon me for being so foolish to think that love would ever have anything to do with marriage in the first place.
Tracy J. Thomas is a photographer & writer living in Northern California. All the pictures in this article were taken by Tracy. You can see more of her photographs and writing at Tracy J. Thomas Photography & Design.