May 11, 2008
Coming soon, the mother of all battles
Posted by: Andoni
“I think there is a good chance we are about to face what could well be the single most important battle we have ever seen in the LGBT rights movement.”
That’s how Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU LGBT Project describes the epic battle we will face should the California Supreme Court decide in our favor on the same sex marriage case later this month. This major conflict will result from the confluence of two events:
- The California Supreme Court strikes down state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
- Almost simultaneously, voters will weigh in on a ballot initiative sponsored by VoteYesMarriage.com to amend the state's constitution to outlaw same sex marriage -- undoing the Supreme Court decision.
Many astute observers think there is a very good chance the court will approve gay marriage. Matt was initially concerned about our chances, but after hearing the oral arguments and weighing the justices’ reactions, Matt is now cautiously optimistic. You can listen to the oral arguments and decide for yourself if there is a good chance we’ll win.
It appears that VoteYesMarriage.com has collected enough signatures to place on the November ballot the amendment to negate the court’s decision, but we won’t know for sure until June, after the signatures have been authenticated.
A victory for gay marriage in the California Supreme Court would be an earth-shaking event because:
- The California Supreme Court is one of the most respected in the country. The New York Times recently ran a story saying it is easily the most influential state court in the country. If we win in California, things will be quite favorable for us in other states going forward on this issue. The California Supreme Court was most instrumental in ending this nation's anti-miscegenation laws by ruling them unconstitutional in 1948 and the rest of the nation soon followed. Let's hope a same sex marriage ruling follows a similar trajectory.
- California alone represents the 8th largest economy in the world and over 12% of the U.S. population. In short, what happens in California has tremendous influence economically, politically, socially and culturally. California has a long history of starting new ideas in the United States.
Our opponents know all this, so it will be a do-or-die situation for them. They will want to punish the court if they rule our way to send a message to other state courts not to do the same. If they lose the ballot initiative in California, they know the same sex marriage war is all but over.
Our side knows that if we sustain a court victory by the people in a ballot initiative, it will be a short time before gay rights victories spread across the country. So in a sense, the California battle will as crucial as the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Both sides will throw everything they have at it because they know that the ultimate outcome of the gay rights war will turn on this battle.
Matt told me he sees the California battle this way:
If we win the case and the initiative qualifies, we’ll be in the largest, most expensive, highest stakes political fight we’ve ever seen or are ever likely to see. Our opponents will understand that if they lose, and the voters in effect ratify the court’s decision, their fight against marriage in America will ultimately be unwinnable. They’ll put everything they have into the election.
So get ready for World War-like battle for gay rights that we have no choice but to fight as if our lives depended on it. Certainly our future does. It will involve the LGBT community throughout the nation. We can argue about whether marriage was the right issue at the right time. But we’re here now, and we have no choice but to fight as hard as we can. This isn’t just about marriage -- it's about ending legal discrimination against gay people on any issue you can think of.
Matt sums it up:
The prospect of a ballot initiative is scary. But we have no choice but to face it. And in facing it, we should keep one thing in mind. A win at the California Supreme Court, confirmed by the voters, followed up with a smart strategy building on the wins and persuading the public, would put in our grasp an end to legal discrimination (against gays) in less than a generation.
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