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Now that marriage is the ONLY gay issue…

On Friday, SCOTUS announced it would hear two cases important to gays and lesbians across the country- the appeal of the Prop 8 verdict and one of the DOMA cases. Few commentaries have been posted about the choice of cases even though the choices, in and of themselves is possibly one of the most interesting part of this development. Maybe I’ll say more about that later. But in any event, the news has brought any real talk of any other LGBTQ-related issue to a near standstill. You would think that either 1) same-sex marriage is the only issue that matters to the LGBTQ/Progressive community or 2) we are all treating Civil Rights as if it were some sports event, like the weekly NFL game, and here we are with the Far Right is playing the super duo lawyer team in the big event.

Not everyone is so caught up in marriage frenzy. At least Ted Martin of Equality PA came out with a statement over the weekend reminding everyone that here in the Keystone State, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and those perceived to be LGBTQ are still fighting for the most basic civil rights protections at the state-wide level. Ted, is all for Marriage Equality. He and his partner are married in fact and just recently celebrated their anniversary. but fortunately for all Pennsylvanians, Equality PA is busy working all the angles, and not just riding the marriage wave of enthusiasm.

My partner and I are not married, and have no plans to get married anytime soon. I would- for all the legal reasons. If I were to die, I’m afraid he could lose our hose and everything we have built because of the way he will be unfairly taxed. He is covered by my Health Insurance, so I am limited if I were to consider changing jobs- I’d have to find an employer which also provides domestic partnership benefits. Even those benefits we have now cost us real money that we wouldn’t have to spend if my partner were of the opposite sex. But my partner sees it differently than just the legal issues. He is not utterly opposed to getting married, but he wonders why we have to assimilate into some archaic heterosexist model for our relationship to be acceptable. He really has a point. Early on, Gay Rights were about a revolution against heterosexist norms, and not a fight to buy into them.

The biggest problem I have with the SCOTUS focus is that I doubt it will really accomplish meaningful change. This is a debatable point, and I welcome your thoughtful comments to this post telling me why I have that wrong. Yet face it. Since Roe v Wade passed SCOTUS in 1973, has the issue of a woman’s right to choice actually been settled? What makes YOU think that any SCOTUS position for same-sex marriage will bring an end to the political and social wrangling over the issue? Really.

Frankly, I was happy to see that SCOTUS would take up one of the three DOMA cases that were there for them to choose, as every real small-government conservative and progressive alike ought to be. It makes no sense for the Federal government to treat legally married couples differently simply because the coupe are same sex. This one ought to be a slam dunk actually, now that nine states legally allow same-sex marriage. Nine and also the District of Columbia and two Native American tribes. Before any state approved of same-sex marriage, DOMA was at least understandable as a political effort to limit LGBT Rights. Fully offensive and objectionable, but why it existed made some sense. But all that has changed! Really nothing has changed- the position was discriminatory from the get-go. Now that discrimination is easier to look at and impossible to justify except with some fear mongering and voodoo magic.

Prop 8 is a different ball of wax however.This is a case which asks if the residents of a state can define marriage through a public referendum.  No, it is a case that examines if the public can take rights away from a group of people once they had those rights. No, it is a case about if the institution of marriage has any bearing for the State to legislate. No, really it is a case….

The Prop 8 case is both the movie blockbuster and the biggest risk ever put forward in the name of LGBTQ equality. The decision passed down by Judge Vaghn Walker and then upheld by the Ninth Circuit was a very limited judgement yet you would never know that by the plethora of emails that any gay or lesbian is receiving from every civil rights group that wants our money. It is being advertised as the case to end all other cases, and this is just as ridiculous as the hype surrounding any Hollywood blockbusting failure where every great clip of the movie appears in the commercial. That SCOTUS decided to take up this case is very troubling given who is sitting on the bench ad will hear the case. If we lose this big gamble, LGBTQ Rights will be set back fifty years at least. Why isn’t anyone talking about that? Mostly, I think we only want to be optimistic about it.

If everything goes right for advocates of marriage equality, gay and lesbian couples everywhere could be celebrating their right to marry by the Fourth of July in 2013.

So says Chris Geidner writing on buzzfeed. Chris is one of the smartest writers out there on this issue, as I see it. He lays out what is at stake: (bulleted list is mine)

  • The stakes have never been higher for either side of the fight over marriage equality. By June, the Supreme Court could take bold action to strike down state constitutional provisions and laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying, reminiscent of its 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision ending mixed-race marriage bans.
  • The court also could declare that the additional scrutiny now applied to laws based on race, religion or sex also must be used for those regarding sexual orientation.
  • The court also could do less than that, limiting its ruling to the Defense of Marriage Act’s federally defined “marriage” or California’s Proposition 8, allowing the patchwork of state-level laws governing the ability of couples to marry based on their sexual orientation to continue.
  • The high court even could declare that the Constitution grants no such right to gays and lesbians, essentially ending the chances of national answer on the marriage equality question for the foreseeable future.

And here is the clincher for me in Chris’s article:

Civil rights leaders, though, are opting instead to focus on the possibility, echoed throughout America’s history, that the nation could be on a path toward greater equality.

Or it could be on a path of hammering the status quo into stone. Remember the Ten Commandments? Look at who is sitting on the Supreme Court. Does this look like a body of individuals intent on pushing equality forward at anytime let alone in the highly charged current political environment? Consider Scalia or Alito for example. Wearing our rose colored glasses, we can look at the recent election and think that progress is happening. but look across the country and you will still see  a GOP agenda to remove individual rights, harm the gains made by women and labor, and instill deep social conservative measures everywhere.

I really did start this post with a reason, and it is connected to what Ted Martin had to say.

Equality Pennsylvania will continue fighting and educating on basic issues like non-discrimination and marriage equality even while the Court deliberates because we believe in fairness for ALL people.

Don’t be a spectator sitting back waiting for the big decision to come down. Get engaged in the real grass roots and base level  of activism that will be required to move non-discrimination and other issues forward here in Pennsylvania as well as across the country. Even if we win at SCOTUS, the work will be far from over. In fact, it will have just begun again fresh and new with whatever ruling that comes down fueling a victorious side as well as fueling the losing side to keep fighting.

Photo: LicenseAttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Zolk

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