Waldlaw Blog

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Fall!

I have always loved fall. Well, maybe not always. When I was a kid, it meant the end of summer vacation, and I'm sure I didn't love that.... But as an adult, I love fall, with that very tangible sense of changing seasons that is so often lacking as spring wanders into summer, or as fall wanders into winter. Somehow, the change from summer to fall feels like the most pronounced change of the seasons. And I guess I like that clarity, that sense of purpose. In any case, this fall is certainly shaping up to be an interesting one. Sarah Palin. Barack Obama. Prop 8. Boy, we have some big choices to make as a nation about which direction we're headed in. So, in the midst of all the turmoil, as our attentions are pulled in many directions, I wanted to stop for a moment to wish you all a happy fall. And, for my Jewish readers, a happy Rosh Hashanah as well. May your names be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Moving to the Front of the Bus

I have just spent two days at the 20th anniversary conference of the National Lesbian & Gay Law Association ("Lavender Law"), where I joined my esteemed colleagues in NCLR's National Family Law Advisory Council presenting several workshops on GLBT family law issues. Not surprisingly, our colleagues from around the nation were very interested in hearing what we California family law attorneys have to say about same-sex marriage, and I found myself talking about Prop 8 -- the marriage ban -- almost everywhere I went. In one sense, I find it somewhat challenging to talk about Prop 8, because I have spent so many years saying that "marriage isn't my issue." My partner of almost 27 years and I have not gotten married, and have no plans to. I have spent much of my career fighting to have non-traditional families treated with dignity -- which includes single-parent families and non-marital families and transgender families. I do not consider marriage the silver bullet that will solve our community's problems. That said, I have become a passionate advocate for the defeat of Prop 8. So how do I reconcile these two things?? To me, the fight to defeat Prop 8 is only about marriage in the sense that the Montgomery bus boycott was about transportation. African-Americans in Montgomery, Alabama, were allowed to ride on the city buses -- but they had to stay in the back. Their fight was not fundamentally about access to transportation -- it was about equality, justice, dignity, respect. Same-sex couples in California have already been allowed access to the package of rights and benefits associated with marriage through our state's domestic partner laws. The fight against Prop 8 is not a fight for hospital access or insurance benefits or the right to sue for wrongful death of a loved one -- it is about equality and justice -- the right of our families to be accorded the same dignity and respect in our primary relationships accorded different-sex couples through marriage. The Supreme Court understood that this was what they were ruling on when they stated that "the distinction drawn by the current California statutes between the designation of the family relationship available to opposite-sex couples [marriage] and the designation available to same-sex couples [domestic partnership] impinges upon the fundamental interest of same-sex couples in having their official family relationship accorded dignity and respect equal to that conferred upon the family relationship of opposite-sex couples." So folks, at its core, this fight truly isn't about marriage, per se. It is about equality. It is about whether same-sex families get to join our heterosexual friends and family members in the front of the bus.