Waldlaw Blog

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.


  • The title of this blog implies that supporters of prop 8 look at gays the way blacks were looked at in the past. People hated them and discriminated against them in so many terrible ways.
    I support prop 8, but I do not in any sense hate or put down people who are gay. In fact, many of my friends are gay and I love them. When I look around, I see people embracing gays and being friends with them.
    The reason I want prop 8 to pass is not to do anything against people that are attracted to others of the same sex, but to reinstate what I belive is right - a marriage between man and woman. This is just the way I believe it should be. Yes on prop 8.

    By Blogger Heather, at 11:20 AM  

  • Huh? Huh?


    Okay, well back to what I was going to say. Thank you, Deborah, for this concise, clear analysis. The terms of the issue are even more evident now, even if not everyone is equipped with the ability to understand them.

    In a society founded on the separation between church and state, it is absolutely fundamental that people like heather have the right to worship at congregations who define marriage the way she does. And the rest of us are at liberty to worship at our own, or not, as we like.

    But we all, as equal citizens, absolutely MUST have equal access to the same fundamental rights the state accords its people. Protected for a minority by the courts, if need be, as the democratic process was designed. Voted in by the majority of the state's residents, if they have to be.

    By Blogger Polly, at 10:07 AM  

  • Deborah, I was at the seminar last night at the SF LGBT Center and let me just say, I expected to learn a lot, but I didn't expect to be moved as well! You and Deb Kinney spoke so eloquently about the seemingly minute yet actually huge differences between marriage and domestic partnership that I now see how important it is to win a "NO" vote for prop 8.

    I hope CA does the right thing and helps show the rest of the country that allowing same-sex people to marry isn't as scary as they think it might be.

    By Blogger Bulgy the Whale, at 10:50 AM  

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