Thursday, August 5, 2010

Notes On Equality and Judicial Purview

On a more serious note...  While I watched the celebrations last night in the streets of California and beyond, I was reminded of a conversation I had nearly twenty years ago. At the time, I had a roommate who'd recently moved here from Canada. We were discussing equal rights for gays & lesbians, and he made a point I've never forgotten: "Gay rights will never be decided at the ballot box, or by legislation. It will be decided in the courts, where it belongs. It is a constitutional question...and as such, it is the purview of the courts." It took me by surprise that someone from another country could so eloquently explain to me, where we would be today.

Personally, I could care less if I ever get the right to be legally married. That is not the issue. The heart of the issue lies in two simple questions: One, Do we believe in the separation of church and state? And Two, are separate laws that purport to convey the same rights, truly equal? 

On the first question, the only basis for opposition to legal gay marriage is religion. However, religion defines marriage within the confines of the religious institution...not government. Conversely, civil law defines marriage within the confines of the institution of government...not religion. The two must remain separate if we are going to maintain true religious freedom.

On the second question, opponents of marriage equality purport that "civil unions" grant the same rights as marriage. That is false, but that is not the issue. Separate can never be equal. That question was asked and answered, long ago. As long as the law sees gays and lesbians as "separate" they will never be equal. And those who seek to define homosexuals as "less than" or "deviant", will continue to legitimize their ostracization, Such an atmosphere will continue to foster hate crimes against our community. "Anything less than equal is just that...less than equal."

Two issues. Separation of church and state. And, separate but equal equality. Everything else is just noise.

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