“Tradition alone cannot form a rational basis for a law.”
—Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upon overturning California’s Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage unconstitutional
It is the greatest nation on the planet, for its governed by the rule of law and not that of majority moral conviction, religious fervor or the whims of the elite or the blather of ignorance and fear. It has stood fast against the forces of enslavement, civil injustice and a strangely reoccurring superstitious perpetuation of discrimination. The echoes of Thomas Jefferson’s most precious ideal; that “all men are created equal” may have been ignored at first, diluted by the times, manifest in period and geographic prejudices, and fueled undaunted by the disdain of the status quo, but was soon exalted, as it must in a country boasting from on high that its land be made free.
Here is a rather important portion of Article XIV of our beloved Constitution (which some crazy people are currently pitching to repeal, because they have horse dung for brain tissue): “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
These core ideals, the very fabric of a cause of liberty and a noble Bill of Rights, solidified in the ever-evolving Constitution of these United States (the above “Equal Protection Clause” was added in 1868) gives rise this week to the most important court ruling since the Civil Rights era; the complete and utter rejection of California’s ridiculous Proposition 8.
A child with the most basic understanding of middle-school civics could have come to the same conclusion as that of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has ruled that Prop 8 is “unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.”
Of course it is.
Of course denying basic civil rights to tax paying members of this purported free society is not only a blight on our trumped-up sense of national pride, it makes a mockery of our veiled but continued attempt to lecture a good portion of the rest of the world on their human rights abuses. For the entire dozen-plus years I have been filling this space with my bent ideas and half-baked concepts, there has never been a more perplexing case; this denial of basic civil rights, which for some unseemly reason has been cast in votes (in 31 states over 10 years) and debated in churches and private sector forums. It’s a goddamn Right, not the placement of a traffic light or the disbursement of funds to irrigation valleys. Why are we voting on who has access to the Bill of Rights?
Guess what, jack?
In his 136-page ruling, (in this author’s judgment, a more wonderfully thought-provoking and masterfully worded screed of constitutional interpretation has yet to be compiled) Judge Walker, a G.H. Bush appointee, stated that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry the person of their choosing, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, because “describing marriage as being simply between one man and one woman is an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.”
Therefore, again – of course – the argument for denying the rights of American citizens based on some atavistic, superstitious, (gulp!) religious notion has so little merit it becomes a form of grotesque tragic comedy performed by the most irrational among us.
“That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant.” writes Walker. “Fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
In fact, Walker correctly ruled, “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”
Reason trumps Moral Private View; got it.
Enter stage right, the Equal Protection Clause, which was the key to another landmark ruling last month in Massachusetts in which a federal judge also ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the Constitution.
Moreover, as a key part of his ruling, Judge Walker goes on to discuss social matters of gender and race inequalities, both of which litter our recent history of civil rights abuses (until as recently as 1967, men and women of different races were forbidden to marry in 16 states) and which sadly the majority of Americans supported.
The very idea that we allowed votes on this fundamental issue of basic civil rights is one of the great embarrassments of this or any century around here. And to think, it was never even denied on the grounds of the most outlandish understanding of the law or the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, or a goddamned thing this republic was founded and continues to persist on; liberty and justice for all.
Evidence of this appears throughout the 136-page ruling, which recounts in stirring detail a parade of incredulous testimony by unsubstantiated “experts” that made no attempt beyond moral outrage and dire predictions of fires in the streets and Satan laughing. (I shit you not, read the damn thing). The Emperor was not only butt naked; he was certifiably insane and had the balls to wield a measure of unchecked power.
Not anymore, bub.
And now, it is on to the Supreme Court – the ultimate destination for this imperative civil rights decision, and for the two attorneys that chose to defend liberty, Ted Olson, who represented G.W. Bush in the famous 2000 general election Gore v. Bush battle, and his partner, the opponent in that very same case, David Boies. Not only does this politically bi-partisan legal team expect an appeal, they welcome it, as hinted in several places of Judge Walker’s ruling, wherein he evoked the name of Supreme Court Judge Anthony Kennedy, who over the years in several disparate cases has steadfastly decided on the side of gay rights. Not to mention the 80, that’s right, fans of the “crazy knee-jerk judge usurping the will of the people and moral superiority”, 80 detailed statements of fact.
And so August 4, 2010 becomes another in a long line of seminal dates in the spiral of American history; a victory for all Americans, who are perhaps a few years from saying we’re closer to providing all citizens with the rights granted by the blood, treasure, and maverick brilliance that beats in humanity’s finest experiment in liberty.
It’s about time.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, and Midnight For Cinderella. His work is archived at jamescampion.com.