A Time to Every Purpose

Coming up in California on March 5 will be oral arguments in the Proposition 8 legal challenge, which the California Supreme Court agreed to hear back on November 19.

According to Brian Boyd of Gay Rights Watch, 43 amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs have been filed urging the court to invalidate Prop 8, arguing that it “drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California’s Constitution, and that rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote.”

In May 2008, as one well remembers, the same California Supreme Court held that laws addressing people because of a difference in sexual orientation violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

Between June 16 and November 4, 2008, when the passage of Proposition 8 put a halt to same-sex marriages, some 18,000 couples, joined by family and friends, were married.

I witnessed a very moving event last June 21, when I was invited to attend the First Annual Celebration of Marriage in Palm Springs. Mayor Steve Pougnet (who married his own partner, with whom he is raising two children, in September) and members of the City Council wed numerous joyous couples during the hours-long ceremony.

Will those thousands of couples see their marriages negated—rendered illegal, null and void—in March? What about legal contracts that may have been entered into in good faith in the interim? Real estate transactions, adoptions, business partnerships? Wills and other documents that married couples take for granted?

Many individuals and groups are working to undo the damage wrought by the passage of Proposition 8. Time alone will see if their labors will bring back equal rights for California’s gay citizens.

Here in Minnesota, our only openly gay Republican legislator, State Senator Paul Koering, has announced that he will not vote for the Marriage and Family Protection Act, designed to make Minnesota marriage laws gender-neutral.

Koering is reported to have told radio station KLKS that although he is gay, he will vote against the legislation because “lawmakers have bigger fish to fry dealing with a budget deficit estimated at five to seven billion dollars.”

In April 2005, when he first had come out, Koering offered a similar opinion on same-sex marriage in an interview with Raw Story: “I think some of the gay activists will be upset with me for this, but sometimes I think an agenda is pushed so far and so fast that people have no alternative but to push back. And I think that sometimes you have to move slowly.”

There’s wisdom in not rushing headlong into a complex issue, but nearly four years have trickled by. Just how slow is slow enough?

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