Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

I’m Not Pro-Gay Marriage, I’m Pro-Equality

In February 2004, as Heather and I were planning our wedding, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom decided that he could no longer tolerate the state’s disregard of its own constitution, which states that all citizens are equal under the law. On Valentine’s Day 2004, City Hall began issuing marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of gender.

Word spread fast and Heather and I went down to City Hall to see what was happening. What we saw was indescribable joy. Floodgates of love opening. Cheers from the growing crowd as each couple exited the building, finally legally equal.

We know what happened after that. The weddings were halted, Proposition 8 was put on the ballot (and paid for by mostly out-of-state religious zealots). And in perhaps the biggest moment of cognitive dissonance ever, on the night we elected Obama to be president, Californians amended their constitution with the words, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” A lawsuit ensued.

Yesterday, district court Judge Vaughan Walker struck down Proposition 8 with a scathing 136-page ruling that included some great lines like:

Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy – namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.

Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society.

Many of the purported interests identified by proponents are nothing more than a fear or unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples. Those interests that are legitimate are unrelated to the classification drawn by Proposition 8. The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal.

The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

You can (and should) read it yourself.

In much of the news coverage today, I’ve seen the phrase “Pro-Gay Marriage” used to describe the people who are celebrating Judge Walker’s ruling. But this rubs me the wrong way.

I’m not Pro-Gay Marriage, I’m Pro-Equality. I’m not Pro-Gay Rights, I’m Pro-Common Sense. I’m Anti-Discrimination. I’m Anti-Enshrining Your Queasiness About Buttsex In My Constitution. I’m Pro-When The Constitution Says We’re All Equal, It Means We’re All Equal.

I’m married, and it matters. It changes the way I look at the world, and the way the world looks at me. It comes with state and federal benefits and rights. Withholding those things from same-sex couples is discrimination, pure and simple. If you support withholding rights from people because of who they are, you’re a bigot. Period.

My grandmother taught me two important lessons. The first was tolerance. Enjoy people who are different from you. It’s the variety that makes life wonderful. The second was to always look out for the rights of others. Because if you sit by and let discrimination happen, you’ll be next.

My grandmother learned these lessons firsthand as a Jewish woman in Poland in the 1940s. In this country, we’re fortunate to have a mostly equitable, mostly tolerant place to live. But Proposition 8 is the clearest kind of discrimination – no different from the laws that kept my grandmother from going to school, or the anti-miscegenation laws from America’s past.

It is the duty of all people blessed with common sense, people who see in same-sex couples the same love they share with their partners, people who believe in equality and liberty, to stand up for our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors. We are Pro-Love. We are Pro-Equality. We will not tolerate discrimination. We will not shut up.

Because if you don’t stand up for other people’s rights, who will stand for yours?

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.