Who Gets to Define a Family?
by Abby Margolis Newman
Imagine this scenario: your child comes to you, years from now, and tells you he is gay. (I know, many of you are parents of very young children - just bear with me.) Then a few years later, he falls in love and tells you he wants to marry his boyfriend. You love your son, and you've grown to love his boyfriend, too. Yet the state you live in says no, he cannot marry the person he loves. How would you feel about this? To paraphrase the Facebook Queen Sarah Palin, would your "Mama Grizzly" come out roaring in protest?
Does irrational fear and loathing of homosexuality (which, for many people, is simply fear of the unknown) get to dictate with whom your child will make a family? Or do consenting adults, who love each other and want to make a lifetime commitment, get to decide for themselves?
Last week, a U.S. District Court judge in California ruled that Proposition 8 - which limited marriage to opposite-sex couples, and was passed by California's voters by a margin of 52 to 48 percent in November 2008 - is unconstitutional. The judge, Vaughn Walker, wrote a blistering opinion, asserting that the defenders of "Prop 8" had not even come close to proving their case - in fact, he dismissed their "expert witness" testimony (consisting of only two witnesses, one of whom was clearly a religious extremist) as totally unreliable.
The judge concluded that Prop 8 violated the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal treatment of all citizens. When it comes to marriage, the proponents of Prop 8 want the laws of California to apply unequally to a certain class of citizens - gays and lesbians - and to deny to them the protection the 14th Amendment provides.
Marriage is a fundamental civil right in our country, and it must be available to all our citizens. Fortunately, the generational polling on this issue shows that the country's support of gay marriage is growing and will continue to do so: majorities of people under the age of 50 support gay marriage, and the younger those polled are, the more shoulder-shrugging responses the pollsters receive: essentially, our young people are saying, "So what's the big deal?" (A 2009 CBS News poll found that 64 percent of those 18-45 supported gay marriage, while 46 percent of those over 50 did.) I know that "Who cares?" is the attitude of my three boys, who are 16, 15 and 11 - and it is shared by most of their friends.
Hak-Shing William Tam, an "expert" witness for the pro-Prop 8 side in the case, testified that he is the secretary of the "America Return to God Prayer Movement," which operates a website called "1man1woman.net." His website encouraged support for Prop 8 on the basis that "homosexuals are twelve times more likely to molest children" (a blatantly made-up statistic) and that defeating Proposition 8 would have "cause[d] states one-by-one to fall into Satan's hands" (an eventuality difficult to prove or disprove). When asked for the sources of his information, Tam cited "the Internet." Tam's testimony was quickly discredited by the judge - the obvious point being that fringe religious beliefs cannot determine laws or social policy.