The news spread like wildfire: news publications rushed to write online pieces, which went on to be shared on social media sites ten-fold. News networks ran dramatic breaking stories, and Facebook and Twitter were afire with posts from people on both sides of the issue. A plethora of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered organizations — including the Log Cabin Republicans and the Freedom to Marry — all rushed to release strongly-worded position statements and press releases to the media and via e-mail to their constituents and donors. And all of this happened before lunchtime on the west coast.
What exactly caused this rush of information? The report that California federal appeals court overturned Proposition 8. An article in “The Washington Post” noted that “a federal appeals court has pronounced Proposition 8 unconstitutional, arguing that there’s no “legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently.”
The ruling shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Any regulation that denies Americans right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is illegal and unconstitutional. I’m a proud member of the Grand Old Party and I’m telling you that the laws of this great country provide for each of us to enjoy a sense of legal equality in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For those of you who are not aware, Proposition 8 is a regulation enacted by the people of the state of California that illegalizes same-sex marriage. The issue of civil rights for gay Americans has been — in addition being quite contentious — used as a weapon of warfare on both sides of the political aisle for decades.
Again, Proposition 8 is illegal and unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides each citizen with the equal protection by and access to the laws. What this means is that any law put forth by a municipality, state or by the federal government, must not create instances, whether expressly or implicitly, that create classes of individuals that have more or less protections and freedoms than other classes of individuals.
In addition, Proposition 8 fails the intermediate scrutiny test (one of three levels of judicial scrutiny for laws) because it does not further an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest.
So, what does this mean in layman’s terms? What it boils down to is human rights. Proponents claim that the spirit in which the 14th Amendment was written makes it applicable to only African Americans. The letter of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of the immunities of citizens of the United States,” makes no specific reference to African Americans, or any other suspect class, for that matter.
It is clear, by both the letter and the spirit of the Amendment, that Proposition 8 infringes on the rights of gay Americans to freely associate in a manner equal to the one in which heterosexuals associate.
As far as the intermediate scrutiny test goes, Proposition 8 fails to promote an important government interest of the equal protection of and equal access to the laws in a way that substantially related to that interest. When the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution allows for freedom of assembly, and a regulation like Proposition 8 expressly denies that right to gay Americans, there is no way one could even begin to argue that Proposition 8 furthers any government interest.
Proponents will argue that there is a divine nature to marriage, and that since the inception of time, marriage is a relationship of a religious nature between one man and one woman. There are a few flaws with this logic. First, while I admit that this country was founded on religious ideals, there is a legal separation of Church and State. Second, marriage is a legal relationship. While one man and one woman typically have a religious ceremony performed to recognize their love in the eyes of God, one man and one woman must also have paperwork filed in a legal court of law and receive a certificate as recognition of said love, in the eyes of the law.
Yet still, there are people who argue that civil unions are more appropriate for gay Americans. And while civil unions are a plausible, short term solution, it creates a class of citizens who — by nature of marriage being classified over civil unions — don’t have equal protection of and equal access to the laws, and in which civil unions fail to further the government interest of ensuring that all individuals are equally protected by and have equal access to the laws.
The real problem with the federal court’s ruling, as noted in “The Washington Post,” is that “it didn’t pronounce gay marriage a right under the U.S. Constitution.” How is it fair for a gay couple in (now) California to have the right to marry, while a gay couple in Florida doesn’t even have the right to a civil union? Those who argue that this is an issue for the states to solve know that the inequality that results from this warrants a national solution. It should come in the form of legislation that first, expressly declares marriage a legal relationship, and second, proclaims that marriage is a right due to two individuals who desire to be married to each other.