I have long argued that marriage is a legal issue that involves civil rights and as such is a status available to all citizens at the age of majority. Any laws or prohibitions that exclude or deny access to gaining this legal status for some adults are therefore discriminatory. The denial of marriage for gays and lesbians has been a clear legal case in my mind of such discrimination. Equal rights, I have argued, are not to be determined or denied by majority votes unless one wishes to first endorse the legal notion of tyranny of the majority who gain special privileges with the establishment of unequal legal rights based on group membership. This notion is antithetical to the fundamental autonomy of the individual that shifts rights away from each citizen to membership in legally defined and politically privileged groups.
It is with a great deal of satisfaction that I now read federal judge Vaughn Walker’s decision on overturning California’s Proposition 8, the recent plebiscite that rescinded the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. Judge Walker’s decision to overturn the 52% majority vote that denied gays and lesbians the civil right to marry was for exactly these reasons of discrimination on the sole basis of group membership – whether the genders of the spouses were the same or different. No evidence could be provided to show that this legal discrimination was based on anything other than this single discriminatory criteria that no other rational justification supported. Without going into the detail of the ruling, suffice it is to say that it completely dismantles the factual statements made in support of the proposition and makes clear that it is discriminatory solely on the basis of same or different gender of spouses without rational cause.
Well done, Judge Walker. May this case become the precedent. Step by enlightened step, may the bigotry supported by organizations like Focus on the Family and the mormon church and the catholic church (that to a large extent funded Proposition 8 ) be forced by secular law out of the public domain.