Thursday, September 8, 2005

On Civil Rights, Privacy, and Kowtowing to the Right

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to have his cake and eat it to. On September 6, the California Legislature approved a bill that would formally recognize gay marriage in the state. This is the first time that a legislative body has voted to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. Schwarzenegger, however, has said that he will veto the bill, leaving California law in its current discriminatory state.

While it is not the right thing to do, Schwarzenegger is well within his rights as governor to veto the bill. The problem arises when it becomes obvious that the veto is not out of any personal opinion by the governor, but instead is clearly a political play to the conservative base of the Republican Party. Schwarzenegger's spokesman has said that the Governor "believes gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship." What, then, could be the explanation for the impending veto of a bill that would explicitly give homosexual couples the "full protection" that the governor supposedly believes in? Only to kowtow to the conservative right and to ignore the will of the elected legislature.

No matter what happens on the Governor's desk, however, the bill's passage represents a great blow for equal rights for all Americans. This is the first time that gay marriage has been recognized by an elected body instead of by an individual official or by a court. The tide is turning towards equal rights for all, as it did with interracial marriage and the civil rights movement in the last century. Gay marriage is a civil rights issue and a privacy issue. It should be not only allowed, but it should be instead embraced and welcomed. Far from destroying the institution of marriage, as its detractors would argue, gay marriage would strengthen the institution, bringing in a group of devoted couples that are married in every sense of the word but one. It is time to give them that legal standing and recognition. Not just in California and Massachusetts, but in Oklahoma and Texas and Alabama and Mississippi and Washington and across the rest of the nation.

The tide is turning towards what is right. Today, I am proud to stand up and say that I am a citizen of California, where at least the legislature recognizes that we cannot discriminate against so many of our citizens simply based on who they love.