Big blow to bigotry

Yesterday is a day that will go down in history.  It will be a very famous day in the story of the gay rights movement.  The Supreme Court handed down two opinions on two high-profile cases.  One was about the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law which defined marriage as heterosexual-only even in cases where individual states recognized gay marriages.  The other was about Proposition 8, which was an amendment to the California State Constitution which also defined marriage as heterosexual-only.  Both decisions from the Court were favorable to marriage equality.

The decision on the Prop 8 case was, honestly, a non-decision.  The Court said that it did not have jurisdiction to decide the case because the people defending the proposition didn't have the right to do so.  So, they did not give a ruling on whether Prop 8 was constitutional or not.  However, their ruling did have the effect of overturning Prop 8 because it meant that the original decision by Judge Walker is now the standing decision and he ruled that the initiative was in violation of the US Constitution.  Therefore, Prop 8 is dead and within a month or two, as I understand it, gay couples will be able to marry in California.

The decision on DOMA was that Section 3 of the law was unconstitutional because it singled out a class of people (LGB people) and discriminated against them.  The effect of this ruling is that now any couple which is legally married and living in a state where their marriage is recognized, their marriage will also be recognized by the federal government.  Thus, they can (for the first time) file their taxes jointly.  They can get social security benefits, and live on base with their military serviceperson spouse. There are 1100 benefits now available to couples in this category.

This is a time of great rejoicing for gay people.  It is a time of great rejoicing for all Americans.  We are one step closer to an egalitarian society.  We are one step closer to equality for all.  We are closer to all being treated equally under the law.

The sad thing is that organizations such as the LDS Church and the National Organization for Marriage (also here) are acting as though they have suffered a defeat.  But they couldn't be more wrong.  The nice thing about extending rights to more people is that no one is hurt.  The true brilliance of equality is that none suffer when it is granted.  The fact that gay couples can now (or soon) legally marry in California does not take away one iota of the happiness, benefits, privileges, and rights of the straight couples which are currently married or will marry in the future.  It does not take away the rights of any individuals or churches or organizations.  All it does is extend the right of marriage to couples of the same sex.  The LDS Church has suffered no damage.  NOM has suffered no damage.  Other than a blow to their pride, they have lost nothing.  They may still carry on as they did before.  They are free to teach that homosexuality is wrong.  They are free to spread their doctrines and bigotry.  They are free to blog about their disappointment that equality is now happening.  The LDS Church will not be forced to perform gay weddings.  They will not be required by the law to allow gay people in their church (but, by their own policy, they do allow gay people to be members).

The real damage that has been done is not to anyone's rights, but to bigotry itself.  Bigots who wished to prevent gay people from having the same rights and benefits as straight people have been told that they are wrong.  They have been told that their discrimination is unjust and is against the principles upon which this nation was founded.  That is not an easy thing to hear.  In fact, being called a bigot is not an easy thing to hear.  Opponents of marriage equality complain that they are given the label of "bigot".  And this is expected.  Truly, who wants to be called a bigot?  But, honestly, if you seek to deny rights to one class of people which are accorded to another class of people, then you are by definition a bigot.  You are preaching bigotry.  So the label is justified, and rational.  If you do not like the label, then perhaps you should consider your own words and actions and decide if there's something that you need to change.

Religious people, particularly Dallin Oaks of the LDS Church, are complaining that this is the beginning of the end of religious rights.  This is simply not true.  Canada has had marriage equality for 7 years now.  The Netherlands passed marriage equality 12 years ago.  There are 15 countries and 13 states in the USA where gay marriage is legal.  In no instance has any law been passed which would infringe on the rights of religions to teach and practice as they wish concerning gay people and gay marriage.  But nevertheless, this is the picture that Oaks and others are trying to paint.  Play the victim card and try to get sympathy from people.

If there were a movement to make it illegal to be Mormon, or to force Mormons to accept a doctrine which they did not wish to teach, then I would oppose it.  I would not consider such a law to be just.  But no such law has ever been passed, nor has it ever even been introduced for a vote.  All that is on the table is equal rights for same-sex couples.  That is entirely irrelevant to religious freedom.  It is not a danger to religious freedom.  It does not infringe upon religions or religious people in any way.  All it does is expand the rights currently granted only to heterosexual couples so that now the rights are granted to same-sex couples as well.

Bigotry died a little bit yesterday, and it really hurt those who are bigoted.  Equality is progressing.