Wednesday, July 3, 2013

America gives and America takes

Yes, I am glad that the U.S Supreme Court declared that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, is invalid. Even if the Prop. 8 ruling hangs by a technicality (“I’ll take it!” as I read someone quoted), this pair of decisions is an astonishing victory, leaving me awestruck and pinching myself at times and not knowing when this will stop.

But I’m also alarmed, to say the least, that the court also, the previous day, essentially took the teeth out of the venerable 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring that the criteria for “pre-clearing” or approving changes in voting rules and procedures in certain jurisdictions known for past discrimination were out of date. Within days of the ruling, the Florida and South Carolina legislatures, controlled by the Republicans, were getting set to impose stricter voting rules (photo I.D, reduced poll hours, oddly shaped districts, etc.), making it more difficult for blacks and other minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, to vote and/or have significant impact when they do. So while gay people are cheering, other minorities are facing a tougher time.

And so it goes, and keeps going, in America, as we’re reminded as we celebrate America on the Fourth of July. Yes, we have great freedom and awesome rights in this country - the kind people in other countries die for - but, oh, how tender and fragile they are! And despite, or maybe because of, them being so hard-won.

I called the marriage rulings a “victory.” That means someone lost. And indeed, the proponents of Prop. 8 and the banning of same-sex marriage are fit to be tied and all the more so with the appellate court lifting the hold in California weeks before it normally would. Although I am pleased that these people - people who are generally the ones who make such a big patriotic deal about the freedom and rights that we are “blessed” with in America - lost, I regret that they are angry, and I see that they are trying to limit the scope of the Prop. 8 ruling, saying it wasn’t a close action suit.

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized, “There almost certainly will be new legal challenges, but the era of Proposition 8 is, for practical intents and purposes, over.” While it is good to know that “the era of Proposition 8 is....over” and that it is widely agreed, even among Proposition 8 supporters, that it is highly unlikely that any legal challenges will be unsuccessful, “there almost certainly will be legal challenges.” And other challenges.

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