Look, here’s the thing: The court wasn’t being asked to decide of Prop 8 was cool, or even if making gay marriage illegal was right. If they were, they likely would have come to a different conclusion; after all, this is the same court that ruled last summer that the illegality of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Instead, they were only being asked to rule if Prop 8 was allowed by California’s state constitution. Their hands were tied, they literally could not have ruled any other way and not been unethical.
And most same-sex marriage supporters in the know were expecting the outcome, although of course it’s still a huge disappointment. But you know how you might gripe about your mom, but get shirty when your boyfriend does it? I can express disappointment in my state, while still getting my hide chapped by this “Tsk tsk, we expected more from a Varsity letterman California” attitude I’m seeing all over the place.
As much as it might comfort people who’ve never lived here to see the state as some kind of hippy-dippy, make love not war utopia, it’s simply not true. The entire state is not encapsulated in San Francisco + Los Angeles. (Hell, neither one of those cities are even the capital.) California is a huge state with one of the most diverse populations in the nation, and large swatches of it are as conservative as anywhere in the Midwest or Deep South. We also have a lot of immigration, and immigrants from many parts of the world (many areas of eastern and southern Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, etc.) tend to be more conservative than your average Californian. In my lifetime, we’ve had more Republican governors than Democrats. The state gave birth to Ronald Reagan’s political career.
I’ll admit it: We fucked up when it came to Prop 8. We got complacent and didn’t think that a bunch of Mormon carpetbaggers could really influence what happened here. And that belief wasn’t totally unfounded, because until the last couple of weeks, Prop 8 was losing, and in the end it barely squeaked by. But still, we shouldn’t have taken that early lead for granted. We should have been doing everything we could have done to hold and widen that margin right up until the election.
But the rest of the country who supports same-sex marriage needs to stop wagging their finger at California and look to their own state. At least we had legal same-sex marriage for a few months, and have thousands of same-sex couples that are still legally married. That’s more than most of you can say. And the states like Iowa that recently allowed same-sex marriage need to take a lesson from us: You will surely have a Prop 8 of your own come this or next November. Don’t be complacent!
People who oppose same-sex marriage are simply wrong, the same way people who opposed desegregation were wrong. They will be defeated as surely as those people were. It won’t be fast or easy, but I have reason to hope that it will be within my lifetime.
In the meantime, let’s take comfort in the words of Phyllis Lyon, veteran LGBT activist and one half of one of the first same-sex marriages (with her partner of 50 years, Del Martin) in the state:
I’m optimistic about the future. Look at all the states that have now done this. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. They may not all last. But it’s going to be all right. It may not be while I’m alive, but eventually it will work out that if two people want to get married, they can get married and it won’t matter to whom. We went through this before with people of color. It will be OK.
It will be OK.