Lane Hudson

Bowing to fear, candidates ignore historic nature of CA decision

Filed By Lane Hudson | May 19, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, California State Supreme Court, Faith In America, gay marriage, Hillary Rodham Clinton, HRC, inter-racial marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court issued a historic ruling that overturned a law denying gays and lesbians equal access to civil marriage. For millions of people like me, it was a moving moment - a moment where we were recognized as being equal in every way in the eyes of the law. A moment that we aspire to see become reality in every corner of America.

Hillary Clinton had this to say about this incredibly important ruling:

"Hillary Clinton believes that gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships should have the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans and believes that civil unions are the best way to achieve this goal. As President, Hillary Clinton will work to ensure that same sex couples have access to these rights and responsibilities at the federal level. She has said and continues to believe that the issue of marriage should be left to the states."

Barack Obama had this to say:

"Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as President. He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage."

Seventy-five words and fifty-four words, respectively, about a 172 page ruling that time will surely find to be the definitive ruling on marriage equality. This ruling will be cited in every marriage case that will be argued in the future. The thoughtful, well written decision provides the pathway to ending the last vestige of civil discrimination in America. Yet, our Presidential candidates couldn't even muster the effort to acknowledge its importance. Disappointing would be a mild word to describe my feelings about them on this issue.

In 1948, California became the first State in America to overturn a ban on interracial marriage. In its decision on Tuesday, the California Supreme Court cited its own words from that 1948 decision. This New York Times piece, titled 'Same-sex marriage, racial justice find common ground' shows the parallels drawn between the two issues by the Court itself:

Not long into the oral argument before the California Supreme Court in March over whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry, Chief Justice Ronald M. George showed his hand.

Three times he quoted from the court's 1948 decision in Perez v. Sharp that struck down a state ban on interracial marriage, a high point in the history of a prestigious and influential court.

"The essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice," Chief Justice George said, quoting Perez.

Without doubt, this is the next step in America's journey to live up to the founding principle that all men are created equal. After the Perez decision in 1948, it took the U.S. Supreme Court until 1967 to overturn the remaining unconstitutional laws banning interracial marriage. Even then, public support for interracial marriage was incredibly low.

Today, America is closely divided on the issue. But we know where this is headed. It is in keeping with the tradition and history of America. After all, our nation has a history of making people equal.

Yet, our candidates fail to speak about it in real and honest terms. "I believe marriage is an issue best left to the States" is a very common position.

This all boils down to one thing. Fear.

Our candidates, our politicians, our political parties all fear the pushback from the Religious Fundamentalists in America. They fear that criticism so much, that they lack the courage to take action that would invite that criticism. By doing so, our candidates make the Fundamentalists stronger and perpetuate a society where gay and lesbian citizens remain at the back of the bus.

Neither candidates' statements are even on their website with other statements and news releases. Again, we are invisible. On the heels of the most significant victory for equal rights for gays and lesbians, we are invisible to the two most visible political figures today.

Rather than bow to non-existent criticism from an extreme political faction in America, our candidates should honor values that we all share; love, acceptance, and understanding. Honoring those values will require embracing the message sent by the California Supreme Court, embodied in this excerpt from the majority opinion:

"...retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise - now emphatically rejected by this state - that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects "second-class citizens" who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional."

Lane Hudson is Director of Communications and Strategy for Faith in America, a non-profit seeking to end the misuse of religion to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians. Learn more at

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I love this website for the way it brings together all of these amazing activists advancing LGBTQ rights and issues through so many different avenues.

Anyhow, I think you've hit the nail on the head, Lane: the response of our so-called political leaders has been rather anti-climatic in response to the monumental decision by the California Supreme Court. In some ways perhaps that of Cali's governor -- Arnold S. -- has been the most courageous in that he at least is on record in stating that he opposes the attempt from the right to bring a ballot measure to amend the state's constitution to ban gay marriage and reverse the court's decision.

I think you are right, Lane, that the cautious and near muted responses by Obama and Clinton are predicated on fear. What I find frustrating is that Clinton and Obama should be using the California decision as a basis to educate -- dare I suggest lead? -- the electorate as to why the court not only is right as a constitutional matter (in other words: what about "equal" do people not understand?) but why as a policy -- if not moral -- matter, the country should celebrate diversity and embrace gay marriage. The job of leaders is to step into the breach and not to dance around the edges.

The California decision reminds me of a few lines by Tony Kushner from Angels in America:

"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

I repeat...they have to get ELECTED first.

HoGB - I agree - Arnold has stuck his neck out the furthest on this one. I'm with Lane - the responses from Hillary and Obama have both been severely lacking. I expected more.

Even with all their "repeal DOMA (or parts thereof) and equal federal benefits for same-sex civil unions left to the states" talk we are a small percentage of the US population. As they must pander to the masses, or not piss them off and lose votes, this is just what I expected.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 19, 2008 11:21 PM

Given the forces of evil that Obama must overcome to win I do not find it surprising. The words "Marriage" and "Gay" never come off his lips in anything other than to say that he opposes them in combination. He has been unwavering about this."Domestic partnerships--civil unions" OK, Marriage is for heterosexuals.

I really have to say I don't care so much about state level marriage as much as I care about access to all civil rights and advantages of a federally recognized "Domestic Partnership," that includes everyone, supersedes state law and all issues relevant to child custody, contracts, Social Security, Medicare, inheritance, nursing home and end care issues. (Don't be a gay couple and try and live in just any nursing home, ask Patricia Nell Warren)

I think that it boils down to "what is in a name"
verses what is in your heart. Let the heteros have marriage. The connection of "love" to marriage is a new invention anyway. It was a tool of connection between families where women became a bargaining chip to secure property.

Historically, not long ago, a woman could not even hold property in her own name. It would revert to the nearest male blood relative of the husband. If that is what the heteros want to associate their sense of self worth to, good for them.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 20, 2008 12:27 AM

Civil unions equal second class citizenship. All three candidates are obstinately opposed to same sex marriage and say so repeatedly and for the same reason, they're all pandering to bigots.

That was why Democrats voted overwhelmingly for DOMA and why Bill Clinton rushed it into law. Then he used campaign contributions, many no dought from the GLBT communities, to buy radio ads on bigoted Southern christian radio stations to BOAST about his signature and asked bigots to vote Democratic.

This time around the two two Democrats resurrected George Wallace’s' Dixiecrat 'states rights' tactic to camouflage their superstitious (religious) opposition to same sex marriage. Their approach is just as bad as McCain’s, just worded differently to hoodwink the unwary, the naive, and people who'll believe anything.

A Republican politician is a baboon in a people suit with a totalitarian theocrat attached at the hip. A Democratic (sic) politician is a Republican in drag. A vote for either isn’t just a wasted vote – it’s a vote FOR bigotry, war, and the continued assault on our standard of living.

I bet the majority of the public also wouldn't mind so much if we brought back the idea of separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites.

I'm sure that is exactly what Obama is talking about when he supports the rights of individual states to work out these "public accommodation" issues.

Why doesn't he talk about drinking fountains when he discusses the importance of states' rights?

Doesn't he listen to his own speeches? I am sure that the Senator - and attorney with knowledge of equal protection guarantees - gave a speech a few weeks back about divisiveness and anger and how they bring out the worst in us instead of helping us understand how much we all have in common.

Maybe he should promise a return of segregated drinking fountains and vow to enter the White House from the back door...just because it will make more people happy, not because its the right thing to do. It would be consistent with the consideration he gives to same-sex families.

If I need to wait for America to have the courage of its convictions, then why shouldn't he?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 20, 2008 2:48 AM

"Don’t get me wrong. I’m 100% for everybody havin rights. But after all it was god who said he wants ‘em to have their own lunch counters, on account of diseases and such like. And it’s a proven fact that when the fagg…, er, gays, ride at the back of the bus there’s fewer accidents caused by scarin the driver with them lustful stares.

Now lookee here, me ‘n George Wallace and Brother Obama and Sister Hillary are for States Rights and them Damnyankees and Californicators have no business interferin with us. If they don’t git we’re gonna knock them goddamnable scalawags right into next week."

This is a direct quote from

A - a high level official of the Clinton Campaign, speaking at a luncheon of her admirers including Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, Pat Robertson and Rupert Murdoch;

B - The Very Reverend Donnie McClurkin, Obama's guide to the spirit world;

C - KKKarl Rove, George Bush's guide to everything;

D – Goodman Reverend Hagee, McCains guide to appeasing the sky pixies whose anger summons hurricanes, or;

E - A bigot by any other name.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 20, 2008 5:30 AM

Patrick, Good point. Maybe a smart debate moderator at ABC,NBC,CBS,or CNN will ask Obama that exact question about states rights when it is convenient to avoid answering and inconvenient question. I am sure you or Lane could work to get that question out in the public debate frequently enough.

Of course, Obama could lose and we could end up with John McCain in the White House instead. Although some think that would make no difference, a strong majority in congress affects a lot and we are more organized in DC than ever before to work with congress.

We are not equal in the eyes of the law until we are equal in the eyes of federal law. Federal law does recognize state marriages for the goody bag of government benefits. It must now include domestic partnerships.

I am sorry we expect to much from our elected officials, but Hillary and Barrack do have to get elected, would you like to say something that would hurt their electability against "son of Bush"

Our biggest champion Dennis Kucinich, could not muster enough votes to stay in the race.

We need to stop condemning and step up the education of our politicians. There are still quite a few that do not know us or understand what we want. Maybe its because they have their heads buried in the sand or maybe its because they are just stupid idiots, either way it is up to us to let every politician and citizen to know that their fears are meritless.

As much as it seems like we need to do more educating, Tammie, I think the situation is actually worse.

Both Clinton and Obama are smart and experienced enough to know exactly what the issue is in regard to same-sex marriage. The easy answer only generally addresses (lip service) tolerance and fairness. The difficult response has to do with constitutional protections.

By hiding behind a pro states' rights position, Clinton and Obama can ignore all of the harm already done in DOZENS of states. Forty one states have passed a DOMA. Nearly 30 others have (or will have) an amendment to their state constitution. How can either of them read the CA Supreme Court decision and believe that a states' rights position is viable? How can anyone (pro or con) let them get away with saying that it is?

I, for one, am not willing to put my eggs in the basket of a candidate - especially an African American one or a woman - that cannot find some way to make a positive personal statement about my citizenship because it isn't politically sustainable to them when neither of their identities have been politically viable (and my still not be).

Their positions are cowardly, unforgivable, and extremely shallow. Is this what we call change?

It sounds like the same old thing to me...just pumped up with desperation and the resignation that we will never get what we deserve.

And we never will if we don't demand equality. The risk is THEIRS - if they can't support my citizenship, I can't support their candidacy. What would their win mean? Why would I believe either of them would be better for me when I have to read between the lines of their incomprehensible position (states' rights!?!?!) for a glimmer of hope??

I already came out of the closet. Now it's their turn.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 20, 2008 12:07 PM

Patrick, your passion is inspiring. Now, which party has presided over the creation of concentration camps, while eroding the Bill of Rights, with the so called: "Patriot Act?"

Make whatever reasoned choice you like, but remember which side would destroy you if they could. In an imperfect world I have learned to find the best solutions available.

Hm. I dunno. I think it just confirms what everyone already thought about these campaigns. They don't really care about LGBT rights, so they're not going to release huge statements.

Other than that, I disagree with the comments here that voting for Barack is the same thing as voting for McCain. Voting is something that takes half an hour every couple of years. It shouldn't be the only thing we do to change the system. It's a small part, but we need to put someone in that office who can be pushed. McCain can't be, Obama, I think, could.

Which party had the House, Senate, and White House but very reluctantly deigned to recognize womens suffrage...and they had to be shamed into it?


Which party built their power by challenging the success of the Union following the civil war, consequently ensuring a repeal of all but the words in the 13, 14, 15th amendments...and let that erosion continue for 70+ years?


Alex is right. Left to their own devices, they will take care of themselves only...don't be a sucker.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 20, 2008 11:09 PM

Who’s for the Paytriot Act? Clinton, McCain and Obama all voted yes to reauthorize the severely anti-constitutional Paytriot Act in March of 2006. (Clinton and McCain voted for it first time around but Obama was not in the Senate in 2001.)

The three of them voted to give giving the Bush administration the right to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to “terrorism”, conduct “roving” surveillance activities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, seize voice-mail messages pursuant to getting arrest warrants, set up domestic concentration camps for the first time since WWII and suspend habeas corpus. How reckless and dangerous is that?

The act, which initially passed in 2001 with only one dissenting Senate vote, by Feingold, enjoyed overwhelming support from the Democratic (sic) and Republicans parties, just like DOMA, DADT and NAFTA. It’s in basic conflict with the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and other sections of the Bill of Rights and remains exceedingly dangerous. Some compare it to the Reichstag’s 1933 Enabling Act that set Hitler on his course.

The key question is why they didn’t repeal it. They’ve controlled Congress for the last two years and were elected based on promises to end the war. They did neither. Nor did they even attempt to impeach and indict Cheney and Bush and convene an International War Crimes Tribunal.

Why? We’ll get our answer when the next administration, whether Democratic (sic) or Republican attempts to continues the war, destroy the Constitution, attack our standard of living and pass gutted bills against discrminiation and hate crimes.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2008 5:47 AM

Patrick, I commend to you a great book entitled:

"Ain't you glad you joined the Republican Party" It is an unnecessary and foolish assumption to conclude that either party has not hula danced around issues over the past 150 years.

Mr. Perdue, Senator Clinton was junior senator from the State that was attacked during 9/11 and emotions were understandably high.

Find best solutions and understand history.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 21, 2008 6:30 PM

Alex, it’s not just a half hour every two years. Support for candidates, especially rightwing candidates like Obama, McCain and Clinton is counterpoised to and interferes with legitimate movement building.

Where are the antiwar demonstrations? Why didn’t we have a March on Washington to oppose the Democrats gutting ENDA and tossing it and the hate crimes bill in the garbage? Where are the mass rallies to defend abortion rights or immigrants? They’re all on hold until after the election. That’s just what the Democratic (sic) leadership (sic) wants, to siphon off our energy to help elect their sordid collection of fakes and backstabbers.

It’s those mass movements and their energy that produce change. Politicians and judges of both parties bend to them as needed.

During elections people catch election fever. They get caught up in the frenzy and mistakenly project their ideas and desires on candidates who don’t give a rat’s ass about them. That and the weight of right wing voters will elect Obama, McCain or Clinton. They’ll be the usual small protest vote and tens of millions will again simply boycott the elections as a waste of time. They don't vote because they know the two party shell game means that rightwing politics win no matter which party wins. The war/genocide will go on, the rich will get a new round of tax breaks and our standard of living will fall. Prices for food, gas, and healthcare will skyrocket and the US will still be a cesspool of bigotry. Same old same old.

After the election we’ll rebuild the GLBT, antiwar and other movements to clean up the mess made by people who voted for rightwing candidates. Then the fun begins. Especially if a Democrat wins by a big margin, which is likely. It'll prove the maxim that the bigger they are the harder they fall. Ask LBJ. Ask Nixon. Both won by huge margins and both were forced out of the White House. And they were utterly humiliated by the Vietnamese and the civilian and GI antiwar movements. Something similar will happen to Bush's successor and to his imperial plans for oil hegemony.