Saturday, November 08, 2008
Prop 8 and other Anti-Marriage Laws
Last week California voters overturned the State Supreme Court ruling that allowed same sex marriages as an equal civil right. Hopefully the courts will step in again and rule that civil rights aren't for sale. In 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom approved gay marriages within the city, our Palo Alto PTA executive committee wrote a statement of support. That unleashed a furor among some parents and a PTA general meeting was called to discuss and vote on the action. There were many eloquent speakers, but I won't forget one Asian-American woman who told the group that before 1948 she would not have been allowed to marry her Caucasian husband in California or many other states. A lot of people hadn't even realized there was such a law and it was not something they would ever countenance. But a room full of PTA parents in 1947 would have probably stood firm behind those laws - fearing what would happen if whites started intermarrying and bearing children with non-whites. I think some people saw the parallel to same sex marriage when this well-respected Asian-American PTA Mom spoke up - realizing that in a generation or two, the community will have a hard time understanding those who tried to prevent two gay persons from marrying.
Many states dumped their anti-miscegenation laws in 1948 when Asians were allowed to marry Whites in California, but there were still 16 states who banned Blacks and Whites from intermarrying as late as 1967. Finally, all such laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. I was 14 years old, so it's far from "ancient history" for me. In fact it's later than the voting rights act; much later than the integration of public schools and Brown vs. Board of Education; later even than the emergence of the Beatles. But if you'd have held a popular election in many of those states, just imagine how it would have ended up. A 1968 Gallup poll found that 72% of Americans disapproved of marriage between Blacks and Whites (as opposed to only 23% since 2003). Sometimes it takes a court to get people on the right track and over time the prejudices and fears slip away.