I first heard a chant soon after Prop 8 passed while attending an event at Stanford that sought to make people aware of the high suicide rate among queer youth. I chanted along with students, focusing more on my camera than on the message I lost my voice echoing. However, months later I find that a call to action is needed more than ever, and I’m no longer hearing it.
On March 5 the Supreme Court of California will hear the first oral arguments in the case to overturn Prop 8. The basic legal argument is not over whether gay marriage should or should not be permitted, but rather what the difference is between an amendment and a revision. If the proposition – based solely upon its length – is considered an insignificant change to the total constitution, it is an amendment. However, if the proposition is considered a significant legal change that contradicts other elements of our constitution, it is a revision and must pass with a two-thirds majority in the legislature before being taken to a popular vote.
Step back for a moment and consider the implications of this. According to U.S. Census statistics in 2000, even white people became a minority in California, though they remain the largest demographic in our state. No matter who you are, you are a minority! Your rights are minority rights! The safety of all our rights is therefore dependent upon our constitution as the safeguard from popular rule.
Regardless of your stance on Prop 8 (though 84 percent of you voted “No”), this is a huge issue that should scare you. As most see it, marriage is a right. Consider what it means if Prop 8 is determined to be an amendment: The practice of excluding a limited portion of the population from rights enjoyed by others is legal, based only on the fact that it was just 14 words. Following that logic, if the length of the measure determines the significance of what is to stop, then a measure stating “Asians may not drive” would be only four words, and many racist stereotypes could lead people to say they were only voting in favor of it for their safety. And suddenly, I’d lose my mobility. Driving is considered a privilege, not a right, so it would be even easier to pass such a measure. The idea that length determines significance is absurd, yet that is the implication of the case that would allow Prop 8 to stand.
At the core of the case – that is, what is at stake – is the ability for a minority to enjoy rights without the fear of them being removed by a popular vote, something I always assumed was normal in our state, but was challenged last November.
On March 5, when the oral arguments are presented to the court, I will be in San Francisco to show support for overturning the case. Currently, I’m also working to make sure I’m one of thousands of supporters. I would like to invite you, my fellow students and community members, to join me. I honestly never wanted to be an activist, but when civil rights are under attack, I must follow my conscience, stand up and fight back.