Proposition 8According to the Constitution, it states that all men are created equal and are given inherent rights as endowed by their Creator. The Creator our Founding Fathers were referring to is...

Proposition 8

According to the Constitution, it states that all men are created equal and are given inherent rights as endowed by their Creator. The Creator our Founding Fathers were referring to is God the Father who years before stated that "a man should leave his father and mother and cleave until is wife (or husband)." Now if this is the case, how is it that the passage of Proposition 8   (before it was overturned) denied people of equal rights, when these particular rights are guaranteed by our Creator conditional upon obedience to His laws?

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to admit, I'm very confused by this post. Are you suggesting that gay people don't have the right to marriage because they don't obey the laws of the Creator? Or are you saying that Prop 8 couldn't have denied people equal rights because only the Creator can guarantee them? Either way, this argument has nothing to do with the validity of Proposition 8.

Before I get into why this is true, I'd like to clarify something. The document guaranteeing citizens equal rights is the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence. The First Amendment of that document states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". The historical interpretation of this sentence has resulted in our so-called "separation of church and state". So the issue of whether or not a Creator is guaranteeing rights has no place in this discussion. If we follow the line of logic presented in your last question, it seems that there would be no need for laws, courts, etc., because everything would be guaranteed by the Creator to those who follow his laws, and denied to everyone else. So, in this thinking, the only people having their rights violated would be those who are not obedient to God?

However, an explanation of the actual decision is in order. Judge Walker ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional through two channels: due process and equal protection. Here is the explanation for the due process argument.

Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals. The evidence shows that domestic partnerships do not fulfill California’s due process obligation to plaintiffs for two reasons. First, domestic partnerships are distinct from marriage and do not provide the same social meaning as marriage. Second, domestic partnerships were created specifically so that California could offer same-sex couples rights and benefits while explicitly withholding marriage from same-sex couples.

So, the due process argument establishes marriage as a fundamental right. This ruling also strikes down the practice of offering domestic partnerships as unions equal to marriage, following previous rulings on "separate but equal" issues. This is then supported by the equal protection argument.

[P]roponents presented no reliable evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have any negative effects on society or on the institution of marriage. The evidence shows that allowing same-sex couples to marry will be simple for California to implement because it has already done so; no change need be phased in. The evidence does not support a finding that California has an interest in preferring opposite-sex parents over same-sex parents. Indeed, the evidence shows beyond any doubt that parents’ genders are irrelevant to children’s developmental outcomes.

The judge's final point is very clear:

The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples. Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In short, the only argument offered in opposition is that same-sex marriages are morally wrong, based on no rational evidence. The last sentence says it all. Finally, some argue that this ruling itself is unconstitutional, because it overturns the will of the voters. Yet that is precisely why the courts exist. If voter will was the end all & be all, some states would still have laws outlawing inter-racial marriages. I doubt anyone would seriously suggest here that this situation would be constitutionally right. The ruling in California follows the same logic. And everyone is guaranteed those fundamental rights by our nation's Constitution, no matter in what creator (or lack thereof) you believe.

All quotes taken from Judge Walker's actual ruling.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bravo, post #2.  The poster does a wonderful job of analyzing the ruling, the argument, and addressing the question.

I do want to offer some historical comparisons to think about when it comes to our opinions on this ruling and the larger issues of gay rights in America and human rights overall.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights contain what we call inalienable rights, meaning the rights are absolute for all citizens of the country, regardless of popular will, regardless of the degree of social acceptance of discrimination against any citizen or group.

Consider the following examples of public opinion in years past, and the way the Constitution and courts functioned in those situations:

1)  In the 1920s, a large anti-immigrant backlash was accompanied by a wave of anti-Catholic sentiment in the US, as many of the most recent immigrants were from southern Europe and Poland.  The Ku Klux Klan took up the anti-Catholic cause and experienced a large surge in membership.  In some cities and regions, anti-Catholic actions were sponsored or supported by local governments and law enforcement.  The 1st amendment protected them, as freedom of religion is an inalienable right.

2)  The 1st amendment also protected the establishment and practice of the Mormon faith, even as they had been driven west by sometimes violent mobs.  While they were unpopular with the majority of Americans in the mid-1800s, their choice of worship was (and is) Constitutionally protected.

I would venture to argue that the vast majority of Americans would support the right of both religions to exist, and for people to be able to practice them without restraint, even though, at one time, a majority would have opposed it.  In this way, the Constitution and its enshrined rights are very progressive in nature.

3)  in 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that you could not segregate people based on race.  A vast majority of southern whites were against this ruling at that time, and in the two decades that followed.  Today, however, it seems ludicrous to almost all Americans that race would be a legal basis for discrimination.

Gay Americans are also citizens.  They enjoy the same rights as every other citizen.  So in this way, passing laws that limit them based on this identity, even with majority direct popular consent, is unconstitutional, which is essentially what this judge ruled.

I would venture to say that in 50 years, most Americans will look back at discrimination against gays the way they now look back at discrimination against blacks during the Jim Crow era, and will be glad that the Constitution, once again, protected us from ourselves.

I understand that some Americans' religious beliefs include condemnation of gays by God or the Bible.  I support their right to believe that, as it is Constitutionally protected, as long as that belief does not get used as justification for infringing upon the Constitutional rights of others, as Proposition 8 did.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marriage is not just a part of the civil code, but a religious tradition as well. The American legal system historically has recognized marriage as an economic contract between a man and a woman. I didn't realize until my first divorce that marriage is, under the law, an economic contract. My religious upbringing (Presybterian) taught me that marriage is for males and females, although the national leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is much more liberal now in its treatment of gay and lesbian issues.

I don't understand why two gay people cannot create an economic contract between themselves that grants each other the same rights that a husband and wife would have, such as inheritance of property (which can be done via a will). Gays already have the right to assign health insurance benefits to their "domestic partners" in California, while heterosexual unmarried couples are denied this right. (I know this because my most recent full-time employer was California-based.)

It seems to me, and I understand that I might be mistaken, that gay rights groups are pushing for gay marriage in an effort to push their agenda on the rest of the citizenry.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a fascinating discussion we have here.  Thank you for all your insights and observations.  My comments are fairly simple, compared to those already posted.  "Rights" as outlined by the Constitution for legal and arguably moral purposes are not equal to God's telling us men shall leave and cleave.  Not all men (or women) marry, but they do all have rights.  The Bible is clear about homosexual behavior as a sin, for sure; however, the major precept of the Bible and of Christianity is that we're to love all sinners but not their sin.  In the broadest of terms, Constitutional rights and God's mandates are not one and the same.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Antigay discrimination is just as wrong as any other discrimination. Not too long ago, a man and woman of different races couldn't marry. Gay marriage is the same issue. We consider it wrong that mixed race couples used to be illegal, yet gay marriage is controversial?