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More Rights Than
Marriage Hinge on Prop. 8 Hearing

More Rights Than
Marriage Hinge on Prop. 8 Hearing


The passage of Prop. 8 not only eliminated marriage equality but also radically altered our state's constitution. Thursday's hearing will hopefully reverse it.

Last November, a simple majority of California voters passed Proposition 8 and supported stripping away our fundamental right to marry. As if this isn't heartbreaking enough, if Prop. 8 is allowed to stand, the damage will extend far beyond the issue of marriage and Prop. 8 will prove to be a great deal more insidious than most voters ever realized.

By passing Prop. 8, California voters did not just vote to eliminate marriage equality. They also voted to drastically and radically alter our state constitution, changing its very purpose and, in the process, putting every fundamental right won by the LGBT community at risk.

The California constitution was created to ensure equal protection and empowerment under the law for all people. Prop. 8 marks the first time a constitutional amendment will have been used to take away an existing fundamental right (in this case, marriage) from one particular group (LGBT community members). In doing so, Prop. 8 destroys the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law -- a principle codified in our constitution and intended to protect minority groups from the oppression of the majority.

If allowed to stand, Prop. 8 sets a dangerous precedent, permitting the majority to take away any fundamental right from any group. Without the right to equal protection, all minority groups are at risk of facing discrimination at the ballot box. Though this reality affects all of us, the current campaigns already under way against LGBT families place us at immediate risk.

Our organization, Equality California, started just over 10 years ago. And in that short time, we have helped move California to the forefront of LGBT rights. Lobbying our state's elected officials, we've sponsored and passed laws that prevent discrimination in schools, ensure equal and fair treatment for LGBT adoptive parents, and secure inheritance rights for same-sex partners. We've won housing and employment protections for the transgender community, and we helped make California the first state in the nation to establish a domestic-partner registry.

We've made a great deal of progress these past few years, but Prop. 8 put all of that progress at risk. If the voters are allowed to take away our fundamental right to marry, nothing can stop them from taking away our right to adopt our children. Nothing can stop them from deciding that housing discrimination or employment discrimination should be allowed. The law and our constitution would stand powerless in the face of the voters. Losing the right to marry could be just the beginning. We could very realistically lose our homes, our jobs, even our children.

But there is hope. We are working in the courts and throughout the state to make certain that Prop. 8 is overturned and that California is a welcoming place for LGBT people.

In the courts, Equality California has sued on behalf of our members to overturn Prop. 8. And on March 5, our team of attorneys, led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union, will argue our case in front of the supreme court of California. We will rightly argue that Prop. 8 usurps the guarantee of equal protection and bypasses our legal safeguards. Specifically, fundamental changes to the constitution (called revisions) must begin in the state legislature, where a full two thirds of both the state senate and state assembly must also support the revision.

Luckily, we do not stand alone in this fight. More than 300 leading civil rights organizations, legal scholars, and faith leaders have already submitted amicus briefs to the court indicating their support of our argument, including the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the California Council of Churches. The state assembly and state senate both passed resolutions stating their belief that Prop. 8 is an invalid revision to the constitution.

But victory in the court is far from certain, and no matter the outcome, the work to achieve acceptance and understanding must continue. Prop. 8 showed clearly that there are still significant numbers of Californians who do not support our rights and freedoms. From a post-election survey conducted by pollster David Binder, we learned that the single most important factor in convincing California voters to support the freedom to marry is a face-to-face conversation.

To help us win the hearts and minds of Californians, the Equality California Institute, along with coalition partners, recently launched the "I Do" public education campaign as part of the Let California Ring project. The "I Do" campaign provides tools to help supporters of LGBT rights get these critical conversations started. We are also selling merchandise to build public awareness on the freedom to marry. To help our coalition partners grow and strengthen, all proceeds from the merchandise will go directly to their efforts.

Ten years ago, even the most optimistic of people may not have predicted our movement would have made such great strides in such a short amount of time. We should be proud of our accomplishments, but we still have a great deal of work to do. Each one of us must continue to do our part so that we win in the court of public opinion. Prop. 8 showed how much work there is left to be done, and invalidating that discriminatory, unconstitutional amendment is just the beginning.

Last year the supreme court of California did what is just and extended the right to marry for same-sex couples. This year, they must do what is right again and overturn Prop. 8. Regardless of their ultimate decision, we must all do our part. We must start the conversation and we must continue the fight until all LGBT people across California and the world realize full and total equality.

We can win. And we will.

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