Friday, March 06, 2009

Starr’s chamber

Today the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a legal challenge to Proposition 8, the ballot measure voters approved last November to re-ban same sex marriage in that state. Leading the charge in defence of Prop 8 was Ken Starr. (I watched most of his performance live via UStream, where the screen cap comes from), and he seemed affable, measured, he sounded confident and competent—all of which makes him one of the most dangerous people on the far right for precisely the same reasons that Mike Huckabee is: They don’t seem bad, and actually seem quite mild and reasonable, even though they’re anything but reasonable.

If logical gymnastics was an Olympic event, then Starr would have won a gold medal for his performance in trying to argue that invalidating 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California isn’t really invalidating them—even though they’d be, you know, invalid and all. Starr is probably the slimiest of the far right reptiles because he knows better than most that what he was arguing was utter nonsense, but he sold it convincingly, anyway.

According to California newspapers (neatly summarised over at Joe.My.God, where I watched the UStream player), the court seems poised to uphold Prop 8, though they were clearly having trouble with the idea of voiding—essentially divorcing—18,000 legal same-sex marriages as Starr urged them to do.

One way forward the justices discussed that even Starr didn’t disagree with—today, that is—would be for the California legislature to declare that all married couples in California are henceforth in civil unions, and that civil unions are the only legally recognised partnership in California, thereby getting out of the marriage business altogether (leaving churches to fight over "marriage").

Sound familiar? I wrote about the same idea nearly ten months ago. If a huge state like California abandons “marriage” altogether in favour of civil unions, then other states will be forced to re-consider their approaches if for no other reason than the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution. This could be the way to make civil unions actually mean something in the US, rather than it being a separate, and usually completely unequal, sop to gay citizens.

Whichever way the court rules, this battle is far from over in California or anywhere else in the US. The radical right created this battle, but there may be a way forward that ends the debate and the power of far right christianists to dictate public policy. The question, though, is if politicians have enough vision—and courage—to embrace it.


Nessa said...

I am all for California using civil unions. Technically that is what Derek and I have. If people who have their ceremony in a church and want to call it a marriage yay for them.

Awhile ago, I was reading a book by Sylvia Brown(shes a medium) and she said that marriage will be done away with at some point. It may be silly, but it gives me hope that things will change since she is pretty accurate. Here's hoping!

Arthur Schenck said...

Yeah, I don't really care what churches do or don't do, and I think this may be the only way that everyone can get what they want.