California now has a constitution with an amendment that discriminates against a minority.
California now has two groups of people: one can marry, the other cannot.
California now has a lesser tier of citizenship.
On Nov. 4, a state known for its diversity and tolerance, voted to withdraw a conferred basic right to one million of its citizens. Large demonstrations erupted in spontaneous anger, even outside the state, and lawsuits were filed.
We were disappointed and profoundly saddened when it became apparent that Proposition 8 would pass. Although we knew it would be close, the reality that our fellow citizens could be this narrow minded zapped our hearts. We shared our heartache with friends. Many were married, then not, then again and now maybe not again.
The state’s highest judicial authority found that to marry is a basic civil right. That basic right was taken away by a voter’s margin of 4.5 percent. A margin this close is not the will of the people; it is the tyranny of the majority, precisely the thing James Madison warned about when he wrote about factions acting contrary to established rights of society. Equal protection under the law is in our federal constitution, but no longer in our state’s.
Although we did not defeat Prop 8, the campaign against it resulted in a giant step forward for same-sex marriage from the aftermath of Proposition 22 in 2000. Then, 7.5 million votes were cast, and we were 1.7 million short. This time a total of 11.6 million votes were cast and we came within 523,430.
The API vote was also a pleasant surprise. Back in 2000, APIs voted 59 percent to 41 percent against same-sex marriage. This time they voted 51 percent to 49 percent in favor. And during the campaign, we learned that APIs possess the finest infrastructure for social mobilization among all people of color.
We thought this campaign was about the preservation of civil rights, but exit polls indicate that a significant number of people reduced the whole of Prop 8 to the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. This is a religious definition of marriage, and one of our future tasks is to disentangle the confusion between a civil and religious marriage. One way to do this is by enlisting all California churches that welcome same-sex couples. And we will not again underestimate the lengths to which the Mormon and Catholic churches will go to prevent social justice.
Some thought that Prop 8 included a rule that schools must teach children about same-sex marriage; others thought that Barack Obama was for the proposition. Neither was true.
Rest assured, we are ready to take same-sex marriage to its inevitable conclusion of acceptance – not only is history on our side, but also the results from this campaign are as well.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride (apifamilypride.org).