I don’t like Tuesdays. Too often they feel like a dreary extension of all that went unfinished on Monday, and seldom can they match the sunny halfway-there optimism of Wednesday or Thursday’s stoic determination to finish strong. No, Tuesdays have long seemed altogether ugly.
So you can imagine my surprise when this week’s Tuesday opened up with these beautiful words: “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
This remarkably unambiguous declaration was authored by 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt in what California politicians are calling either the latest and greatest milestone in the state’s expansion of liberty and justice for all, or else, a mark of its slow descent into godless anarchy — depending on their political leanings.
Once again, we may expect the Ninth Circuit’s decision to exact more vitriol from the right-wingers, whose lobbying firms are presently realizing they have misspent millions of dollars on an unsuccessful smear campaign.
I am ashamed to admit that, until now, a fraction of myself earnestly believed they would succeed; that their language of self-righteous intolerance would seep into every pore of our political organism so that no voice of sanity could ever again appear credible.
But look again at Reinhardt’s words. Inside them is such resilience, such an unflinching portrait of the immutable dignity of human beings at our best. The statement they make feels resoundingly obvious. We now seem to know — viscerally so — that to deny your countrymen the right to marry whom they love is wrong. This right is, like the flag to which we’ve given countless allegiances, indivisible; no banter about traditions may blemish it; no platitude wrought from popular fables may penetrate it.
Whether the inevitable appeal is settled in the unabridged Ninth Circuit or else in the Supreme Court, the conservative engines that have prolonged this debate by at least 50 years seem destined for failure. As the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state seems likewise poised for success, however, Olympia’s legislative majority recently issued a statement in defense of their opponents, requesting that conservative lawmakers not be called bigots for their opposition to the measure.
Such a statement ought not only to be issued to same-sex marriage opponents in California but also be the last of our olive branches. We must recognize that there are a great many people among us who woke up to the judge’s words on Tuesday and felt bewildered, threatened and enraged. I hope these people don’t quite comprise the 52 percent of Californians that voted for Proposition 8 four years ago, but their numbers and their wallets are still substantial.
To these people I would say this:
You have fought a long battle, but you have failed. It is understandably hard to predict the path that progress takes in a democracy, but nevertheless, you don’t want to be standing in the way when it turns towards you. I apologize, but at some point you have been deluded — perhaps through overexposure to televangelists or to your grandparents — into thinking you cannot be a good person unless you include heterosexism among your other moral bastions.
But this is simply not the case. I invite you to acknowledge your mistake, to reign in your rhetoric, and perhaps, to consider attending a gay wedding or two, which I’m sure you’ll find are quite like most other weddings. Pay no more respect to those who argue that homosexuality is somehow less moral or deserving of justice. Give no more money to organizations that mean to influence our democratic processes to deny people their right to marry.
I give you this advice for your own sake, because this Tuesday likely signals your last chance to switch sides in good graces. I can assure you: the movement gaining steam in California and across America will not be so sympathetic in the future, and today’s social conservatives run the risk of appearing like yesterday’s Confederates in tomorrow’s history books.
It is not hard to change your views.
Already, Tuesday and I are renegotiating our relationship. Of course, there will be more considerable baggage in the road of those who wish to bring their worldview into the 21st century, and I sincerely hope liberals grasp this well. But if nothing else, this Lasagna is here to keep that road as clear as possible, and now more than ever, equally accessible to every American.