Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Equality: 1, Bigotry: 0." Guest blog post by Peer Leader Marcos Garcilazo

Yesterday was a historic day for LGBTQ rights in the state of California. Since members of the LGBTQ population are often at an increased risk of stress, anxiety, and depression due to discrimination, Marcos has graciously written this post on his thoughts about Prop 8, equality, and discrimination. Thanks Marcos!

Yesterday afternoon, I was one of the millions of people on Twitter who was furiously refreshing their feed hoping that the Fail Whale would not show up. The day before, the judge who had been presented with the case that would rule Proposition 8 (which banned gay marriage in California back in November 2008) was going to release his decision. I was overcome with the same feeling that I felt the night of November 2008 when Americans made history by electing the first African-American man to office: history would be made that day once again.

At 2PM PST, Twitter exploded (it really exploded) with the news: the Judge had ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, meaning that people in favor of gay marriage had won this round. I have to admit that a huge grin adorned my face as I proudly updated my Facebook status with a link to the ruling and my own little comment - "Equality: 1, Bigotry: 0." I understand this is but the first step in what's surely going to be a marathon, but it's a step in what I believe to be the right direction.

As of yesterday, a very large part of the population got affirmation on a very deep level that there is hope for equality. America has a history of inequality and bigotry, sure, but we also have a history of people moving history along past such things, and yesterday Honorable Judge Vaughn Walker joined those people. His ruling, which is honestly one of the better reads of the summer (and I only read about a fifth of the whole document) very clearly asserts several things. First, his ruling upholds the notion that equality is not something we should be putting up for a vote. Equality in general is not a voter initiative idea - it is an ideal. Regardless of race, gender, economic status, sexual orientation, religion, or any other factor that may differentiate us from a larger group, when we stand in front of a judge or in front of a police officer, we expect that we will all be treated equally. This ruling asserts that Judge Walker heard no argument that was convincing enough to abolish that equality at the marriage license clerk's office.

The concept of equality is not new, but the fact that now we should be applying it to more people apparent is. If "marriage" continues to be something recognized by a government, which thereby grants certain legal benefits (e.g. hospital visits, tax breaks, etc) then marriage should be something every single American should be able to get. Throughout this whole debate opponents of gay marriage have brought up the religious interpretation of the word "marriage", and that's something that needs to be said: this debate is not about "religious marriage" - it is about the legal, government-recognized and government-benefited union between two people. In order for equality to be equality, it needs to be applied to everyone, not just to those the majority deems appropriate.

Second, this decision carried a deeper message for the greater queer community. This decision sent a loud and clear message that their relationships are just as valid and that their relationships carry the same intrinsic value as opposite-sex relationships. Through years of anti-gay messaging, it has been my experience that people do not carry the same level of respect for the word "partner" as they do for "husband" or "wife," and what this decision does is tell all those people that in fact there is no difference, that the love in a relationship is not dictated by the genders of the people in it.

Third, this decision was really heartening because it struck down discrimination, and as a "minority" discrimination is an issue. As I said, if people will discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, how can I know that it won't be because of their race the next day, or because they have an accent, or are of a certain religion? Discrimination is a disease as far as I'm concerned and to allow any kind of discrimination is a violation of the principle that our nation so often touts: that all men are created equal. If we are to uphold that notion, then we must do all that we can to make sure that every single person in this nation is an equal in the eyes of the law.

Again, this is not about the religious institution. This is about the legal marriage. Yesterday amongst the flurry of joy around this decision there was a lot of hate. Some people see this as an attack on tradition, and some see it as an attack on the will of the people. Appealing to tradition is one of the many techniques employed in arguments, and to that I say, just because we've been doing something in a particular manner for years doesn't mean we've been doing something right. As far as an attack on the will of the people, well, this is called a "minority rights issue" for a reason - this affects the minority, and the implication here is that simply because 52% of Californians have an issue with gay marriage we should embed discrimination into our state constitution. Minority rights would never advance if we waited for the majority to work through its concerns with any particular issue.

I hope that when this reaches the Supreme Court of the United States (and I have no doubt it will) I will see a repeat of yesterday. It is comforting to know that a community that so often has to deal with hatred finally gets a break, even if it's just a small one.


  1. Very eloquently said, Marcos. Thank you for all the work you're doing as a Peer Leader with SCPOC.

  2. My pleasure, Angie. :)