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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Gay marriage a matter of basic civil rights

    The United States observes Black History Month in February, followed by Women’s History Month in March. Both celebrate the stories and triumphs of historically oppressed demographics. Though neither group has entirely achieved equality in this country, this election cycle alone has seen huge strides for both African-African and women citizens.. Both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin were serious contenders for roles in the White House, and on Jan. 20, Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president.

    It’s easy, especially in the midst of these celebratory months, to pat one’s back and congratulate ourselves for the great strides we’ve made toward equality for all. Meanwhile, a new civil rights fight is brewing right under our national nose, and revealing that we haven’t come nearly as far as we’d like to believe.

    Last November, three states, including Arizona, voted to constitutionally ban gay marriage. The most notable of these states was California, which passed Proposition 8 with 52 percent of the vote. Prop 8 changed the California State Constitution to include a clause which reads, unequivocally, “”Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.””

    This amendment could nullify the nearly 18,000 same-sex marriages currently recognized in California, since the Supreme Court began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in mid-2008. That act seemed a major moment in the struggle for gay rights. Sadly, those opposed to marriage equality set out immediately to undo that paramount stride. The pro-Prop 8 campaign raised a whopping $43.3 million, making it the highest-funded campaign of the November 2008 election, apart from those of some presidential candidates.

    When Prop 8 and the similar propositions in Florida and Arizona passed, the United States took a major step backwards; constitutions were never meant to enshrine prejudice or take rights away from people. Constitutional amendments were fundamentally designed, from the Bill of Rights onward, to protect the freedom of the American people – never to challenge it.

    The last major battle in this country over marriage rights was the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, in which the court overturned an 1883 decision to allow bans on miscegenation. The case ended restrictions on marriage based on race, restrictions that had sprung up out of ignorance, hatred, and fear for the future of the American family.

    Sound familiar?

    With gay marriage bans in place in several states, this country has reverted back more than 100 years. The arguments used by Prop 8 supporters have been used before, by those who feared that a white person marrying a black person would undermine the sanctity of matrimony and tear the moral and social fabric of the nation.

    Almost immediately after the passage of Prop 8, dozens of lawsuits sprung up against it, many arguing that it violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. On March 5, the California Supreme Court heard arguments for both sides. It now has 90 days to hand down a decision, either upholding Prop 8 or overturning it.

    Hopefully, the court will decide to relegate Prop 8 to the position in which it belongs – a sad reminder of the clout of fear of an Other, made impotent by the rational power of the Constitution of the United States and those charged with upholding it. Perhaps Arizona and other states will someday follow suit. There is even hope that, like in 1967 with Loving v. Virginia, someday the entire United States gay community will be assured its due civil rights.

    However, much like the civil rights fights of the past, equality will not happen by magic. The current generation of young people must see that this is our fight. How challenging, and yet how exquisite it is, to be a part of something that our children and our children’s children will learn about in school as a proud struggle in American history. Do we want to be remembered as the generation that turned its back on this fight? The age that broke the American tradition of civil rights movements, of striving for universal equality under the law?

    No. Therefore, we must take this rare opportunity for change and run with it. We must speak out, repeatedly and unabashedly, against the gay marriage bans across the nation. We must tell our lawmakers and our courts that we will not stand for bigotry or inequality. We must, and more importantly we get to, fight for something major, for something real.

    And as history has revealed over and over, this fight can be won. Other civil rights battles are the most important precedents in this issue, and those precedents show that this struggle will bear fruit. This is one for the history books, folks. It’s time to get on board.

    Heather Price-Wright is a creative writing and Latin American studies sophomore. She can be reached at

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