Fighting prejudice as Knight falls near
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Adam Levine
The Daily Trojan

EDITOR’S NOTE: In states such as Vermont and California, legislators and court justices are arguing over the legal, and moral, definition of marriage in reference to same-sex marriage. The wrangling comes as the states use domestic partnerships, adoption and other controversial topics to frame the debate. Below is one point of view from the Feb. 10 issue of the Daily Trojan, the campus newspaper of the University of Southern California.

(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES What is marriage? On March 7, 2000, California voters will get to answer this very question as the national debate surrounding same-sex marriage comes to California in the form of Prop 22: The Limit On Marriage Act.

This act, also dubbed the “Knight Initiative” after its primary supporter, state Sen. Pete Knight, contains just 14 simple words which have already sparked great controversy in this state: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Its supporters, known as the Protection of Marriage Committee, hope to ensure that California will not recognize a homosexual marriage legally performed in another state (currently, no state has legalized same-sex marriage.)

The Protection of Marriage Committee claims that the Knight Initiative is not anti-gay or discriminatory and cites a statewide poll conducted last August which suggests that as many as 63 percent of Californians support Prop 22. (A more recent poll conducted in November found only 50 percent of Californians support the initiative, with 41 percent opposing it and 9 percent undecided.)

Opponents of the measure disagree strongly with the assertion that Proposition 22 is harmless, believing it to be both divisive and mean-spirited, with far reaching ramifications that most Californians actually oppose.

The majority of Americans, for instance, support domestic partnership ordinances like hospital visitation rights, health care benefits for the partners of gay and lesbian employees and adoption rights for same-sex couples. Yet laws similar to the Knight Initiative have been adopted in Florida, Washington and Idaho and are now being used to roll back domestic partnership protections in those states.

One Idaho judge has already refused to allow a lesbian to legally adopt her partner’s child due to the states enactment of an anti-marriage law and the University of Pittsburgh is using Pennsylvania’s version of the Knight Initiative to deny health care benefits to domestic partners of its employees.

Perhaps the most used argument in favor of denying gays and lesbians the right to marry remains the fear that it goes against our country’s moral traditions. Unfortunately, this argument happens to violate the First amendment, which guarantees all citizens freedom of religion.

While it may make sense for the Catholic Church to recognize only marriages between a man and a woman, it doesn’t make sense for California or any other state to do so. Eight Catholic dioceses in California have given a total of $310,000 toward the Knight Initiative campaign, a decision

which many Catholics in both Los Angeles and San Francisco have protested. The government cannot force the beliefs of specific religions on the entire population.

Finally, the Knight Initiative - and legislation like it - violates the basic civil rights of a substantial group of American citizens. Only 33 years ago many Southern states, including Virginia, had laws forbidding interracial marriage. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law violated the 14th amendment, which stipulates that, “no state shall make any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling clearly defined the ability to marry freely as a constitutional right, and nothing in the text of the 14th amendment suggests that this right would only apply to interracial couples and not same-sex couples as well.

Using this logic, the Japanese American Citizens League, which argued against anti miscegenation laws in the case of Loving vs. Virginia, became the first non-gay organization to advocate for the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Unfortunately, the battle surrounding Prop 22 will not be a logical one. If what happened in Hawaii during the summer of 1998, just months before its citizens voted on a similar amendment, is any indication. Californians can expect a barrage of radio and television ads to fill the airwaves during the next month.

These will no doubt be complete with both rhetoric about family values and images of happy heterosexual couples.

These emotional arguments will play on the way that we’ve been socialized to think of marriage only in terms of a man and a woman. Rhetoric aside, however, all registered voters in California, will have the opportunity March 7 to answer the $4 million question: “What is marriage?” The only stipulation, however, is that they do not vote based on what marriage means to them personally, but instead on what it should mean in a free, democratic country that has time and again upheld equal protections for all its citizens.

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