Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today's Civil Right Issue.

Yesterday, the guest on Larry King Live (which I usually don't like) was American comedian Kathy Griffin. She was on the show not for her Emmy Awards controversial speech but for her activism in favor of gay rights - what is often called LGBT here in America (standing for Lesbian Gay Bisexual people).
The topic was Prop 8 - a very much discussed topic here in California. For those who may notknow, Prop 8 is a ballot proposition that would restrict marriage only to a man and a woman in the state of California and a majority of Californian voters (52%) agreed with the proposition, but it was recently struck down by a Federal court on the basis that it was discriminatory. The decision has been appealed and gay marriages have not resumed.

Griffin is not necessarily my cup of tea - she is too much out there, although she has the right personality for TV, but I liked that she said that the issue is not a gay issue but a civil rights issue. And when Larry King asked her about "Civil Unions" she rightfully said that for one thing, civil unions do not guarantee the same rights.
I think the legal issue is the most important one. Clearly history shows that the right things are not always the popular things.

That being said, a recent CNN poll suggests that more Americans are in favor of gay marriage :

This is only one poll, but what is even more interesting - and I believe very telling is the generation gap :
Nearly 60% Americans under the age of 50 say gay rights are protected under the Constitution. Only 38% of Americans over the age of 50 say the same thing.
And as can be expected the split is pretty clear between Democrats and Republican but this is one of the few instances when independents side with Democrats :
56 % of Democrats and 57 % of Independents think the Constitution conveys the right to marry to same-sex couples. Only a quarter of all Republicans agree.

These are interesting figures because they show that society is changing and is becoming more tolerant. But then again, rights take precedence over popularity - which is why it is actually very sad so see so many African Americans against gay marriage.
One argument I often hear from people opposing gay marriage is that "marriage" has always been with a man and a women. Well, yes, but it was also only between people of the same color for almost 200 years - in part of the country at least. Things change and as long as it goes towards more rights for individual, and that those changes do not take anyone's freedom away, change is good.

What I do not understand is why people are so worked up about it - giving more rights to people does not take away the rights from others.
Of course, a lot of the opponents are opposed on religious grounds - it turns out the Mormons had a big influence in the Prop8 campaign - but marriage does not have to be religious. And when people come up with the argument of the "sacredness of marriage," one can just point out the divorce rate or even better, the quick cheap weddings performed in Vegas. (Watch The Hangover, if you want to see why that's actually laughing matter!). Who are we kidding here?
Unfortunately, if the case goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Prop8 will be be upheld - most justices are conservative ... and old, and very unlikely to see it as a right. But it wouldn't be the first time that a Supreme Court would be on the wrong side of history!

It make take some time, but it'll happen and it is now just a matter of what side of history you want to be on.

In France :
Interestingly, polls in France show an even greater majority in favor of same-sex marriage and a slight majority of people in favor of gays adopting kids, but even though France has civil unions for people of the same sex, marriage is still illegal.

In Europe:
But that is bound to change fairly soon. Many countries in Europe already have it: the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Iceland.

And people are ready for it :
A poll conducted by EOS Gallup Europe in 2003 found that 57 percent of the population in the then 15-member European Union support same-sex marriage. (Wiki)

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe Same-sex marriage Other type of partnership Unregistered cohabitation Issue under political consideration Unrecognized Constitution limits marriage to man–woman

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