What Proposition 8 Means to Me

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On day eight of the court case Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a man named William Tam testified as a witness for the State of California. During a cross-examination with prosecuting attorney David Boise, Tam compared homosexuality to pedophilia, bestiality, and incest. Admitting that he had no references and had done no research, Tam stated that homosexuals are, “12 times more likely to molest children.” These statements were made in an effort to convince District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that the legalization of gay marriage is inherently immoral and wrong.  Additionally, these statements were announced as fact to voters in 2008, when Proposition 8 was on the ballot. Obviously, in retrospect, we know that these figures are false.

A lot of students probably don’t know what Perry v. Schwarzenegger actually is. To summarize—the case is a lawsuit, filed by citizens of California, against the state of California for denying gays and lesbians the right to marry. The lawsuit took place after Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 by a popular vote, making gay marriage illegal across the state; the trial began on January 11. After hearing about Mr. Tam’s statements on the eighth day, I felt compelled to attend the trial myself and witness such a crucial part of this nation’s debate over civil and human rights.

I went downtown, to the District 9 Courthouse on Golden Gate and Larkin on the ninth day of the trial and sat in on the afternoon session. Again, a cross-examination was taking place. Sitting in the courtroom, listening to lawyers bicker with each other and their various witnesses became somewhat overwhelming. Knowing that this debate, one that so deeply affects my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, will be decided by the manipulation of facts and figures, rather than the moral obligation for the American justice system to uphold the constitution, is sickening.

This court case is not simply about giving gay people the right to marry. Proposition 8 represents every situation in this nation’s history when the majority has suppressed a minority group. When black men and white women wanted to get married, the majority said no. After years and years of fighting for equal rights, interracial marriages were allowed. Now they are almost commonplace. The majority no longer thinks that interracial marriages will destroy families or corrupt children’s values. Similar acts of discrimination have occurred against women, Asian Americans, Jews and countless other minority groups who do or believe something that makes the majority feel uncomfortable.

Many Americans fear change or feel threatened when they are exposed to something new or different. Unfortunately for them, it is not the United States government’s job to make homophobic citizens feel comfortable. In a city like San Francisco, where freedom of speech is encouraged and actively engaged, many (but not nearly enough) concerned citizens have spoken up in defense of equal rights, combating the conservative belief that the government should control who you love and devote your life to. However, other parts of this country do not have the resources to know Mr. Tam’s statements are not true. They may not realize the toll this blatant inequality is taking on American society or how painful it is for people like me to know that I am, and potentially always will be, a second-class citizen. The verdict of Perry v. Schwarzenegger will be important; however, the decision of a judge will not dictate the reaction of the general populace. Accordingly, as a citizen of this country and a resident of California, I urge you to consider which is more unjust: the blatant discrimination against a community of law-abiding citizens or the discomfort of those people who refuse to accept change. 

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