Orange County California has a reputation as one of the more conservative counties in California. Most of the crazy right-wing conservative stuff comes from here. In 1978 we had Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, that proposed to ban all homosexuals from being teachers, fast forward 30 years later, Orange County gave birth to another discriminatory Ballot Initiative, Proposition 8, which overturned the 2008 State Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in California.
Proposition 8 was promoted by fundamentalist Christians and funded primarily by the Mormon Church out of Utah. Like with the Briggs Initiative, their entire campaign was based not upon a compelling reason for the state to deny civil rights of a particular class of people, rather it was based upon the fear of homosexuality and that it might be taught in public schools. The proponents of Prop 8 claimed that marriage was a religious institution that was traditionally the right of only heterosexual (opposite-gender) relationships. They argued that the foundation of marriage would disintegrate if same-gender couples were permitted to marry.Â This was the same argument used before bans on interracial marriages were lifted by the Supreme Court in 1967.
So Wednesday, August 4, 2010 was a particularly special day for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. On this day Federal Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger that the denial of full marriage rights to same-sex couples violates the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Walker found that the denial of marriage to same-gender couples violated both the guarantee of equal protection and due process and was therefore unconstitutional.Â
In the conclusion of his ruling Judge Walker found that:Â
“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”Â
As expected, the right wing pundits and politicians squealed like stuck little piggies.Â
â€œIt is an outrage that one arrogant and rogue federal judge can take it upon himself to overturn a centuries-old definition of marriage and family,â€ said the Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition. â€œ(Walker) has completely undermined the expressed will of voters at the ballot box. Direct democracy has been blatantly attacked today.â€Â
â€œThis is a radical action, attempting to throw out the vote of the people and change the rules after the fact.,â€™â€™ said Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Westminster. â€œThe battle for the merits of Proposition 8 is over,â€ continued Tran. â€œWe had an open, fair election of Proposition 8 and it was passed by Californiaâ€™s voters in a historic election. The judiciary must learn to respect those results.â€Â
I find it particularly interesting that Assemblyman Tran, on the same day that he sent out a mass email claiming that his opponent Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez has done little to promote or support religious freedoms and human rights in Vietnam, would choose to object so strongly to the reversal of similar human rights abuses at home.Â
The Orange County Rally in Sasscer Park in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse drew a respectable crowd, about 200 people, of LGBT community members and their supporters. They all seemed to recognize that this decision is merely another step, on the long road, to marriage equality for LGBT Americans. They understood that immediately after this brief celebration of a civil rights victory, they will have to get back to work. They know that they cannot just sit by and wait for equality to come to them; they must continue to fight for equality until that right is guaranteed.Â
The decision by Judge Walker should not be viewed, as so many Prop 8 proponents seem to claim, as an â€œactivist judgeâ€ overturning the will of the people. We must continue to remind these people that our laws are specifically meant to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of majorities. It is the responsibility of our legal system to ensure that public passions and irrational fears do not deprive individuals of their rights under our federal Constitution.Â
In contrast to the rhetoric offered by Westminster Assemblyman Van Tran, I was pleased that at least one elected official in Orange County showed up to demonstrate his support for LGBT civil rights and marriage equality. That one elected official was Santa Ana Councilman David Benavides. His presence at the rally was in stark contrast to the false portrayal of Mr. Benavides as a supporter of â€œracistsâ€ and â€œhatersâ€ promoted by former Santa Ana Planning Commissioner, an appointee of Councilman Sal Tinajero, Sean H. Mill. Mr. For the past several weeks Mill and Orange Juice Blog syncophant Art Pedroza, has been vilifying Benavides for recognizing the contributions of a committee of Santa Ana residents who hosted a Fourth of July Celebration in Santa Ana because a few of the committee members have in their opinion expressed racist and anti-illegal immigrant views.Â
Iâ€™ve got to ask, if Mr. Benavides is such a â€œhaterâ€ then why was he the only member of the Santa Ana City Council to attend Wednesdayâ€™s rally? Where was Councilman Tinajero, who so dramatically walked out of a City Council meeting because of his opposition to recognizing the hosts of the Fourth of July celebration? Where was Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez who also stormed out of that same meeting?Â Where was their syncophant Sean H. Mill?
I have been on the receiving end of hateful, homophobic, and AIDS-phobic comments and emails from Sean H. Mill. I previously assumed that Council members Tinajero and Alvarez did not support those views expressed by Mr. Mill. Based upon their epic failure to even show up, I have to wonder if I was wrong to give that benefit of doubt.Â
My point is that we should be wary and suspicious of those who toss around accusations of racism, bigotry, and hatred as political fodder. Usually the ones firing the shots have the most to gain from distracting our attention.