History on their side

Gays and lesbians may not stop Prop 8, but the support of young people shows they eventually will prevail

What will Proposition 8 really accomplish? We know it won’t stop gay and lesbian people from loving each other or having sex in the way that’s natural to them, and it won’t stop them from making the kind of commitment to each other we now recognize as marriage.

What it will do, in reinforcing the majority’s conception of marriage, is tell a minority of citizens that they are different and somehow inferior and don’t have the same right as others to become legally married.

It’s not sufficient that same-sex couples can form a civil union, even if that union includes exactly the same set of rights and responsibilities as marriage. That’s a form of segregation not unlike the Southern law that forbade black people from drinking from the same water fountain as white people. As the courts ultimately decided, the fact that separate faucets both provided water didn’t obscure the truth that the law treated black people as inferiors unworthy of enjoying equal rights.

It’s not right for the state to give a privilege and specific designation to one group of people and deny it to another. That’s not the American way. As long as the state is in the marriage business, it should be in the marriage business for all citizens, not just some.

One way to solve this dilemma, of course, would be for the state to get out of the marriage business. Instead of issuing marriage licenses to heterosexual couples and civil-union licenses to gays and lesbians, it could issue civil-union licenses to all couples, after which they could get married in church, temple, mosque or wherever they wish.

Prop 8 opponents have filed a petition with the California Supreme Court arguing that the initiative process cannot be used to invalidate the state constitution’s core commitment to equality under the law. We hope the court agrees.

Even if it doesn’t, and even if the state remains in the marriage business, gay and lesbian Californians eventually will prevail. History is on their side. Most young people have gotten over the taboo against homosexuality, and they, after all, own the future.