Terrance Heath

The NAACP Gets It

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 18, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Politics
Tags: California Proposition 8, civil rights, marriage, Prop 8 repeal, same-sex marriage

Well, the NAACP has shut my mouth on this one. I was pretty hard on them this summer, when I got wind of a PFOX exhibit at an NAACP event. But it looks like the outcome off the proposition 8 vote has raised some alarm with civil rights groups, including the NAACP. [Via Kip.]

Meanwhile, five civil rights groups asked California's highest court Friday to annul the ban on the grounds that Proposition 8 threatens the legal standing of all minority groups, not just gays.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and two other groups petitioned the state Supreme Court to prevent the change from taking effect.

The petition is the fourth seeking to have the measure invalidated. But it's the first to argue that the court should step in because the gay marriage ban, which overturned the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay unions, sets a precedent that could be used to undermine the rights of racial minorities.

Eva Paterson, president of the San Francisco-based Equal Justice Society, said the election raises the specter of voters deciding to bar illegal immigrants from public schools, disenfranchising black voters or otherwise using the ballot box to promote segregation.

"The court ruled that to discriminate in the area of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and violated our guaranteed equality," Paterson said. "Why should a slim majority of Californians be able to put discrimination back into the California Constitution?"

OK. there's one thing that bears repeating here.

The petition is the fourth seeking to have the measure invalidated. But it's the first to argue that the court should step in because the gay marriage ban, which overturned the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay unions, sets a precedent that could be used to undermine the rights of racial minorities.

Next time you go to a protest, somebody please put these words from a previous post on a protest sign or poster. You have my express permission to use these words over and over and over again on as many signs, flyers, buttons, etc. you want.

You may not be gay, but you may be next.

The NAACP, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and those other civil rights groups probably get that they may not be gay, but if what happened in California on proposition 8 stands, they may be next. You may not be able to fit the next part on a sign, but it's the rest of the argument.

Remember that we used to live in a country where civil rights weren't decided by majority vote. Remember that we used to live in a country whose founding documents cite "inallienable rights." Remember that we're may not be living in that country anymore, and even if your rights were not up for a vote this time around, they are almost certain on someone's hit list.

Better yet, put this question on a sign.

Which of your civil rights do you want put to a majority vote?

Or this.

Which of your civil rights do we get to vote on?

Or this.

Who gets to vote on your civil rights?

Or this. [Via Woodmoor Village.]

If you think for one minute that the people who have been against civil rights from the beginning will stop with same-sex marriage or with gay people, you may be surprised. What they did in California was to establish a beachhead as a basis for overruling almost any established civil right on nothing more than a simple majority vote. In other words, they got a foothold for establishing majoritarianism.

What's unsaid and unquestioned in all of the arguments above is the increasing conservative push for majoritarianism. Or, to put it plainly, absolute majority rule. Might, in other words, makes right. The majority is automatically right , no matter what it wants or doesn't, because it's the majority. Only the current crop of Republicans and religious conservatives go a step further than traditional majoritarianism, by seeking to bar a future majority from disagreeing with the (perceived) current majority.

What's scary is that the creeping support for majoritarianism may result in a situation where no one has any "unalienable rights," that the majority can't take away, because the two avenues minorities have traditionally had to access justice that the majority withholds -- the courts and the legislature-- will have been delegitimized fo that purpose.They'll henceforth exist only for the purpose of enforcing the will of the majority because, as noted above, the majority can't be wrong.

What's scarier is that some pretty smart people either don't seem to realize this, or just don't question it.

Kip put it better than I did by simply placing two significant quotes next to each other.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Who's going to tell us what a civil right is and what's not? Well, the people will.

--Massachusetts Governor, Harvard Law School graduate (and Christian), Mitt Romney, June 28, 2006

Who? The people?

Like maybe Gladys? Or any of the rest of these folks?

Think about it for a second. If they had a shot at it, which civil rights court rulings would these people like to see overturned? And not just the people in the video, but the far more politically savvy people who get them "angried-up" and out at the polls? The people whose founders, favored politicians, and spokespersons have a peculiar habit of defending America's peculiar institution? The people who could conceivably mount a campaign to repeal civil rights rulings that they are "not against" but that are "no longer necessary"? (I'm just guessing how they might spin it.

Which would you like to see up for a vote:

  • Brown v. Board of Education (school desegregation, major blow against "separate but equal")
  • Roe v. Wade (reproductive freedom)
  • Shelley v. Kramer (racially restrictive "covenants" in real estate - This one's definitely on Glady's list)
  • Bailey v. Patterson (segregation in intrastate and interstate transportation)
  • Batson v. Kentucky (basically says you can't put, say, a Black person on trial and exclude Black people from the jury)
  • Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (defined "hostile work environment" as sexual harassment under the Civil Rights Act of 1964)
  • Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Serv. Inc. (same-sex harassment can be the basis for a sexual harassment claim)
  • Romer v. Evans (overturned Colorado amendment prohibiting protection of LGBT rights)
  • Lawrence v. Texas (decriminalized sodomy, overturned sodomy laws)
  • Grisswold v. Connecticut (overturned law banning contraception, right to "marital privacy")
  • And of course the major civil rights acts of
    • 1957 (established the Civil Rights Commission)
    • 1960 (federal inspection of voter registration polls)
    • 1964 (prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, sex, and national origin)
    • 1968 (Fair Housing Act)

You could almost line them up chronologically and figure out how far people would like to turn back the clock if they could. In a very real sense, even if you're not gay, you could be "next" on their list.

Granted, we do not have anything like a national ballot initiative, yet. But there is a movement for one, supported by former presidential candidate Mike Gravel.

I don't know if it would open the door to putting civil rights to a majority vote, and I don't particularly want to find out. Neither, apparently, does the NAACP.


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This also reminds me of the occasional efforts by Congress to strip federal courts of their jurisdiction over important civil rights issues, most saliently under the Marriage Protection Act a few years ago. What ultimately dooms these efforts by Republicans is the realization that jurisdiction stripping opens the doors for a Democratic majority to similarly limit review of expansive social welfare programs loathesome to the Right.

What I wonder about the Prop 8 appeal is whether there would be any traction in arguing that it exposes religious minorities (like Mormons) to limitations on their practices simply because of majority disapproval. There is clearly a victim discourse being bantered around by California Christians, and perhaps there is some benefit of playing into it (subversively).

Terrance - was the NAACP gay-supportive before Julian Bond rose to leadership?

Mike Osborne | December 5, 2008 11:09 AM

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The message could not be written more eloquently, yet after more than two centuries of innumerable struggles, many people still do not understand it. The great misconception is that in order to recognize equality for all, one must relinquish part of his or her own equality. In fact, Civil Equality is not divisible. It cannot be given in fractional parts. Civil Equality is a mathematical enigma where one divided by two equals two.

Our governments, Federal or States, must never enact such laws that deny a civil right to a single group while affording that same right to another group. Whether by legislation or voter proposition, it is a perilous action that creates yet another mathematical enigma where two minus one equals zero – because if ALL are not equal, then NONE are equal.

The passage of California’s Proposition 8 in the recent election must be ruled invalid. The California Supreme Court has already ruled that any such law is in violation of the State Constitution’s equal protection clause. Yet defiantly, the Voter’s Guide of Proposition 8 boldly states, “ELIMINATES RIGHT…”

The authors of Proposition 8 were insidiously clever by limiting the full text to one single sentence fourteen words in length: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Brevity is best when anticipating litigation. The reason there are only fourteen words in the text of Proposition 8 is because they cannot provide any truthful facts that would hold up in a court of law. They cannot list in the text of the Proposition any of the reasons cited in the “Arguments in Favor” of the proposition because they are opinions, not facts. Apparently, “Arguments” of a proposition are not required to contain a single word of truth.

However, Proposition 8 must be struck down because of its title: SECTION 1. Title – This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act.” The title is well beyond misleading because of a single word; “Protection.”

Protection is defined as “Preservation from injury or harm.” Marriage needs no protection by law. This title implies that there is an impending threat of injury or harm to marriage. There are no laws or pending propositions that would deny opposite-sex marriage. “Traditional” marriage will still be legal if same-sex marriage continues to be legal as ruled by the California Supreme Court. (The great misconception is that in order to recognize equality for all, one must relinquish part of his or her own equality.)

This proposition should have never been allowed on the ballot because of the lack of text. There should at least be a factual reason listed why the proposition is necessary (not an imagined reason.) A good example is “Only automobiles with catalytic converters are legal in California because facts show that this will reduce air pollution.” A bad example is “Only automobiles that are black are valid or recognized in California.” Originally cars only came in black, but now cars come in a variety of colors. One can still own a black car, but owners of black cars cannot be allowed to deny the right of someone else to own a blue car.

In my family, our “traditional” Thanksgiving meal was turkey. Some families serve ham, some people are vegetarians, and some people chose not to observe Thanksgiving. Government cannot enact a law that says “You must observe Thanksgiving and you must eat turkey.” Government cannot convert “tradition” into laws.

The “Arguments in Favor” in the Voter’s Guide might not be held to a standard of truth (sad commentary on our Proposition process) but it is worth mentioning that they might as well have stated that “If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, aliens from outer-space may land on your roof”, because that statement has exactly the same amount of truth to it as “We should not accept a court decision that may result in public schools teaching that gay marriage is okay.”

Proponents of Proposition 8 should be utterly ashamed of themselves. Their “Arguments in Favor” is full of lies. The Bible I grew up with lists “Thou shalt not bear false witness” as one of the Ten Commandments. Clearly they want to teach their children that lying is okay.

Finally, if denying same-sex marriage is the only thing that validates your “traditional” marriage, if your marriage ultimately has less value to you, or is injured or harmed in any way because same-sex couples (people you don’t even know) are allowed to be married, then the only thing your marriage needs protection from is you.