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Archive for November, 2008

MSNBC Countdown program, Monday 10 November, 2008. Keith Olbermann’s special comment on the passing of California’s Proposition 8.

Transcript of the Special Comment:

http://thenewshole.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/11/10/1667759.aspx

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really just about Prop-8.  And I don’t have a personal investment in this: I’m not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics.

This is about the… human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not… understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want — a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them — no. You can’t have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don’t cause too much trouble.  You’ll even give them all the same legal rights — even as you’re taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can’t marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn’t marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage.

If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal… in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry…black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are… gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing — centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children… All because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling.  With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness — this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness — share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of…love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don’t have to help it, you don’t have it applaud it, you don’t have to fight for it. Just don’t put it out. Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don’t know and you don’t understand and maybe you don’t even want to know…It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow **person…

Just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

“I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,” he told the judge.

“It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all:

“So I be written in the Book of Love;

“I do not care about that Book above.

“Erase my name, or write it as you will,

“So I be written in the Book of Love.”

Good night, and good luck.

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Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Loving v Virginia, US Supreme Court 1967

Amid the justifiable celebration over the election of Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. Amid the self-congratulations of Americans on breaking an important barrier in their politic, and by extension, western politics. Amid the wonder of the moment of what was perceived by some as human progress, an embrace of real change, I was aware that this change was not universal and the embrace conditional.

At the same time that Americans voted for the first non-white President in their history, a monumental and historic change in itself, voters in the state of California voted to eliminate a right for a minority.

Earlier this year the California Supreme Court ruled that California’s existing constitution allowed for marriage between same sex couples, largely through its equal protection clause. Groups who oppose marriage for same sex couples, and wishing to maintain marriage as a heterosexual privilege (rather than the right it is) procured the required number of signatures to put the issue on the ballot for the November election (Proposition 8). Proposition 8 has been passed by the voters, and a right for a minority has been eliminated by the majority – Tyranny by democratic means – for the rights of a minority will almost never be supported by the majority, that is what the courts are for.

There has been some talk out of the US about ‘activist judges’ who make rulings in favour of minorities, in opposition to the wishes or expectation of the majority or those in power. What seems to be forgotten is that it is these very acts of perceived activism by judges, or legislators, who have implemented laws or made rulings (rather than popular vote), that have been the catalyst of the progress in rights that they exhibit pride in. Americans appear to be proud of their Supreme court, yet it was the Supreme Court in 1967 that performed an act of that would today be called judicial activism by redefining the boundaries of marriage in the US, by removing the racial boundaries of marriage. I belive that upwards of 90% of Americans were opposed to inter-racial marriages in the 1960s, yet the Supreme Court (not the voters) ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, that there will be no race based restrictions on marriage. This decision leant on the 14th Amendment to the US constitution, its equal protection clause.

In my opinion, limiting the right to marry by race or by sex is to set up a system of arranged marriages. This system demands that one group must marry (if they choose to do so) those from a group of the majority’s choosing, not of the individual’s choice. Such a system is the denial of love and the imposition of power by the majority. The right to marry is no longer limited by race and love between the races is free, but not between those of the same sex. Power has once again been cruelly and unfairly imposed upon the love of same sex attracted people by the voters in California and across much of the United States.

In a country that prides (and advertises) itself as the defender of individual rights and liberites. A country where its very own declaration of indipendence states that it beleives that all men are created equal, and that they are imbued with inalianable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A country whose courts are the bastion of, and catalyst for, human and civil rights; there is a country who appears to need to oppress someone, even at the level of a basic human right – like that of marriage – the freedom to love the one you love.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

Mildred Loving

To paraphrase Barack Obama’s catchphrase during the election -Can Americans fully embrace real change for everyone?

NO THEY CAN’T

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