“When civil rights are under attack, stand up! Fight back!”
I first heard this chant soon after Proposition 8 passed while attending an event at Stanford. Months later, I find that call to action is needed more than ever—and I’m no longer hearing it.
On March 5, the Supreme Court of California will hear the first oral arguments in the case to overturn Proposition 8, which seeks to limit marriage rights by defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. The basic legal argument that the Supreme Court will consider is not over whether gay marriage should or should not be permitted, but rather the difference between an amendment and a revision. If the proposition is considered an insignificant change to the total constitution (partly because of its length), it is an amendment. However, if the proposition is considered a significant legal change which contradicts other elements of our constitution, it is a revision and must pass with a two-thirds majority in the legislature before being taken to a popular vote.
Step back for a moment and consider the implications of this. According to U.S. census statistics in 2000, even whites are now a minority in California, though they remain the largest demographic in our state. So no matter who you are, you are a minority. Your rights are minority rights. The safety of all of our rights are therefore dependent upon our constitution as the safeguard from popular rule.
Regardless of your stance on Proposition 8, this is a huge issue which should scare you. As most see it, marriage is a right. Consider what it means if Proposition 8 is determined to be an amendment: the practice of excluding a limited portion of the population from rights enjoyed by others will be legally based on the fact that the proposition was only 14 words.
You know what else is 14 words? The protection ensuring I can say this! “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”
The portion of the first amendment that protects our free speech and press is a mere 14 words. The idea that length determines significance is absurd, and that is the implication within the case that would allow proposition 8 to stand.
What is at stake in this case is the ability for people to enjoy rights without the fear of them being removed by a popular vote. This is something I always assumed was a matter of course in our state, but it was challenged last November.
On March 5, when the oral arguments are presented to the court, I will be in San Francisco to show support for overturning the case. I also want to make sure I’m one of thousands of supporters. I invite you, my fellow community members and Californians, to join me in San Francisco. After all, our civil rights are under attack. We must stand up and fight back!
Visit www.100000march.org for more information.
Urvanshi Nagrani is a resident of Los Altos, Calif., and a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.