Last week, the state of California went through a whirlwind of change as Vaughn Walker, a federal district court judge who is allegedly gay, overturned voter-approved Proposition 8.
In Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the plaintiff claimed that according to the 14th Amendment, it is against the inalienable rights recognized by the government that the gay community be denied the right to marry their same-sex partner.
“Prop. 8, which denies gay and lesbian individuals the opportunity to marry civilly and enter into the same officially-sanctioned family relationship with their loved ones as heterosexual individuals, is unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the complaint reads.
Judge Walker found that it was unconstitutional to deny anyone, even homosexuals, the right to marry the person of their choosing. He said in a statement, “Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. 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.”
In response, the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender (LGBT) community sent out praises, but hesitation however, because supporters of the law have already filed an appeal of Walker’s ruling.
The historical Civil Rights case of Loving v. Virginia, a monumental judgment in the 1960s that made it illegal to deny couples the right to marry based on race, has been heavily cited during this controversy. Pro-same-sex marriage advocates assert this fight for marriage is the new civil rights battle. However, others are not so accepting of the idea.
Rev. Jesse Peterson, founder and president of BOND (Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny), a non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding families, starting with the man, is strongly opposed to the decision to overturn and is against same-sex marriage.
“I thought it (the judgment) was a wicked, evil move, that goes against the family; the traditional family. It is wrong, the judge is wrong. The people spoke and the people should have the last say so,” he said.
Peterson argues that gay marriage and homosexuality is not a civil right, it is a bad behavior, a choice.
“Same-sex marriage is not a right, it’s not a civil right, and for anyone to associate a behavior such as homosexuality or so called same-sex, when they compare that to the Civil Rights Movement to Black people, it’s a disgrace, it’s a slap in the face for Blacks and Whites who died so that we Blacks can have the freedoms in this country,” he continued.
Like many who voted for the ban, Peterson believes the 14th Amendment does not permit homosexual marriages.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a civil rights organization that advocates for the equal treatment of individuals, is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage.
The group called the overturn a victory for America.
Southern California branch chief counsel for the ACLU, Mark Rosen, says the 14th Amendment is what won the case for the LGBT community.
“The purpose of the 14th Amendment was to assure that groups that had been historically discriminated against, like former slaves, received fair treatment from the executive and legislative branches,” he said, adding that the constitutional law was established to make it difficult for the political process to deny fundamental rights such as marriage. “There’s a standard that has been set. If a group has been the (victim) of discrimination historically based on an immutable characteristic, a characteristic the group is powerless to change such as race or gender or national origin, then there is to be greater scrutiny of what happens, when that group is disfavored in a political process.”
Some would argue that homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic, but a lifestyle choice.
Peterson says members of the LGBT community do not have to be homosexual. He suggests that “spiritual trauma” has caused many members to move in that direction.
“These folk can overcome that. They don’t have to be a homosexual. In many cases, homosexuality comes from some type of spiritual trauma, where there is molestation or rape or coming from angry mothers who don’t want to have children or (who are) impatient with their children, and they hate their mothers and fathers. But it’s something they can overcome,” Peterson charges. “It’s ridiculous for anyone to try to justify a bad behavior and turn it into a Civil Rights issue.”
He also suggests that Black people should be offended that this issue is being compared to and put on the same platform as the Civil Rights Movement. He says those ideas disgrace the sacrifices Blacks and Whites made in the 1960s.
Rosen says the argument that homosexuality is an unchangeable human characteristic comes from the Loving v. Virginia case, and he explains that race is something an individual cannot change. He says marriage is what has been on trial for the past few years. What is being denied is the recognition by the state of sanctified love between individuals of the same sex.
“I think that Judge Walker’s decision educates the public that this was an amendment that singled out numbers that were LGBT for historical discrimination in terms of the denial of a fundamental right,” Rosen disclosed. “I think Judge Walker’s says to the public, let’s pay attention to the affect of Prop. 8 and how it singled out this group.”
He also said that it would be unconstitutional to deny groups of people the right of free speech, freedom of the press or any other natural right.
That’s where the confusion sets in for many Californians, who voted in favor of Proposition 8.
In November 2008, thousands of people showed up at the polls and 52 percent voted to ban same-sex marriage. People want to know what happened to their vote and why aren’t their voices being recognized.
The ACLU counsel says, that is the point of the 14th Amendment. Judge Walker found that a discriminated group of people was being denied their fundamental rights by the majority. The constitution was created to protect those people.
“The public can vote on nearly any issue … but what the public doesn’t have a vote on, are fundamental rights. The public can no more vote to deny individuals the fundamental right to marry than they can for a particular group to exercise free speech,” Rosen said. “That’s what the 14th Amendment was all about; to say that there were certain kinds of fundamental rights that the political process can’t give or take away from certain groups in society. If the public can take away the fundamental right to marry from a certain group, then they can take the right of free speech, or the right of free press, from a particular group.”
However, Peterson is not having it. Because of his belief that homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic, the reverend says the vote of the majority of Californians should be honored. He says the next step in this fight will probably be going to the Supreme Court.
“We should insist that the courts stop legislating their ideas from the bench and follow what the voters want,” he vented. “We should take it to the next level in the court system, and all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. We have to demand that the people who work for us do what we hired them to do.”