Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Today is . . .

I don't ordinarily use this blog to trumpet my views on politics and social policy, and I certainly don't plan to start doing so on a regular basis. However, every now and then, I feel compelled to have my say. How could I not join today's Write to Marry blog carnival -- organized by Mombian -- which has at the time of this writing been joined by over 300 bloggers?

Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that state laws barring same-sex couples from marrying were unconstitutional. Tens of thousands of Californians--and people from other states -- rushed to formalize their de facto marriages and to join the mainstream of American life. However, the court's decision also engendered opposition and led to the introduction of a ballot initiative, Proposition 8, that, if passed, will nullify the court's decision. Opponents of same-sex marriage have swamped the state with donations and volunteers, and supporters of marriage equality have thus found themselves outgunned and outspent.

I realize that my desire to see LGBT Americans enjoy the same rights and shoulder the same responsibilities as everyone else may not be shared by the archival profession as a whole. However, if you share my viewpoint, please contribute to No On 8, which sorely needs your support. You need not be a Californian in order to do so; however, if you do live in California, consider giving your time as well as your money to the cause! (And, of course, if you're an archivist, please do your part -- regardless of your own views -- to ensure that the documentary record fairly represents all sides of this tumultuous story.)

If you're uncertain about the whole same-sex marriage issue, please ponder the words of the late Mildred Loving. Mildred, an African-American, and her late husband Richard, a European-American, were arrested in their home state of Virginia shortly after they married in Washington, DC. They responded by suing, and in 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia (was there ever a more aptly named ruling?) that laws barring interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

Mrs. Loving shunned the spotlight. She saw herself not as a political activist but as an ordinary woman who wished to marry the man she loved and to live quietly in the community in which they both grew up. However, in connection with the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, she spoke out about the ruling and same-sex marriage:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that . . . it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

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.
UPDATE, 2008-10-30, 12:17 AM: I forgot to mention that two other states have "marriage protection" initiatives on the ballot. Arizona's Proposition 102 and Florida's Amendment 2 will, if passed, amend the constitutions of these states to bar same-sex marriages; the Florida amendment will likely put an end to domestic partner benefits for straight and gay couples. As is the case in California, the Arizonans and Floridians who oppose these amendments are short of troops and funds; if you're in a position to do so, please help out the good people at Arizona Together and Fairness for All Families.

If these amendments pass, their practical impact of these amendments will be different from that of California's Proposition 8 -- neither state currently recognizes same-sex marriages performed within its boundaries -- but their symbolic meaning is just as crushing.

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