Thursday, November 20, 2008

A great harm to the cause of equality

A great harm to the cause of equality

By Eva Jefferson Paterson
November 13, 2008

Proposition 8 was not just an assault on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Proposition 8 injured us all.

It especially hurt those of us who historically have been vulnerable to societal discrimination because of our gender, the color of our skin,or the God we choose to worship. For Proposition 8 threw out the most central guarantee of our Constitution – that our laws must treat everyone equally.

I say this as a straight African/American Christian woman who is distressed by what I have been hearing in the aftermath of the election. I write these words as the co-founder and President of the Equal Justice Society, and as an attorney and activist who has fought against discrimination for over 30 years, side by side with people of every race, creed and sexual orientation.

It is not productive to fingerwag over who has been more oppressed than whom. It is not fruitful to scapegoat communities that fell prey to manipulative and dishonest campaign tactics.

Let us put blame on those who deserve it – on a political campaign that appealed to fear rather speaking to our higher selves. It was despicable for the Proposition 8 campaign to suggest that Barack Obama supported its passage, when in fact our new president-elect spoke out strongly against the discrimination that it embodies.

I'm reminded of Mildred Loving, whose landmark 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia allowed two people of different races to marry. She said last year on the 40th anniversary of the decision that she and her husband-to-be, Richard, were in love, and they wanted to be married. Mildred was African-American, and Richard was white. At that time, people believed it was OK to keep them from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom. The trial judge who condemned Mildred and Richard as criminals said that their marriage was against God and nature. Sound familiar?

I'm also reminded of the major victory in 1954 in the Brown v. Board of Education case. I am certain that if the ruling in that case had been put before the electorate, Brown would have been overturned by the majority, that at that time did not embrace the equality of African-Americans. This is exactly what was done to the cause of equality by the passage of Proposition 8.

An injury to one is an injury to all. Now is the time to stand together to do the work ahead, for we have a common enemy. It is injustice.

Paterson, an attorney, is president of the San Francisco-based Equal Justice Society.
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