Thursday, February 19, 2004

The punctuation of the law

San Francisco's same-sex marriage spree has gotten a lotta people's panties in a bunch, as it should: the mayor singlehandedly defied the law he has sworn to uphold. The fact that he did it for well-intentioned reasons - favoring the 'spirit' of the law over the 'letter' of the law - isn't going to save him in the near term - someone will get an injunction, and will smugly declare that they have restored the sanctity of marriage.


In the last few years there's been a lot of precedence set for such maverick political behavior, with the White House itself leading the pack in defying both the law and the will of the people. But Mayor Newsom's actions, while defying the law, do not defy the will of ALL of the people... only those people who think they have a right to force their lifestyle on others. By tomorrow over 3000 marriages will have been performed, with people coming from all over the world to take advantage of this loophole while it lasts. And so far, society hasn't crumbled as a result. *Whew*.

The Sacramento Bee reports that:

San Francisco's newly elected mayor, no radical, wrote a letter to the county clerk last week asserting that his obligation to uphold the constitution led him to declare that marriage, in his city, would be for any two people, regardless of gender. While Proposition 22 might have outlawed it, Newsom wrote, that measure violated the constitutional provision guaranteeing each California citizen equal protection under the law.

The problem with this, in my opinion, is that a law is only 'fair' if it makes as much sense if it were reversed. So, to pick a recent example: pre-emptive bombing of another country shows the world that you're just fine with the idea of pre-emptive bombing... which opens the door for someone else to do it to us. And you might not recall, given the politics of the past few years, that theoretically the law is supposed to reflect the will of the people... so having a maverick SF Mayor interpret law on his own is just as bad, in a purely legal sense, as having Jeb Bush declare that people with names or birthdays similar to those of felons should be denied the right to vote. It's supposed to be the Golden Rule, right? Not the 'Fuck Them While You Can' Rule. I have a specific interest in this area because history has shown that the conservatives have developed the 'Fuck Them While You Can' Rule into a science of its own.

Meanwhile, support for legal gay marriage is turning up in the most unlikely places. Holly Mullen's article in the Salt Lake Tribune, a publication certainly not known for liberal leanings, had this to say: will happen because recognizing gays and lesbians as full human beings, with a right to equal protection under the Constitution, is just and fair and decent. When a whole class of people is systematically denied the perks of marriage -- inheritance rights and Social Security and military survivors benefits to name a few -- simply because the majority finds its lifestyle abhorrent or something to fear, it's high time for a makeover.

Makeovers are what this society does. This is a country strong enough to absorb change and to promote justice. If not, blacks would still be picking cotton. Wives would still be their husbands' property.

My point, if I have one, is that it is none of my fucking business who marries who. But it is my business to work towards a 'fair' system of laws, which I do by voting my conscience and complaining a lot.

The best part of this current SF thing is that the court had to throw out an injunction blocking gay marriages... because of a misused semi-colon. San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren has shown the conservatives that if they are so eager to promote the letter of the law at the expense of the spirit of the law, they damn well better pay attention to the punctuation of the law. I wish I could have seen their faces :)