New York and California have always had a twin sister sort of relationship with each other. One uses her brains, the other, Botox. One is the neurotic girl who talks up the perils of late-stage capitalism at a Bon Iver concert. The other is a Size 4. One now recognizes same-sex marriage. The other: Well, it's like, kinda complicated, okay?
Just like its budget and economy, California's civil rights are a mess. Gay and lesbian couples in California have had the right to marry and then had that right taken away. If you lived in San Francisco when Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom was mayor, you could have potentially had your marriage status go from No to Yes to No to Yes to
Sort of quasi-legal grandfathered in assuming you were married in the six month window between when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal and the successful passage of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.
Don't understand it? Me neither. Since Prop 8's passage, the case to overturn it has been on a very popular, if very slow moving road show throughout our jurisprudence system. Bouncing from court to higher court, the gay marriage ban looks like it will eventually appear before the U.S. Supreme Court, but supporters of the ban are doing everything in their power to make the road as long as possible.
After Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional and it was revealed that he was gay, Prop 8 supporters challenged the decision, arguing that Walker's orientation kept him from being impartial. After that attempt was rejected, this week Prop. 8 supporters appealed that decision.
The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but for gay and lesbian families, every day they're denied marriage equality is another day they remain second-class citizens. Watching New Yorkers celebrate last weekend was bittersweet; on one hand it's a huge victory, on the other we can't help but ask how long it will be before we get the right to marry again. And the one thing both gay New Yorkers and Californians have in common is that on the federal level, their marriages don't exist.
If there is one thing that New York's marriage bill can teach California, it's the power of leadership. It was Governor Andrew Cuomo, not the gay rights community who spearheaded the charge. This isn't to denigrate the political power of gay rights activists, just to recognize that it takes elected political leaders willing to make a principled stand to bring about change.
Can we really support a leader not willing to take a stand on the civil rights issue of the day? Either you believe that gay men and women have the right to have the same rights and privileges as their straight counterparts or you don't. Either you believe that two men or two women loving each other are somehow inferior to a man and a woman's love or you don't.
It's not a political issue. It's a moral one. Anyone saying otherwise is just kidding themselves.
Japhy Grant is a journalist who has written for Salon, True/Slant, The Advocate, OUT and The New York Observer. He is also the creator of the digital show, FOODIES and has directed music videos for bands like Grizzly Bear and online campaigns for brands like Max Azria. Read his commentaries on the LGBT community in Southern California every Tuesday on KCET's blog, SoCal Focus.