After Gays, who will be the next legal targets?

Prop. 8: Sex and the Suspect Class

INSIGHTS By Kit-Bacon Gressitt, of Fallbrook, CA
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“Suspect class.” It sounds ominous, foreboding, as though members of this shady group should be studiously avoided, particularly in places of dark and dismal urban decay.

Except, most of the people I know and adore - or at least tolerate fondly - are subject to this classification system. The term is actually a bit of legalese, defining groups whose very natures make them likely targets of discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court identifies race, religion, national origin and legal alien status as suspect classifications, and claims of unconstitutional discrimination based on these categories receive the highest level of scrutiny by U.S. courts.

(Gender is afforded the dubious distinction of being a “quasi-suspect class,” in keeping with the quasi-equality women are allotted in the United States. Hence, gender-based complaints receive a lower level of judicial scrutiny.)

Last May, the California Supreme Court added sexual orientation as a suspect class when it opined that the March 2000 anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative, Prop. 22, violated homosexuals' constitutional rights to marry and to equal protection. This decision provided one basis for the legal challenges to Prop. 8, another anti-same-sex marriage initiative that won by a small margin in November. Implications of that decision are now among the court's considerations, having heard Prop. 8 oral arguments last Thursday.

After watching the televised hearing, I imagined the seven justices shuffling their papers and tokheses back to their chambers, where handsome bottles were withdrawn from bottom desk drawers, and the oak-aged relief was judiciously applied to seven burdened brows and Solomonic psyches.

I feel for them, I do. Wisdom does not come easily; neither does its application. Whatever opinion the court renders will bitterly disappoint one impassioned faction and will likely result in talk of, if not actual, replacement of the offending majority of justices.

In the meantime, we wait - and California's 18,000 same-sex couples, legally married before Prop. 8 passed and threatened their marriages, wonder when they will ever live free from discrimination.

Never, if Ken Starr, [Yes, THAT Ken Starr] lead attorney for Prop. 8, has his way. He essentially argued that a simple majority of the people has the right to change the constitution, even if the change is unwise. This is not a new argument, but it is an increasingly frightening one. If we deny one class of people the inalienable right to be married, what other rights - or classes - will be at risk?

Will we next outlaw parenthood for gays - and take their children away? Will we prohibit homosexuals from teaching professions and take their jobs from them? (Schools are where they purportedly do much of their recruiting - straight kids go for those gay Xboxes like housewives used to go for S&H green stamps!)

And what other classes of folks shall we repudiate at the ballot? Take the words of Prop. 8 - “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” - and spin them around the prejudice wheel. Round and round they go!

We start with “No same-sex marriage is valid or recognized in California,” which confronts us now.
And how about “No marriage between a Black and a Caucasian is valid or recognized in California.” There go marriages left and right - for instance, the many biracial military families with deployed spouses (the military integrated long before the rest of us). Yeah, let's muck that up.

“No marriage between a Pacific Islander and a Native American is valid or recognized in California.” Who cares? They don'

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