Next Steps After the Prop 8 Decision: General Assembly and Netroots Nation Guide Us
Like many of us, I was on pins and needles on Wednesday, knowing that federal district Judge Vaughn Walker planned to issue his verdict that day in the case challenging the constitutionality of the Prop 8 ban on marriage between two men or two women in California. I jumped up when CNN broke the news and I know Californians marched and celebrated well into the night to honor Judge Walker’s stand for both equality before the law and common sense.
The strange thing with a court case like this is that there is so little to be done. We know the decision will be appealed, and there is little we can do in connection with the judicial process of this case. There are next steps, however — important ways we can channel our joy at this outcome to bend the arc of history toward justice a bit more and a bit sooner. Netroots Nation and the General Assembly of the PCUSA show us the way.
At Netroots Nation, I watched as Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran who was discharged from the army for being openly gay, gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid his West Point ring to hold until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is repealed and GLBT people are free to serve our military openly. Senator Reid responded by saying that repeal of DADT will happen in the Senate this year.
While this was one of the most emotional moments of Netroots Nation, the repeal of DADT was far from the only effort discussed that would help bring our actions into line with our values in our treatment of GLBT people in the church, our country and the world. Marriage equality is a political priority in California, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Minnesota. There is the need to repeal the DOMA law, which restricts the right of legally married GLBT couples to receive the legal privileges of marriage on a federal level. And the first question addressed to Nancy Pelosi at Netroots concerned ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would establish a national commitment to end workplace discrimination against GLBT people.
In July at the General Assembly, I was reminded of what in the Presbyterian Church (USA) we easily forget: since 1978 our church has been on record supporting the legal and civil rights of gays and lesbians. Because the General Assembly has adopted this policy, Presbyterians can ask the Stated Clerk to support all of these state and national initiatives, including ENDA and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
At GA, I listened as commissioners weighed our own discriminatory hiring policy as a church – the policy that prevents openly GLBT people from being ordained. For 32 years the PCUSA has been ready to tell the world to end something we ourselves have continued to do in the church. The 2010 General Assembly did what it could to bring our actions into line with our faith, adopting the revision of our ordination standards that will allow ordination of GLBT Presbyterians. In doing so, the GA spoke the same message to the church that the church speaks to the world. But before their action can become the official policy of the church, it must be ratified by a majority of presbyteries across the country.
There are a host of things we need to do. Speak up for ENDA—the end to workplace discrimination—in your own community. Push your representatives to vote for it when they get back to work in the fall. Call for the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so that all who wish to serve our country may do so openly. And, for the Presbyterians among you, speak up in your presbytery for the revision of G-6.0106b that would help our church embody God’s love for all by embracing all who are called by God to serve, including our GLBT children.
We know that the Supreme Court is always balancing the requirements of the law with the popular will so that their decisions are both acceptable to the people and conform to the principles of our constitution. Clearly the best way we can help the court agree with Judge Walker is to pass these laws in both church and society so that the signal from us to the court is to do the right thing, Just as we are.