Do you have standing?

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have multiple affairs, marry a lesbian lover, worship as a Muslim, Evangelical or Universalist, or walk around naked inside your house, that is your business. I do not have standing to take legal action about my complaint. It is only when you harm me, that makes it an issue.

I mention this as people who want their freedoms somehow forget this point when they look to deny yours. This is a human shortcoming we must guard against. My rights cannot be more important than another person’s. This is where religious freedom laws often go a bridge too far. They remind me of when African Americans could not eat in a whites only restaurant. They had to go around back and get a to-go order.

When I see the Supreme Court say it is OK to decline service because of religious freedoms, let’s change the equation around and see if it stands up. Could a Muslim bakery refuse to provide a wedding cake to a wedding between a Muslim and a Baptist or interracial couple as these run counter to their religious beliefs. What about a Catholic bakery that refuses to make a wedding cake for a second marriage? What about a gay baker refusing to serve an Evangelical couple who openly advocated against his rights?

Even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the baker could deny service to a gay couple’s wedding, it was a narrow ruling. Yet, did the baker have standing? He was not harmed by the gay couple. Go back to the previous examples to see the slippery slope.

I write this today as a result of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville riots. While groups have a right to peaceful assembly and protest, there is a subtle but important distinction on standing. A white supremacist who advocates against equal rights for non-whites does not have standing. A Black man’s rights do not impact the White man’s. Yet, someone who is protesting that you are advocating against my equal rights does have standing. A white supremacist is infringing on another’s rights.

We all have equal rights. Mine are no more important than yours. And, vice versa.

 

The Case Against 8 – Excellent documentary on fight for same-sex marriage

The train for the right to same-sex marriages in the United States has left the station and is building steam. Currently, 19 states permit same-sex marriage, with nine others in litigation over the constitutionality banning such marriages.* But, the action that caused the train to start moving was the court case in California to overturn Proposition 8 for its unconstitutionality, which made its way to the US Supreme Court. There is an excellent documentary called “The Case Against 8” which is now airing on HBO.**

“The Case Against 8” is well worth the watch as it is a fascinating rendition of how the law works and the gist of the case. The people who represented the vote for Proposition 8 could show no standing that by allowing such marriages any harm was being done to others. Yet, the story is more about three sets of individuals who made this happen.

First, the two couples – Kris Perry/ Sandy Stier and Paul Katami/ Jeff Zarrillo – deserve tremendous credit for being involved in the series of court battles for over four years. They show who the law is designed to help and evidence two very loving couples who have the support of their families and children. To see what this all means from their eyes is powerful

The other couple is the two lead attorneys, whose names I did not know, but who have had a hand in numerous cases involving the US Supreme Court – Ted Olson, a conservative attorney and David Boies, a liberal attorney. Olson took a lot of crap from the right, especially the pundits, when he took this case. But, his rationale is so simple. Marriage between a loving couple, who want to build a family and contribute to the community should be supported by conservatives as well as liberals.

The strength of their combined expertise shows as both said we need to do this the right way from the beginning. We need to do this in a manner such that when the US Supreme Court hears the case, our position is as strong as it possibly can be. What I found of interest from a legal front are three sets of events.

First, during the initial court hearing to try to throw the case out, the judge asked opposing counsel what harm is being done to others and he could not think of an answer. Both Olson and Boies were amazed by this. Second, during depositions for six expert witnesses to testify that same-sex marriages should not be allowed, five of the experts decided to back out of the case, leaving only one expert. Third and most profound, the remaining expert actually conceded during cross-examination that the children would be better off if the couples were married. He later wrote an op-ed piece saying he had been wrong to support Proposition 8.

With the solid case, the US Supreme Court eventually decided 5 to 4 that same-sex marriages could occur in California and that Proposition 8 had no standing, meaning no one could show harm. The two couples were first in line to be married and led the way for many. The nine states in court now should have their same-sex marriage restrictions overturned as unconstitutional, as judges have ruled as such, and they are in the appeal stage. The others will follow suit at some point. The Virginia Attorney General noted he would not defend the law as he deemed it to be unconstitutional. He noted Virginia was on the wrong side of the law in the first interracial marriage case, ironically and importantly named for the plaintiffs – the Loving couple, and he did not want to be on the wrong side of this.

Everyone should watch this documentary. If you are against same-sex marriage, this documentary will challenge your thinking. If you are for same-sex marriage, it will validate why it is important. If you are a gay or lesbian couple, it will make you proud that what you are fighting for is finally making a difference. I would love to read your feedback before or after seeing the movie.

* A current listing of states can be found with the attached link: http://gaymarriage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004857

** A link to the HBO film follows: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/documentary-on-proposition-8-to-premiere-today-on-hbo