Generally I try to avoid political comment on this blog, but I feel like I must comment on the Supreme Court’s decision this morning, in the case of United States v. Windsor, declaring the 1996 so-called “Defense of Marriage” statute unconstitutional. I think the decision is a great step forward for equality, which makes this a great day for America and for everyone who believes in freedom and a pluralistic society.
As wonderful as this decision is, the fight for the basic human right of marriage equality is not over. Far from it. Although in its companion case, regarding California’s discriminatory Proposition 8, the Court effectively invalidated it (on a technicality), marriage equality is still denied to couples in over 30 states–including the one I live in. The battle to bring equality to every state in the Union must go on, and it will. Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time. It’s getting a lot easier than it was 10 or even five years ago, but there’s still much to be done.
I think it’s appropriate to comment on this for a couple of reasons. First, I feel the issue of marriage equality–it shouldn’t be framed as “gay marriage” or even “same-sex marriage,” but marriage equality–transcends politics. It should not be a right vs. left or conservative vs. progressive issue. It is an issue of basic human rights. If you believe that people have a right to be treated equally under the law, you should support marriage equality. Period. Full stop.
Second, I’ve found recently that it’s very difficult to be a writer, and to write about anything serious, without being political. All writers do what they do from a certain historical, political and cultural context. Even if you write historical fiction, high fantasy or science fiction, it’s really hard to keep what you write from commenting in at least some way on issues of your own time. I found this when I wrote Zombies of Byzantium, which should be politically innocuous; I mean, it’s a horror story that takes place 1300 years ago. Yet when I wrote it I took care to present the Muslim characters in the story as enlightened, reasonable human beings. That was an artistic decision with a political subtext. Shocking as it is, portrayal of Islam in anything other than a relentlessly negative light is often controversial, as I discovered in the comments to this article I posted on May 29. Tolerance should not be political, but unfortunately it is.
Third, I don’t feel like I can come out with a statement like the one I made recently about sexism and gender issues in science fiction and fantasy without also taking a firm stand on marriage equality, which I believe is intricately linked to gender issues. I don’t merely say this as a male who happens to be married to another male. (Yes, despite the lack of legal recognition in my state, I am married and have considered myself so since the moment my husband and I exchanged vows. That was our marriage–our commitment–not a sanction by the state which has chosen to discriminate against us unlawfully). Marriage equality, gender equality, salary parity, access to education, the battle to keep control of women’s reproductive health in the hands of women–none of these issues can be separated from one another. This is not a political blog, but we do live in a very political time, and there’s no escaping that.
In the United States, we live in a hyper-partisan era. These are times when even something as innocuous as a Star Trek movie can become a flash point for controversy over multiculturalism. So we do have to take stands once in a while. But at the same time, we cannot let those differences divide us so fundamentally that loyalty to the tribe becomes more important than the duty we have to live together in relative harmony.
Our society is marching inexorably toward plurality, diversity and tolerance. I refuse to believe otherwise. Every major step in the history of the United States–the formation of the Constitution, abolition of the slave trade, abolition of slavery itself, enfranchisement of women, citizenship for Native Americans, the civil rights movement of the ’60s, the Americans with Disabilities Act–has been a signpost on that trajectory. So too is today’s decision. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. In a civilizational sense, equality must always advance. It may never retreat. Ever. We ignore that historical mandate at our peril.
Thus, while many states remain shackled by anti-equality marriage laws, and there’s still much more work to do, today has been a good day. Millions of Americans today have the right to marry the person of their choosing who did not have that right yesterday. Our country’s largest state, largest economy and two of its largest cities now exist under a marriage equality system. And this expansion of equality was brought to us by a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives. There’s reason for hope there. And, for the LGBT people of California, reason for celebration.
Justice has been done this day, I think. I’m grateful for it.