Just when you thought we were settling in for another typical, slow August news month, along comes Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to overturn California's Proposition 8. The one that banned same-sex marriages. Did you get that? He overturned the ban. Loosed the bonds. Broke the chains. Raised a rainbow flag. And reopened a can of worms the size of the Louisiana Purchase.
According to this federal judge's persuasive opinion, restricting freedoms is bad. Hence, gay marriage is good. The 136-page judgment finds that discriminating because of religious convictions violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And no, this will not lead to legalized bestiality any more than eating Egg McMuffins leads to cannibalism.
The message is, if you don't believe people should marry someone of the same sex, then go right ahead and don't marry someone of the same sex. That part hasn't changed. No one will be dragged from their beds and forced to wear collared shirts or attend avant-garde theater productions in Tibetan restaurant stairwells or serve rumaki at backyard barbecues. However, if you don't believe OTHER people should be able to marry someone of the same sex. Tough. Which is a big change. Sea change.
In this country, one group of people is not allowed to stand in the way of other people's happiness simply because they don't dig it. Or get it. Or groove on it. Personal beliefs have nothing to do with how your neighbors get to live their lives. This is not about values, it's about rights. You don't want the Taliban telling your wife she has to walk five paces behind you in public while dressed as a grieving beekeeper, now do you?
And though Walker's court is in San Francisco, this was not a flaming liberal ruling. The man was nominated by Ronald Reagan and appointed by George Herbert Walker Bush, for crum's sake. So, if same-sex marriages ever do become law of the land, the opposite-sex marriage crowd is going to have to give a lot of the credit to Reagan and Bush. And being able to say that leaves a silky smooth taste in the mouth not unreminiscent of bacon-wrapped chicken livers.
Of course this ain't over by a long shot. The status quo is frothing like whipped cream-covered rabid dogs running through a liquid soap factory whose fire sprinklers activated in their insistence that people continue to live like them, exactly like them, and nobody else but them.
The judge did stay his own decision postponing further gay marriages in California, while five states and D.C. have licensed same-sex marriages AND numerous states have banned them. So the situation is foggier than a lighthouse near the Golden Gate Bridge at dawn in July, and headed straight into the wheelhouse of the Supreme Court. Is Perry v. Schwarzenegger destined to be Dred Scott or Brown v. Board of Education? Robes and minds are being laundered and starched as we speak.
In America, we don't judge a person based on their color or creed or sexual preferences: we judge them based on how little taxes they do or don't pay. And no matter which way your head faces during sex, all of us have the same basic human right to be miserable.
Besides, isn't the whole idea to keep gays from having sex? What better way than marriage do you know? Your witness, Mr. Burger.
Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comedian who often writes. This being an irritating example. He is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at email@example.com.