Minutes ago the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that bans gay marriage. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I stand foursquare for allowing gays to marry, so this may come as something of a shock, but I think that in the long run this will prove to be a good thing for gay rights.
The overarching social trend in the United States is clear: the bigotry that drives people to deny gays the right to marry the people they love resides mostly in the older generation. Both are slowly but surely dying, and good riddance. It is therefore a matter of when, not if, Proposition 8 is ultimately reversed by the people and this shameful episode is relegated to the history books. But if the court had overturned Proposition 8 that would have energized the forces of bigotry and caused them to redouble their efforts. The fight would have been long and drawn out, probably over decades, just as it has been with abortion rights.
This way, it is those who support tolerance and freedom who are energized, as they should have been but weren't last year. Early polls showing Proposition 8 failing by 10 points caused supporters of gay rights to become complacent that the earlier California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage would simply stand. But this was naive. Court decisions enforcing radical social changes rarely stand the test of time. At the end of the day (or the decade as the case may be) it is the people who decide.
So what will happen now is that there will be another proposition on the ballot in 2010 to overturn Proposition 8, and it will pass. It will pass by an overwhelmingly greater margin than did prop 8. It will pass because this time supporters of gay rights will not be complacent. It will pass because by November of 2010 the tide of history will be clearly turning against bigotry. While California denied its citizens equal rights, three other states have granted them and two others are poised to do so in the coming months. Furthermore, Californians will have been living for two years with 18,000 married gay couples in their midst and they will see that the sky has not fallen. It will be impossible in 2010 to paint gay marriage as the bogeyman because the bogeyman lives only in the abstract. But gay marriage is here, and the unraveling of the social fabric that was supposed to accompany it is not. In 2010 it will be impossible to condemn gay marriage without appearing manifestly delusional.
Proposition 8 will be overturned in 2010 because the forces of righteousness will be on the march as they were not in 2008 and the bigots will have nowhere left to turn. So hang in there, my gay brothers and sisters, justice is coming. And it is coming a lot sooner and with greater finality than it would have if the court decision had gone the other way.