In 1147, Pope Eugene III sent a legate to Southern France in order to counter the spread of Catharism, which contradicted most of the precepts the Catholics held dear. The Church charged the non-Catholics as “heretics”, and tortured and killed thousands of them along with other non-devout Cather sympathizers. What became known as the Roman Inquisition lasted well into the 16th century, and the system of tribunals spread across the Catholic sphere of dominance and was used to convict anyone the Church desired, many of whom were persecuted so that the clergy could steal the lands and wealth of the “heretics”.
In an article, “It’s Official: Prop. 8 In Effect Until December (If Not Longer)” (Law Blog, 8/17/ 2010), Ashby Jones explains the latest development in the battle over gay marriage, the latest inquisition. Proposition 8, or the California Marriage Protection Act, was passed by voters in November 2008, and defined marriage as that between a man and a woman.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made San Francisco “ground zero” for the battle, not only campaigning heavily and starring in a commercial opposing Prop. 8, but holding a fundraiser in his own home to oppose the issue (“Newsom ignores risks, campaigns against Prop. 8”; SF Chronicle, 10/29/2008). At a No on 8 rally at UC Santa Cruz, Newsom told students that he recognized the outcome of the election could hurt his career: “The biggest problem in politics today is that we’re risk-adverse. We’re afraid of tomorrow’s headlines. I couldn’t care less if the rest of my life I’m only known as the ex-mayor of San Francisco. I will regret nothing about standing up on this issue. I get to go to sleep at night having done the right thing.”
The issue is very much a religious battle between those who claim to be able to interpret “God’s will”, regardless of which Christian sect they follow, and those who wish to walk their own road. Although the church no longer has a Grand Inquisitor to lead persecution of these “unnatural” people, there are still many incidents of gay bashing in our country, up to and including murder. Perhaps most importantly, religious fanatics are still hiding behind their beliefs in order to deny human rights to others: the right to a legal marriage, the right to have legal and economic benefits, the right to live openly and without fear in a manner that horrifies the “true believers”.
Opponents of Proposition 8 celebrated a big win on Aug. 4, 2010, when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, based in San Francisco, found the law unconstitutional. As Walker noted in his ruling, “a state’s obligation is to treat its citizens equally, not to mandate its ‘own moral code’.” He further cited that, in recent history, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled time and again that laws rooted in traditions of bigotry-from segregated schools to prohibitions on interracial marriage-are in basic conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
The following Monday afternoon, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed Judge Walker’s decision. The appeal will be briefed throughout the fall and will be heard by the Ninth Circuit the week of Dec. 6, 2010.
It is fantastically ironic to me that the greatest opposition to gay marriage, and a huge voting bloc that turned out for the 2008 election, was comprised heavily of Latinos and African-Americans. Just driving around the streets of the SF Bay Area, I saw large demonstrations of primarily minority members waving anti-gay marriage signs along with those reading “Honk if you love Jesus”. I thought Jesus preached tolerance and love for everyone. I thought those minorities had been involved in battles for their human rights for decades in the U.S., and were still fighting those battles today. Frankly, I would have thought those were the very people who would most understand the injustice of discrimination simply because of the color of one’s skin or some sort of life preference.
As a Latino myself, I was extremely disappointed. Who needs Grand Inquisitors when the masses will run the persecution for you?