Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Next Civil War

I'm not saying this just to be pessimistic, but today's big news from California--"State Supreme Court says same-sex couples have right to marry" is the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle--made me think about America's long-standing tension between federal jurisdiction and states' rights, which every now and then becomes focused around a divisive, polarizing issue. Today, the issue is same-sex marriage. In the mid-1800s, it was slavery, and debate eventually escalated to war.

I watched a few minutes of talking heads on CNN tonight (help me I am trapped in a hotel room without TiVo), and the opponent of today's ruling had his knickers in a twist over the fact that, unlike Massachusetts, California will not have a residency requirement for same-sex couples who want to tie the knot--so gays and lesbians from elsewhere in the nation can hop the border to the golden state, take their marriage certificate back, and use the document to challenge whatever local statutes prohibit their wedded bliss at home. He stopped short of using the word "contagious," but behind his plastic smile, in his narrowed eyes, it was clear exactly what he thought of those people.

For the record, I am ecstatic, and I love San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom a little bit more every time I hear him speak: "It's about human dignity. It's about civil rights. It's about time."

Anyway. I don't think it's likely that the culture war is going to turn into a shooting war, but it's interesting to contemplate. Orson Scott Card used this premise for his book, Empire, which I haven't read (and for which D's one-word review is "meh"), but I understand from reviews that his story doesn't involve a full-blown "brother against brother" conflict. (Though it does, apparently, involve battlemechs. Go figure.)

How would an underground railroad for homosexuals operate? What is the gay equivalent of a Star of David? (A pink triangle?) And at what point would bleeding heart liberals who are eager to donate their money but stingy with their time actually lift a finger to do something to upset their upper-middle-class status quo?

I don't know if there's a story in here, but I'm adding it to my notes.

By the way, is it just me, or is this Los Angeles Times sidebar the Worst. Graphic. EVER? Seriously, they couldn't have picked colors from a few different places on the wheel? Used some cross-hatching or other distinctive shading patterns?

~CKL
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