May 27, 2009, New York – In response to both the California Supreme Court ruling supporting Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative, and the United States Supreme Court ruling overturning the ban on police initiating questioning without the defendant’s lawyer present, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement:
CCR is profoundly disappointed by the California State Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative. While some relief might be felt in the 18,000 gay marriages that occurred before the ballot initiative passed were preserved, the upholding of such injustice is an insult to the human rights and civil rights supporters who recognize that the right to dignity and family is inherent.
On the same day, there was another decision, this time by the United States Supreme Court, in which the high court struck a blow to defendants’ rights and made it far easier for prosecutors to interrogate suspects who have not received proper legal counsel. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court overturned the 1986 ruling in Michigan v. Jackson that forbid police from initiating questioning of a defendant who already has a lawyer or who has requested one unless the attorney is present. This ruling is significant to all Americans, and, in some ways, is particularly relevant to the LGBTQ community.
We understand that the gay marriage debate has been used by conservatives to polarize the country and achieve political power, and that marriage equality and LGBT organizations and civil liberties groups had to fight back against their rhetoric. However, CCR recognizes that the marriage issue is not limited to just gay and lesbian couples, but that it also affects people who are bisexual, transgendered, and queer, and that their stories must also be shared and covered by the media, and considered by the law.
We also recognize that once justice prevails and the gay marriage debate is over, there will remain a need to recognize and provide fundamental human rights, namely social and economic rights such as health care, Social Security, welfare assistance, and housing granted by the institution of marriage, to other non-nuclear family structures – families that are equally deserving of inherent dignity and recognition, such as single parent households or Senior citizens living together and serving as one another’s caregivers, without regard to blood ties, kinship or conjugal status. The progressive community must work to ensure the separation of church and state in all matters, including the regulation of individuals’ sexual identities, activities, expressions, and gender choices.
Within the current framework, it is middle and upper class gay and lesbian couples that will reap the most from the benefits extended by marriage. We must not rest at those future victories, but strive to ensure that those most marginalized by society have the same rights as all people.
The modern LGBTQ movement was started by poor and working class drag queens, transgendered people, and people of color who fought back against police raids at Stonewall and elsewhere. CCR recognizes that these groups are still the most marginal, even within LGBTQ communities, and are still those within the LGBTQ community who are most targeted and harassed by the police.
It is these same communities that have now lost an added protection when they are brought into police custody. The Supreme Court’s ruling on suspects’ and defendants’ rights and the further erosion of our civil liberties is most likely to be felt by those on the margins of our society. So, as we mourn the decision in California and renew our efforts to overthrow Prop 8, we must keep in mind that it is not only important to fight for marriage rights for all, but to remember our duty to ensure social, economic and legal justice for all.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.