This past week, the Supreme Court listened two arguments around two cases that impact California residents. Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), finally got their day in court and Californians watched in anticipation. For many, the wait has been a long time coming.
Proposition 8, passed in 2008, effectively banned same sex marriage legally in the State of California. According to the Washington Post, 52.3 percent of California voters passed this bill. The Washington Post also attributes much of the win of Proposition 8 to African American voters and the support of African American churches in the State.
DOMA, passed in 1996, limits the benefits of inter-state marriage recognition and federal marriage benefits to those who are in opposite sex marriages. These restrictions include social security benefits, joint filing on taxes and insurances for government employees. While DOMA is a federal law that affects all same sex couples in the United States, the combination of DOMA and Proposition 8 have some California voters in a high state of anticipation, times two.
Many organizations, leaders and community members within the Pagan community have become very vocal about their support for the dismantling of both of these laws. Covenant of the Goddess, a National organization that supports Witches, made an official statement in support of equality among same sex marriages. This is the second time this organization has done this type of statement in response to this political issue.
Heather Greene, Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess, released this official statement on March 27th, 2013,
The Covenant of the Goddess, a 38-year old Witch and Wiccan advocacy organization, extends its support to the entire LGBT community in its struggle for marriage equality within our country. We respect the diversity of religious thought even when it’s divergent from our own. As such, we support the legalization of civil marriages with all the associated civil benefits. Religious ceremony and choice should remain a private matter. While this issue is debated in our country’s highest court, we will continue to hold space with our own LGBT members and their families.
Pagans in Washington DC. Photo from the Wild Hunt.
Selena Fox and other Circle Sanctuary members were present in Washington DC to protest, chant and support change for Pagans who are also impacted by the current laws. Other notable Pagans, such as David Salisbury, were also present and working with local Pagans outside of the White House. Salisbury is not only the author of the new book The Deep Heart of Witchcraft, but he is also an advocate working for the Human Rights Campaign.
Bay Area Pagans have also been speaking out this week. T. Thorn Coyle wrote a blog on her website to voice her thoughts on the current political laws around the state of marriage, Proposition 8 and DOMA. In her blog piece, Love Will Out, she wrote,
I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call “gay marriage” or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger. Fighting for the rights of my gay and lesbian friends to marry is on one hand a wonderful thing. I am for people making commitments and sacred bonds to one another. I am for all citizens of a country actually having equal rights under the law. To give one set of citizens rights denied to another set is illegal and unjust. However, for me, allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course. I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.
What right does government have to tell us what sorts of relationships are important to us, or what sorts of families we can build and grow together? We cannot build the society I want for us all – a society of comrades and friends, who care for one another’s children, who wipe away the tears of a friend we’ve had for 30 years, who share food and housing when times are tough or when times are very good – we cannot build this when we are intent upon saying that love is only important, and only has rights, when shared between two people.
Yeshe Rabbit, Priestess of CAYA coven and co-owner of the Sacred Well, spoke of heart contracts in a recent statement she gave to Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area.
In CAYA Coven, we recognize that it is the heart connection that matters most in any type of chosen union, but we also note the practical and political significance of marriage equality as a matter of sovereignty. Our community stands behind the rights of all to marry as they choose, and to thereby gain whatever legal status, benefits, and access that are part of that chosen contract. We also encourage people to choose their heart contracts carefully, and in accord with their own principles, acknowledging that the marriage contract is not everyone’s chosen means of union.
Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, local activist and organizer of the Pagans of Color Hospitality Suite at Pantheacon, discussed the impact of these laws for fellow Californians.
It would mean that we have one less hurdle to climb in order to be seen as people and not something abhorrent in the fabric of society. It would also mean that I can finally take advantage of 1,138 other rights my marriage should have that it currently doesn’t. It would mean SIMPLER tax forms instead of having to file at the last minute because the IRS couldn’t figure out what form we needed to use to file because the state of CA says we can file jointly but the federal government says we shouldn’t but gives us a form (at the very last possible minute, mind you!) that allows us to do so but doesn’t allow us to designate each other in a way that reflects the truth of our relationship. This and many other ways I am being affected. I can’t even imagine what I’m not noticing… I’d be stuck all day thinking about it.
Storm Faerywolf, author and co-owner of Mystic Dream, responded to Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area by giving us a statement about his personal views and the impact of this week’s court cases in his view.
In the United States we live in a culture in which the systematic discrimination against a minority is legally allowed. In a society in which Church and State are to be kept separate it is increasingly a concern that such discrimination is fueled by religious extremism. As such it becomes blatantly obvious to those of us outside of the mainstream religions that the protective wall placed in between Church and State by the founding fathers has become little more than a modern myth, as extremist forms of Christian values are touted as ‘the norm’ and form the basis for much of our political posturing.
As someone who is part of a same-sex marriage performed legally in California before Prop 8 banned such unions, I am watching the Supreme Court with bated breath. Though my own status is currently not threatened (as long as I continue to reside in California or move to any of the nine current states that legally allow such unions) I am concerned that my brothers and sisters, in California and elsewhere, are prevented from having access to the many rights and benefits that heterosexual married couples take for granted, such as inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights, and over 1,000 others that, when denied, deliver the blatant message that gays and lesbians are not full citizens in “the land of the free”. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will recognize the grave injustice perpetrated against GLBTQ people and strike down DOMA so that ALL of our people can enjoy the same rights, opportunities and dignities that being a full citizen entails.
While the court’s decisions are not expected for several months, the citizens of California, and Pagans in the Bay are highly engaged in the decisions being battled in our federal courts right now. As Facebook profile pictures turned to symbols of supporting equality, and the news was filled with questions of gay rights, people all over are anxiously anticipating the potential reversal of laws from 1996 and 2008.
A very long time to ponder the state of equality in the United States judicial system.
Crystal Blanton reporting, Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area