Andrea Shorter on the Supreme Irony of Today’s Prop 8 Ruling

By Julianne Hing May 26, 2009

What a newsday to start off the week. It reminds me of another big day last year that was filled with both joyous and crushing news. You know, November 5, 2008, the morning after Barack Obama won the election and we woke up to the news that Prop 8 had passed. Today, Sonia Sotomayor was announced as President Obama’s nominee to take Justice David Souter’s vacant seat in the Supreme Court, and just hours later, the California Supreme Court announced its disappointing decision to uphold Prop 8. While I was reflecting on the ironic symmetry of these events, Leticia Miranda, the ColorLines editorial intern, caught up with Andrea Shorter, coalition coordinator with Equality California, to get her thoughts on today’s events. In between the first hearing and now, there have been landmark decisions in favor of gay marriage in Maine, New Hampshire and Iowa. What do you think this ruling in California means? Shorter: The ruling to uphold Proposition 8 means that our California Supreme Court is no longer the vanguard on the matter of protecting and upholding equal protection under its laws for all of its citizens. It also signifies an out of control voter referendum process that clearly does not work in the favor protection under the law for minority groups. Who would have ever thought that loving, committed same sex couples in Iowa would enjoy marriage equality before their LGBT brothers and sisters in California? The winds of change are gathering momentum from the east. Now, we must gather our second wind to fight back and repeal Proposition 8 at the ballot as soon as possible. What are the implications of this decision for civil rights (outside of gay marriage) and communities of color? Shorter: On the very day that the first Black President of the United States makes the historic nomination of the first Latina to the US Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court — by upholding Proposition 8 — has placed all minority rights under jeopardy of determination by the electorate. The tyranny of the majority vote over minority civil rights under the law is neither just nor fair. For people of color, this must be of serious concern. Commentaries that have suggested that same sex marriage equality and the fight for the overturn of Proposition 8 is of little to no concern for African Americans, Latinos, or Asian Pacific Islanders are short sighted and virtually irrelevant in light of the broader threat to all minority rights under a weakened state constitution and a further emboldened referendum process. We are in very unsettling territory here, but I am confident that justice will eventually and soon prevail. It must. We will win marriage back in California. We cannot and will not let California become a state of apartheid for LGBT people, people of color or any other minority group. That is why we must go back to the ballot as soon as possible and work to repeal proposition 8. A state-wide grassroots mobilization and outreach effort to and within communities of color across this most diverse state — community to community, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend — to win hearts and minds on the importance of marriage equality must and will start now. Read a full-length interview with Shorter about Prop 8, race and her new position at Equality California.