Gay rights advocates have always said that “coming out” was the most important thing a gay person could do to advance our civil rights. It’s why “National Coming Out Day,” October 11, was established years ago.
With the amazing advances we’ve made on the civil rights front in the past several years (and decades really), I think people sometimes forget that not everyone is “out,” and not everyone has a close relative who (they know) is gay.
That’s why the story of Charles Cooper, the lawyer who argued just last year before the US Supreme Court in favor of the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, is so compelling.
Cooper’s daughter came out to him, is getting married to another woman, and Cooper is helping her plan the wedding.
Cooper now says his views on gay marriage are “evolving,” invoking the phrase that President Obama used several years ago in response to a question on gay marriage from then- AMERICAblog deputy editor Joe Sudbay.
Oh what a difference a year makes.
Cooper said the following about his new views: “My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago.”
Dad is still a little cagey on whether he thinks his daughter is about to bring about the ruin of mankind.
Cooper’s quote was in a new book about the gay marriage battle by Jo Becker, “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.” The book reportedly credits AFER, an organization set up by now-head of HRC Chad Griffin, with the success that is today’s movement for marriage equality.
And I’m not so sure.
AFER was the tsunami leading the battle on gay marriage, until Edie Windsor stepped in and crossed the finish line first.
You’ll recall two things. First, while AFER defeated Proposition 8 in lower courts, the Supreme Court threw the case out for lack of standing. That left a lower court decision in place, one that struck down Prop 8 and let gay marriages start up again in California. But it had no impact outside of California.
Second, Edie Windsor, on the other hand, took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, and it was Windsor’s case last summer that the Supreme Court used to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That decision has now led to 14 consecutive victories in court for same-sex marriage advocates in less than a year.
Proposition 8 was a uniquely evil referendum. It didn’t just ban gay marriage. It repealed an already-existing civil right in California of gay couples to marry. It also was intended to dissolve the already-existing legal marriages of 18,000 gay couples. So don’t let anyone tell you Prop 8 was simply “opposition to gay marriage.” It was a brutal, ugly play by the Mormons, the Catholics and the religious right to actually take civil rights away from American citizens, and to dissolve their marriages. Something unheard of in the gay rights, or civil rights, battle.