Same-Sex Couples Continue Marriage Fight
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn now to California, which was among the few states where gay couples could legally marry - past tense - because Tuesday's election changed that. Voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment which restricts marriage to couples who are heterosexual. Now some same-sex partners are turning to the courts. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.
KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: After they'd sued the state for the right to marry, Los Angeles couple Robin Tyler and Diane Olson were among the first couples to tie the knot in mid June. Tuesday night they watched anxiously as the votes on Proposition 8 were counted. Wednesday morning they were crushed to discover the initiative had passed. Robin Tyler.
Ms. ROBIN TYLER: The anguish that our community feels nationally is overwhelming. And we are not going to take this lightly, and we are not going to go away.
BATES: Lawyer Gloria Allred, whose firm filed the original suit for Tyler and Olson, announced they were going back to court. They're one of three lawsuits filed yesterday on behalf of gay rights supporters. Allred is challenging the legality of the newly passed amendment. She asserts that by limiting marriage to heterosexual couples only, California is in conflict with its constitution which guarantees equal rights to all of its citizens. Robin Tyler believes her marriage with Diane Olson is as valid as any heterosexual union. Their struggle, she says, is about civil rights.
Ms. ROBIN TYLER: This is not a religious issue
BATES: The Reverend Frederick Price, Jr., of the Crenshaw Christian Center, one of the oldest and most prominent black megachurches in the country, says his congregation's support of Prop. 8 is indeed based on religion.
Reverend FREDERICK PRICE, JR. (Pastor, Crenshaw Christian Center): The Holy Bible is the book of laws and ordinances and principles and rules that we live by. And contained in the book is God's definition of marriage.
BATES: And it's a very specific definition.
Reverend PRICE: It was important for us to vote yes on Proposition 8 because it preserved the sanctity of marriage and what the Bible defines as marriage between a man and a woman.
BATES: In Los Angeles, black and Latino voters overwhelmingly supported Prop. 8. Robin Tyler says she's especially sad that more black voters didn't see how her struggle reflected the history of theirs.
Ms. TYLER: You know, when there was segregation and African-Americans had to drink from separate water fountains next to the white water fountain, they called that equality, separate but equal. And they could say, but after all it's the same water. But it isn't the same water. What it meant was you are not good enough to drink out of our water fountain.
BATES: Tyler says she refuses to drink from what she calls the separate water fountain of marriage. Gloria Allred explains why so many same-sex couples are passionate about marriage equality by using another civil rights analogy.
Ms. GLORIA ALLRED (Attorney): If Prop. 8 had said that the California Constitution was amended to limit marriage to people of the same race only, would that be constitutional under our state constitution? Of course not.
BATES: The state struck down laws banning interracial marriages decades ago. But like a lot of black Americans, Pastor Frederick Price doesn't accept equating race with sexual orientation.
Reverend PRICE: I would need a justification or an explanation as to how that's equal, how that's the same scenario, because I don't see how sexual preference in regards to gender, how that equates with ethnicity and color of skin.
BATES: State Attorney General Jerry Brown says existing marriages like Tyler and Olson's that occurred in the brief time they were legal will remain so. Robin Tyler says despite the security of her marriage, she plans to continue to fight so other same-sex couples can have the same thing she and Diane Olson have.
Ms. TYLER: We're citizens, and we intend to be full citizens. And as the California Supreme Court says, we're not going to stop fighting until we're equal under the law.
BATES: But under the law, now that Prop. 8 has passed, many counties have stopped dispensing licenses to same-sex couples. So hundreds of California planned weddings are being postponed or may take place in the few states that still allow them. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.
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