Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –
“Separate but Equal” was made the law of the land in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Plessy v. Ferguson.
On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad that was designated by Louisiana for use by white patrons only. Although Plessy was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, under Louisiana state law he was classified as an African-American, and thus required to sit in the “colored” car. When Plessy refused to leave the white car and move to the colored car, he was arrested and jailed.
The case wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 7 to 1 decision the Court rejected the view that the law implied any inferiority of blacks, and contended that the law separated the two races as a matter of public policy, not inequity. Justice Brown declared, “We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”
The sole dissenter, Justice John Marshall Harlan, wrote “…in the eye of the law, there is no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” It took until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education decision to change this law.
Governor, I will be happy if the California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8 only when it can be demonstrated that a civil union is the same thing as marriage. As a gay dad who has been (and is) both Domestic Partnered and Married, I am quite skeptical that that is ever possible as long as my government allows the distinction to remain. Until then it is apartheid all over again, and that does not turn out well for anybody.