In our house, it’s simply “The Trial”. My brother-in-law, who follows such things, says that this is probably the biggest case in the last 40 years. It will very likely affect every state in the nation and will either affirm or weaken the constitution, depending on the outcome. And whatever the outcome, in another twenty years’ time, it will almost certainly be moot, except as a chapter in high school civics books. The Trial, of course, is the case of Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al, also known as the federal challenge to California’s Proposition 8.
In 2008, thanks in large part to the influx of a huge amount of money from religious groups, California voters narrowly passed Proposition 8 which amended the state constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen before (can you say Loving v. Virginia?), that doesn’t fit so well with what the authors of the constitution had in mind. And so we’re now in the midst of the first step, at the federal level, on the path to the SCOTUS — The Supreme Court of the United States. The question on my mind is, how are parents talking to their kids about The Trial?
Have you discussed the trial with your kids? It seems to me that it is a great opportunity to explain the roles of the three branches of government, introduce them to the Constitution, and present the concept of a trial. And, whatever your views might be, this is a great opportunity to sit down and explain why you believe what you believe and how it fits in with the Constitution. It is pretty clear that changing attitudes mean that by the time our kids are old enough to pay attention to such matters, whatever the court decides won’t be an issue — the vast majority simply won’t care who marries who. This is a good time, then, to make sure they understand where you stand on the matter and why.
Although the trial is not being televised, there are a number of lawyers, journalists, and interested parties in the courtroom every day, tweeting in real time — search for the hashtags #prop8 or #prop8trial — and posting updates to their blogs. One of the best is the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, which features commentary posted throughout the day along with legal commentary and related news items. If you need a basic introduction, the Wikipedia has you covered.
It really is fascinating to follow along and kids and families have been a big part of the testimony. As noted earlier, it appears the supporters of Proposition 8 believe that marriage is all about procreation, meaning that if you don’t plan to — or simply can’t — have children, than you shouldn’t be allowed to get married either. There has been a lot of discussion about the history of marriage and its affects on both those who can and cannot get married. And, of course, whether or not same-sex parents make good parents (they do). So, all in all, it sure seems like not only is Proposition 8 unconstitutional, it’s a bad idea in general. Until a final decision is rendered, however, it makes for a great learning experience.