After nearly 50 years of civil-rights legislation, where do we stand? Ask my friend Eric Deggans, the television critic at the St. Petersburg Times. When Eric, who is black, returned home from a trip last week, he found a message on his phone from an irate reader suggesting he get a TV show titled A Coon With A View. ``Post-racial America my foot,'' Eric wearily noted on his Facebook page.
I have a feeling that the two couples whose lawsuit resulted in a ruling last weekend striking down California's ban on gay marriages will soon know exactly how Eric feels.For that matter, so will federal Judge Vaughn Walker, who issued the ruling.
Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, this case had little to do with governmental discrimination against gays. The ban on gay marriage approved by California voters in 2008 had no effect on the state's domestic-partners law -- and Walker's own decision acknowledged that ``domestic partnerships offer same-sex couples almost all of the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage.''
What the lawsuit was really about, as the couples testified over and over during the trial, was social acceptance and emotional affirmation -- matters beyond the scope of any judicial ruling, no matter how legally sweeping and humanitarianly intended.
Sandy Stier, who runs a child-welfare agency, and Kristin Perry, a county health-services worker, already have a domestic partnership, not to mention four children. But Stier believes that marriage would not only include them ``in the social fabric'' but also be a way to tell ``our friends, our family, our society, our community, our parents . . . and each other, that this is a lifetime commitment.''
I'm fine with Stier and Perry having a wedding. I don't see how it undermines the institution of marriage or adversely affects the rest of us in any way. But if having four kids didn't convince their friends and family that they're serious about one another, I can't imagine that a fill-in-the-blanks form from the state of California is going to do it, either. Nor will it guarantee a lifetime commitment, as heterosexual marriages -- currently failing at rate of something over 40 percent -- certainly attest. Read my full op-ed column in Tuesday's Miami Herald.