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Gay rights are human rights, court finds

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Theodore Olson, who helped challenge California’s same-sex marriage ban, appears Tuesday in Los Angeles with plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo (left) and Paul Katami.

Imagine there are literally tens of thousands of people who, although they have never met you, don’t like you. And I mean they really don’t like you.

It’s personal. They don’t like how you look, act, think, vote, talk or express yourself. Many of them don’t even think you should exist.

In fact some of them think you should be fired if you’re working or not hired if you’re not. They don’t have a problem saying so publicly either.

Now imagine you’re sitting in a waiting room. You’re sitting beside the person you have shared your life with for 10 or 15 years.

You’ve both been waiting patiently for confirmation that you can finally do what you’ve been waiting to do for years -- get married, get health insurance, get a green card, get a legal will, get equal rights, get on with your life.

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If you’re gay in America this is your life now. Waiting.

When you’re not waiting you’re dancing to Lady Gaga or shopping, to hear your detractors tell it. Or having unbridled sex with so many partners you lose count, according to your evangelical enemies.

But the truth is if you’re gay you really spend most of your time paying more in taxes and getting less for it while trying to keep your life together. Mostly you’re just waiting.

This is how the government, both right and left, asks you to spend your time. Take a number. Get comfortable. Wait.

The federal government here still refuses to recognize the existence of gay families. They even refuse to recognize the validity of same sex marriages performed in states where it has been legalized.

Apparently we’re all going to need years and years before we can finally find the courage to look reality square in the face.

Sure progressive politicians can see which way the country’s heading, and they are encouraged by it, but when it comes down to it, Canada has had marriage equality since 2005 without any injury whatsoever to the national fabric (and a lot of good for the people affected). So what are we waiting for?

Did you know that no other minority group in America, including undocumented aliens, has been the target of more restrictive ballot initiatives than gay men and lesbians?

We’re not merely disliked or feared. In some quarters we're literally hated.

That hatred finds expression in school hallways where bullying is often overlooked, or on the city streets, or even at the ballot box, where laws granting equal rights are defeated, time and again, by people acting publicly on privately held prejudices.

But why can’t they settle for civil unions, ask many otherwise decent people. Why do they have to insist on full equality, rather than this awkward compromise that we’ve worked out for you, so as to give you many rights (but crucially not all) and, by the way, to prevent ourselves feeling uncomfortable?

Doesn’t that question answer itself?

Gays aren’t asking for your approval, or your acceptance, or even your blessing. They just want for themselves what you take for granted, the same rights under the law to their live their lives in peace, no more and no less.

Just an hour ago, as I write this on Tuesday afternoon, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California upheld a ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker declaring Proposition 8, the ballot that eliminated the previously granted right of same sex couples to marry, unconstitutional.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt in a 2-1 decision wrote, “We consider whether that amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does.”

Judge Reinhardt added, “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

Manifestly they are not, they court agreed. That’ll be news to a lot of people.

You may not like gays, and you may not approve of them, but you’ll need a stronger argument than how you feel to insist they should be prevented from forming unions or making their own legal arrangements, or from living their lives free of your disapproval and interference.

Today was a good day for American equality.

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