Last weekend, nearly 200 people from across the Ithaca community protested Californias passage of a ban on gay marriage.
In the wake of Barack Obamas historic election as president on a platform of change, a segment of this countrys population remains targeted, attacked and marginalized by the law. The vote in favor of Proposition 8 in California represents a reversion to the past and a change this country does not need and cannot afford.
Californias new law effectively strips same-sex couples of what had been a fundamental right. Along with thousands of other gay Americans, gay Californians have been divested of their equality under the law.
In denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Californias new law relegates a segment of the population to second-class citizenship. California cannot claim to respect the equality of its gay citizens and concurrently distinguish those citizens from the rest of the population.
As recent votes in Florida and Arizona have shown, California is not the only state to prohibit same-sex marriage. Across the country and in states such as this one, activists continue to fight for a more progressive and equitable policy that will treat gay couples as they should be treated.
Indeed, the worst part of Prop 8 is not that it keeps gay couples from getting married, but that it takes away a right that was once hailed as a sign of progress. It would be one thing if this country were simply resisting moving forward. But this month in California, voters showed support for a step in the wrong direction. If there was ever any doubt, this election season has made clear that bigotry is still alive in America.
Young Americans should be heartened by Obamas election as the first black president of the United States. But we should also be wary of celebrating what we perceive is a turning point in this countrys history. As the passage of Prop 8 has shown, no change is safe without the commitment of people who are willing to defend it. In the months and years ahead, young people everywhere should be careful not to expect that progress can be sustained without a fight.