06/11/2009 12:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Delaying Justice is Hardly the Best Path to Progress

Last week, I appeared on CNN's "No Bias, No Bull" to discuss the California Supreme Court's recent ruling that upheld Proposition 8.

One of the panelists on the program, citing what he called "overheated rhetoric" by those disappointed by the Prop. 8 decision, asked the following:

"In the big picture, isn't there an inevitably to all of this; isn't this just a question of time, and they (same-gender marriage proponents) shouldn't be that exercised about it?"

The gist of the question was certainly one with which I agreed. All of the polling I've seen strongly suggests the trajectory is headed toward full marriage equality for all of Californians regardless of orientation.

In 2000, Prop. 22, which prevented Californians from recognizing same-gender marriage, passed with 61.4 percent approving. In 2008, Prop. 8 passed with 52.2 percent. Moreover, individuals under 35 overwhelmingly support same-gender marriage.

Unfortunately, I was cut off before I could make an additional point, which would have underscored why the question was inherently problematic.

Though I did not believe there was any malice intent in the question, it is easier, almost in a benign manner, for those who already benefit from a certain privilege to suggest those who do not have it should simply wait for the corrective measure of time to do its work.

There is no denying that institutional change seldom comes as quickly as its advocates want. That's why Martin Luther King stated, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

But those who suggested waiting was the best response in Birmingham in 1963 is why King wrote his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

King's letter was a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen, who agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets; in other words, wait.

For King "wait" almost always meant "never," and he went on to write a 6,000-word epistle was to why the Negro cannot wait.

Wait is a solution seldom supported by those toiling in the pain of second-class citizenship. There is a certain luxury associated with not having to wait that makes it appear as the palatable solution for those who desire change.

Wait is a very difficult word for many same-gender couples to hear, when they know the roughly 7 million individuals who voted in support of Prop. 8 would most likely not have voted to deny the Ku Klux Klan their constitutional rights to free speech; and they would have been wrong to do so.

It is hard to hear wait, when one is told that gay rights are not civil rights, when the classical definition of civil rights is:

"A class of rights and freedoms that protect individuals from the government and state power and assure the ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state."

The theological objections therefore seem incongruent because this is indeed about civil rights.

Wait can carry all the force of an inflammatory expletive when those who oppose one's cause resort to gross inaccuracies, historical ignorance and hyperbole, preferring to fan the flames of emotionalism over a judicious use of reason.

I marvel at those who take umbrage with any comparisons between the present gay rights struggle and the historical Civil Rights Movement, as if they own the copyright to the movement's originality. I can only conclude they forgot that the movement led by King appropriated its strategy from Gandhi and the Indian independence movement.

I understand the narrow legal terrain in which the court made its ruling upholding Prop. 8. But as I stated on CNN, the result is the creation of three distinct classes of people in the state: consenting adults who can marry, divorce, and remarry; those who can marry, divorce, but cannot remarry; and those who can do neither.

This seems hardly prudent for a state that also claims to value equal protection under the law. It may also be the best evidence to date why waiting is very difficult to hear, especially when one finds oneself in the latter two aforementioned categories.