06/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Advice to Gays: Know Thy Enemy

Although this week's decision by the California Supreme Court is understandably disappointing to proponents of same sex marriage, it should not be interpreted as any sort of disrespect to gays and their rights. Indeed, this is the very same court which last year ruled that gays do enjoy the right to marry under the California Constitution.

The just-decided case was about only whether the election results of Proposition 8 legally amended the California Constitution, and if so, where that leaves same sex couples who are already married. The plaintiffs presented the court with a very legalistic argument which hung on the premise that Proposition 8 called for a revision of the Constitution (which, by ballot initiative, is impermissible under state law) rather than an amendment (which is legal). The court ruled that pursuant to Proposition 8, the Constitution was amended in a lawful manner by California voters.

I am not equipped to evaluate the reasoning upon which today's decision is based, but I know this: Proponents of gay marriage need to get focused and figure out who their enemies are and are not.

It appears that the public - or at least a huge portion of it - is the primary foe. Furthermore, it is not the role of courts to tell people how to vote. That is the job of gay rights advocates who are probably wasting their time and alienating potential allies by directing their rage at jurists who have acknowledged their constitutional right to marry.

The basic argument that everyone deserves to be treated equally is ultimately an unbeatable position. Gays and those who support them should stick to that message and do so on a national level instead of relying on the minutiae of state law to advance the cause. The U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy should be repudiated often and loudly, because it represents the only federal authorization to deny an oppressed minority equal status on the basis of oppressors feeling uncomfortable when the minority exercises its First Amendment rights.

When protesters take to the streets tonight and in the coming days, they will do themselves and their cause a disservice if all they do is denounce the California Supreme Court justices as a bunch of ignorant homophobes. Three simple words of advice: Know thy enemy.

Jeff Norman blogs at