By PHIL SHIGEKUNI
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
This is one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King. It came to mind when I spoke with my friend Harold Kameya last Wednesday. He had just heard the news about the decision by the Supreme Court nullifying California’s Proposition 8, and was overjoyed.
Hearing this news from Harold was ironic. Twenty five years ago, when he and his wife Ellen struggled with their daughter Valerie coming out to them as a lesbian, his major regret was that he would never be able to walk down the aisle with her at her wedding. Now this is possible!
In recent years I have become interested in the role of public opinion on many crucial decisions made by the Supreme Court. In Barry Friedman’s book “The Will of the People” (2010), he states that rulings by the court have been made on such issues as abortion, school prayer and military tribunals in the war on terror. The justices never face election, and hold their offices for life.
Some complain there is something illegitimate and even undemocratic about judicial authority.
In his book, Friedman challenges that claim by showing that the court has always been subject to a higher power, the American public, and moreover, this influence has shaped the meaning of the Constitution.
In striking down Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court has again reflected the influence of public opinion.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military has been abolished, allowing full acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military. An ever-growing number of states have passed laws allowing same-sex marriages.
The issue of homosexuality has gained enlightenment even in conservative Christian communities. A survey taken at a well known evangelical college showed a strong majority favoring understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians.
Remarkably, Exodus, an organization claiming to make gays straight, closed its doors and issued an apology to all the thousands it had harmed.
The American public and the Supreme Court have come to see the injustice of treating individuals differently because of who they are and whom they love. Marriage equality opens the door to financial and other benefits to all — formerly only available to opposite-sex couples.
The arc of the moral universe has bent towards justice and we are a better society because of it.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.