A week after the elections, many in the South Asian community are looking forward to a new Administration and Congress that will hopefully bring forth positive changes concerning civil rights. The elections, however, are bittersweet for many South Asians who are also grappling with disappointment of Proposition 8’s passage in California. This ballot initiative amends the state’s Constitution to ban marriage between same-sex partners. Its passage is especially significant given that it followed a California Supreme Court ruling in The Marriage Cases that recognized same-sex couples’ right to marry.
The passage of Proposition 8 replays a shameful chapter in our country’s history regarding inequality in marriage. During the first half of the twentieth century, anti-miscegenation laws prohibited many immigrants and individuals of color, including Punjabi farmers in California’s Imperial Valley, from marrying Caucasians. It wasn’t until the landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that all race-based legal restrictions on marriage were declared unconstitutional. With this history in mind, over 60 Asian-American organizations joined legal briefs supporting marriage equality in The Marriage Cases in California in 2007.
Marriage equality, along with other issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) individuals, is often silenced and ignored in the South Asian community. Advocates and community members in California worked tirelessly to raise awareness about equality among South Asians. For example, Trikone-SF developed posters, distributed in collaboration with Satrang, featuring South Asians opposing Proposition 8. South Asian Network (SAN) spoke at a press conference expressing concerns about the initiative. SAN and Satrang also coordinated a march in Artesia’s “Little India.” The struggle for equality continues with rallies against Proposition 8 continuing after Election Day and lawsuits filed against the initiative for violating the Constitution.