This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As a college student at the time, I was heavily involved in the free speech movement on the campus at San Francisco State University while many of my friends had volunteered to participate in the civil rights struggles in Mississippi.
We were fighting racial and ethnic discrimination that was practiced against minorities. We were the innocent children of the ’50s who became the activists of the ’60s.
I wonder if those same activists would recognize anything that is now being done under the banner of civil rights. The civil rights that guarantee equal protection under the law have been stretched so far as to be unrecognizable.
In the ’60s no one would have thought that marriage could consist of anything but a union between a man and a woman, and homosexuality was considered a crime in many states. Today it has become so accepted that the federal government has declined to enforce its own “Defense of Marriage Act.”
So we will probably have to accept the fact that the definition of marriage will be redefined in all 50 states.
Now of course, we have a new state law — currently suspended — that has expanded the definition of civil rights pertaining to the protection of transgender individuals. Under the guise of equal rights, elementary and secondary students will have the right to enter any facilities consistent with their perceived gender, not necessarily their actual gender.
This got me to wondering just how far will these so-called “civil rights” go. For instance, what is so magical about the number 2? Where does it say that a marriage has to be between two people? Why shouldn’t the practice of polygamy be a civil right? After all, the Civil Rights Act provides protection from discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation and most anything else, so it also must protect the rights of any number of people to marry any number of people.
To test whether this idea could have any traction, I asked several young people under 20 what they thought of it. Most thought it would be OK with them.
So, considering young people will soon control the political process, I expect to see this enshrined in legislation in the near future.
Just how far can civil rights be stretched? Considering the fact that I love my wife very much and I am already married to her, is there someone else that I love and who loves me, too, that could be considered for marriage? Well, the one who falls into that category is my very loving cat, Betsy. The first thing Betsy does when I get home is to jump on my lap and purr. I love my cat and my cat loves me. I think we would make a wonderful threesome, Katie, Betsy and me.
The first thing I would do is get Betsy a Social Security Card, then an EBT card because she has no income, and then sign her up for unemployment benefits. And of course veterinary services would be free under Obamacare.
Again, what would a young person under 20 think of that arrangement? I checked with my granddaughter. She did not think it could be done because the cat can’t give informed consent. I like that argument except for the fact that some court would eventually rule that a purring cat or a face-licking dog is the equivalent of giving implied consent, and therefore would be considered an affirmative response.
In 20 years, will we look on a marriage between a man and a woman as just a quaint, old-fashioned idea, or nostalgically as a reminder of the old days?
It kind of makes me wish we could start over. Come to think of it, maybe we can. As a state of Jefferson, we could possibly mitigate some of these crazy state laws that are made for those who live in San Francisco, but are forced on all of us living in Del Norte County.
Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident and president of LifeStyles Research Co.