It is. Period. I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but being gay isn't any more of a choice than being straight. I never chose to be heterosexual anymore than my sister chose to be homosexual. Ergo, this argument that "gay rights isn't civil rights, cause being gay is a choice" is bullshit. Gay rights is civil rights.
Homosexuals are a subset of our population, and hating someone for being gay is bigotry. I'm sorry to have to break that to you, but it is. Hating someone for being a woman is bigotry in the form of sexism. Hating someone for being Jewish (a choice, oddly enough) is bigotry in the form of antisemitism. Hating someone for being Hispanic is bigotry in the form of racism. Hating someone for being from Iran is bigotry in the form of xenophobia. Hating someone for being gay is bigotry in the form of homophobia and/or heterosexism. I think that, in the 21st century, we can all agree that bigotry is not a desirable characteristic in our society or government.
But bigotry isn't just hate. A lot of the time, bigotry is a lot more subtle. It's voting for measures that prevent gay people from having rights -- or in the case of Prop 8, voting to take away rights that a subset of the population had been granted by a court interpretation of the state Constitution. Gay people had the right to marry in California for about 3 months. Now they don't. Californians voted to take away rights that gay people already had.
What's next? Who's next? If this isn't a civil rights issue, I don't know what is. If you change the words from "same-sex marriage" to "miscegenation" (people of different races marrying-- like a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya), it's pretty easy to see that as a civil rights issue.
Loving v. Virginia, in 1967 established that it was unconstitutional to make laws prohibiting two adults of different races from marrying, because those laws violate the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The majority decision states:
"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."Emphasis mine. If we take out the language "of another race", we have, essential a supreme court decision that states that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to prohibit two consenting adults from marrying one another. Which is exactly what the California Supreme Court did in May, stating:
"that the California legislative and initiative measures limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitutional rights of same-sex couples and may not be used to preclude same-sex couples from marrying."Prop 8, an "amendment" disguised as a revision disguised as an amendment -- except, revising the California State Constitution would require removal of the Equal Protection Clause from the the document and such a move would require a super-majority of the California State Legislature followed by a super-majority from California voters. An "amendment", ergo, not revising the California State Constitution and only requiring a simple majority to pass. As it stands now, the California State Constitution provides equal protection under the law to all citizens, except the ones we don't like -- which happen to be the gay ones at the moment. Opponents of Prop 8 in California are confident that on these grounds (and several others, I'm sure) the California Supreme Court will strike down Prop 8 and gay people in California will once again be full citizens.
However, that will not be the end of the battle for equal rights in California or anywhere. While Massachusetts and Connecticut have extended marriage rights to all pairs of consenting adults, there are too many places in the United States that have refused to extend the "basic civil rights of man" (humans, including gay ones, oddly enough), the right of a person whether or not to marry the person of their choosing, at a time of their choosing. What do we do?
EQUAL. RIGHTS. AMENDMENT.
We can push patch-legislation through congress, the Leadbetter Act, Equal Pay Act, VAWA, Affirmative Action. We can boycott companies that promote or practice discrimination based on gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, class, race, religion, disability, etc. We can call for the revokation of tax-exempt statuses of religious organizations that fund political campaigns like Yes on 8, but these are all only half-measures toward what we as Americans really, truly, want and need.
EQUAL. RIGHTS. AMENDMENT.
Our country tried to get the ERA passed in the 70s but too many people were caught up with "Me first!" and the misinformation peddled by such vermin as Phylis Schafley, and the ERA failed. They said, "we can't pass an ERA".
Yes we can.
We've already rallied around one cause and succeeded. We MUST, as minorities of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender-identity, class, disability, religion, etc rally together and take on those who posses white, straight, male, middle/upper class privilege and tell them: YOU had a chance to marry, to go to school, to work, to live the way you wanted to and WE ALL deserve those same rights. This isn't about marginalizing those with privilege, or even eliminating privilege. As Americans we are all equally privileged, but as was so in Animal Farm, some animals are more equal than others.
Gay people, Trans people, women, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, pantheists, atheists, liberals, conservatives -- we are all Americans. All Americans deserve all the rights and opportunities that are granted by law and civil society. That includes the right to marry, work, live, be healthy, and happy but with an ability to change your own circumstances if you so choose.
To do this, we don't have to take all the money from the rich, old, white guys and give it to the poor, young, black guys -- to do this, we need to pass an Equal Rights Amendment that truly, truly, provides "equal protection under the law" to all citizens regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual-identity, religion, class, disability (physical or mental), or any of the other things that keeps us "separate but equal".
Separate but equal doesn't work. It's not enough because separate is NOT equal and it never has been. These Americans aren't "those people" they are AMERICAN CITIZENS and they deserve to be treated as such. And at the very least, the VERY LEAST we need to have equality for all be true on paper. Because right now, it's not. And that's disgraceful, disgusting, and un-American.