This isn’t normally the sort of thing we discuss on this blog, but in announcing his upcoming marriage with his partner of 21 years, the sci-fi actor makes an interesting comparison between discrimination involving his sexual orientation and Japanese descent. Here is Takei’s entire letter, with italics added for emphasis.
Our California dream is reality. Brad Altman and I can now marry. We are overjoyed! At long last, the barrier to full marriage rights for same-sex couples has been torn down. We are equal with all citizens of our state!
The California Supreme Court has ruled that all Californians have a fundamental right to marry the person he or she loves. Brad and I have shared our lives together for over 21 years. We’ve worked in partnership; he manages the business side of my career and I do the performing. We’ve traveled the world together from Europe to Asia to Australia. We’ve shared the good times as well as struggled through the bad. He helped me care for my ailing mother who lived with us for the last years of her life. He is my love and I can’t imagine life without him. Now, we can have the dignity, as well as all the responsibilities, of marriage. We embrace it all heartily.
The California Supreme Court further ruled that our Constitution provides for equal protection for all and that it cannot have marriage for one group and another form – domestic partnership – for another group. No more “separate but equal.” No more second-class citizenship. Brad and I are going to be married as full citizens of our state.
As a Japanese American, I am keenly mindful of the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that the law can impose. During World War II, I grew up imprisoned behind the barbed wire fences of U.S. internment camps. Pearl Harbor had been bombed and Japanese Americans were rounded up and incarcerated simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Fear and war hysteria swept the nation. A Presidential Executive Order directed the internment of Japanese Americans as a matter of national security. Now, with the passage of time, we look back and see it as a shameful chapter of American history. President Gerald Ford rescinded the Executive Order that imprisoned us. President Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the unjust imprisonment. President George H.W. Bush signed the redress payment checks to the survivors. It was a tragic and dark taint on American history.
With time, I know the opposition to same sex marriage, too, will be seen as an antique and discreditable part of our history. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy remarked on same sex marriage, “Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper, in fact, serve only to oppress.”
For now, Brad and I are enjoying the delicious dilemma of deciding where, when, and how we will be married. Marriage equality took a long time, but, like fine wine, its bouquet is simply exquisite.
Much of the debate over the legitimacy of this court decision, and gay marriage in general, is based upon the question of whether sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination is on the same level as gender and race. Since the general scientific and societal consensus seems to be that sexuality is primarily an inherent characteristic (whether due to genetic or prenatal factors), rather than a matter of “choice” or “lifestyle” I personally cannot buy the argument that it is not a similarly invalid basis for discrimination. I imagine that the best route for success on the part of gay marriage equality advocates is to continue to press comparisons with the earlier generations’ fight for racial and gender equality, continue to conflate racial discrimination with homophobia, and remind people that “separate but equal” is a vicious lie. Most people will likely balk at highly technical debates of constitutionality and jurisprudence, but perhaps more of them will listen when an elderly Japanese-American homosexual tells them that being barred from marrying his fiance is equivalent to being locked in an internment camp in the 1940s.
Incidentally, my favorite potential remedy to the entire issue is the somewhat radical proposal to remove the term “marriage” from the law entirely, make the state responsible only for two-party “civil unions” to which gender is irrelevant, leaving marriage as a religious sacrament or label of self-identification.