Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thoughts On Prop 8

As you can imagine, Tuesday's election was bittersweet for me: I experienced the adrenaline-rush of Obama's win, and then the colossally disappointing low that came a day or so later with the official passage of Proposition 8 here in California. I'm still not sure I can write about this without sputtering inarticulately because it's such an emotionally charged issue for me. To be told I am a second-class citizen, unworthy of equal rights, and that my relationship isn't "good enough" to be worthy of legal marriage is simply painful. Knock-the-breath-out-of-me hurtful. I am incredulous that bigotry, in California of all places, is alive and well.

Then again, should I be all that surprised? The Yes on 8 folks waged a heinous, deceitful, and downright shameful campaign cloaked in the guise of what's Christian, and moral, and good for our children. But the distortions and outright lies that campaign put out are mind-boggling. One ad suggested there's a cause-effect relationship between allowing gay marriage and then toppling moral decline. As proof, the ad offered as an example the Netherlands, which "legalized same-sex marriage in 2001. And to date, incest & polygamy are all legal." Um, yeah, but incest (between adults) has been legal in the Netherlands for the past 200 years. Same-sex marriage didn't cause that. Why not, instead, bring up a country like Canada, where gay marriage is legal? No moral decline there. And what's really ironic is that polygamy was, until fairly recently historically speaking, standard practice in the Mormon Church. Who threw tens of millions of dollars into our state in support of Prop. 8? Sadly, the Mormon Church.

Then again, I always get nervous when people start waving their Bibles at me and cherry-picking verses or stories to justify oppressing certain groups of people. Let's not forget the Bible was once used to justify black slavery in this country.

The Yes on 8 people also claimed that domestic partnerships are the same as marriage in terms of rights, so by passing Prop 8, gay people don't lose any rights. Where else have we heard that "separate but equal" argument? Oh yes, thank God the Supreme Court didn't buy that nonsense either, and desegregated our schools in Brown vs. Board of Education. Fact: domestic partnerships are not the same. One example is health care benefits. Right now, I'm on my spouse's policy as a domestic partner, and by law I have to count the cost of that insurance as income and pay tax on it. Married people don't have to do that. Separate isn't equal. Equal is equal.

The Yes on 8 people also did the following: (1) send threatening letters to donors to the No on 8 campaign, stating they'd "expose" them as gay marriage supporters if they also didn't donate to the Yes on 8 campaign; (2) coordinate a cyber attack on the No on 8 website, essentially shutting down the site days before the election so that donors were unable to give money; and (3) perhaps most disgustingly, robocall registered African American voters in California with a fake "voice" of Barack Obama speaking out (and out of context) against gay marriage. The truth, of course, is that Obama--and even Arnold Schwartzenegger--were against the removal of fundamental rights already granted by the state constitution.

Removal of those rights is a terrible precedent to set. So what also gets my goat are the people who say, "The people of California have voted! This is a democracy! The majority rules, so live with it!" Well, I want to ask them, what America are you living in? Did you never take a government class when you were in high school? Remember America's system of checks and balances? Remember the courts are also supposed to protect minority groups from the tyranny of the majority? If it weren't for the courts overriding the will of the majority when interpreting the Constitution, interracial marriage might still be illegal, and, as suggested earlier, segregation might still be the norm ... and the list goes on. The majority isn't always right.

On the issue of Prop 8, the majority got it wrong. The struggle for civil rights will go on.

Here's an editorial that ran in the New York Times on Wednesday, and I do take heart from the sentiments expressed:

Equality’s Winding Path

Amid the soaring oratory about the presidential election, it was Barack Obama who put it best late Tuesday night. “That’s the genius of America, that America can change,” he said. “Our union can be perfected.”

But as Mr. Obama’s victory showed, the path to change is arduous. Even as the nation shattered one barrier of intolerance, we were disappointed that voters in four states chose to reinforce another. Ballot measures were approved in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and California that discriminate against couples of the same sex.

We do not view these results as reason for despair. Struggles over civil rights never follow a straight trajectory, and the ugly outcome of these ballot fights should not obscure the building momentum for full equality for gay people, including acceptance of marriage between gay men and women. But the votes remind us of how much remains to be done before this bigotry is finally erased.

In Arkansas, voters approved a backward measure destined to hurt children by barring unmarried couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents. In Arizona, voters approved a state constitutional amendment to forbid same-sex couples from marrying. Florida voters approved a more sweeping amendment intended to bar marriage, civil unions and other family protections.

The most notable defeat for fairness was in California, where right-wing forces led by the Mormon Church poured tens of millions of dollars into the campaign for Proposition 8 — a measure to enshrine bigotry in the state’s Constitution by preventing people of the same sex from marrying. The measure was designed to overturn May’s State Supreme Court decision, which made California the second state to end that exclusion of same-sex couples. Massachusetts did so in 2004.

The firmly grounded ruling said that everyone has a basic right “to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one’s choice,” and found California’s strong domestic partnership statute to be inadequate.

We wish that Tuesday’s vote of 52 percent to 48 percent had gone the other way. But when those numbers are compared with the 61 percent to 39 percent result in 2000, when Californians approved the law that was overturned by their Supreme Court, it is evident that voters have grown more comfortable with marriage equality.

Progress is evident, too, in the fact that since 2000, the California Legislature has twice passed a measure to let gay couples marry — only to be vetoed by the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. To his credit, he opposed Proposition 8. We suspect that if California holds another referendum on the issue down the road, it will yield a different result.

Not all the results for same-sex marriage were negative. In Connecticut, voters rejected a proposed constitutional convention through which opponents of same-sex marriage wanted to overturn a recent decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court, on sound equal protection grounds, allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Far from showing that California’s Supreme Court was wrong to extend the right of marriage to gay people, the passage of Proposition 8 is a reminder of the crucial role that the courts play in protecting vulnerable groups from unfair treatment.

Apart from creating legal uncertainty about the thousands of same-sex marriages that have been performed in California and giving rise to lawsuits challenging whether the rules governing ballot measures were properly followed, the immediate impact of Tuesday’s rights-shredding exercise is to underscore the danger of allowing the ballot box to be used to take away people’s fundamental rights.

15 comments:

Margo Moon said...

What a passionate, yet reasoned, appeal.

I'm so sorry you feel the sting of this vote. I have to admit that coming from solidly red state Kentucky, I feel rage and offense, but no real hurt. I desperately want to win equality under the law, but I just can't muster an emotion beyond disgust when it comes to bigots. In fact, I'd just as soon walk away with my rights secured and never have to give those people another thought.

Hahn at Home said...

Let's hope that those 15k marriages aren't someone wiped away like so much litter.

I think it's time to hit them in a spot where it hurts. They were mighty free and easy with the money on this campaign to interfere with our lives. How about we interfere with theirs - hit them in the wallet - boycott the businesses and businesses who do business with them for all those big buck donors?

Joyce said...

Margo Moon, I was at first stunned, then hurt, but now I'm just kinda mad. ;-) Squaring my shoulders, getting ready for another battle ... although seriously, it was tough sometimes hearing people you THOUGHT you knew come out against gay marriage. I actually have a friend (and I still consider her a friend) who couldn't be supportive of Chelle and me getting married, but added, "But I like YOU guys!" As if we're different from the rest of the gay population. Sigh.

Lori, yeah, I'd hate my marriage to be considered so much kitty litter!

Capn Dyke said...

Me Dear Hapless Tigger, it be a good thing Th' Cap'n didn't run for President this year. She'd make any church who meddled in politics start payin' taxes. 'Holy' writings have been rewritten and used th'world over for centuries (millenia, actually)t'supply th'words needed by th'greedy an' th'hypocritical t'enable their agenda - whether personal or not. It be why Th' Cap'n believes in three things: Be responsible for yer actions - fair or foul; Treat others in th'way ye want t'be (an' accept th'results if ye be an idiot) an' ne'er, let me repeat, NE'ER push yer beliefs onto another. Aye, we all have our Faults (well, except for Me Self, I'm practically perfect in every way - like Mary Poppins), but th'supression o'basic human rights be wrong. Period. Th' Cap'n wonders iffin any o'these people lay their heads on their pillows at night an' truly wonder what their 'god' would think o'their bigotry.

Joyce said...

Well, of course we know you're perfect, Cap'n! :-) The question is, can you carry a tune like Mary Poppins can? Better yet, do you sing in pirate, too? ;-)

Joyce said...

Actually, that was another tactic the Yes on 8 campaign tried. They made the claim in several tv ads that churches refusing to perform same-sex marriages would lose their tax exempt status. Finally they had to pull those ads because that's blatantly untrue (churches can marry whomever they please)--we're just talking about the State of California not being able to refuse gays the right to marry. Nonetheless, the lie had been put out there, and some people swallowed it hook, line, and sinker without even questioning its veracity.

Capn Dyke said...

Me Naughty One, Th' Cap'n can sing quite well Indeed - an' once ye hear Her Voice sail t' th'words o'"She's Yar an' All Mine", ye'll not only sigh in Delight, but follow me like a wee puppy after a pleasing bit o'kibble. Just sayin'... ;)

Capn Dyke said...

That be th'Problem with th'media. So many people believe them rather than research th'law or th'knowledge for their own selves. It be why this Pirate Queen refers t' th'like as th'sheeple. Common sense, is it so hard t'use then?

Lucia Olson said...

Joyce,

I was shocked to hear of those tactics the Yes on 8 campaign used. I knew about the TV ads telling people their daughter would come home from kindergarten saying, "I can marry a princess too!"
The tactics used by the Yes on 8 campaign seem downright illegal, although not being in the legal field, I don't know about election laws.

I have been feeling hurt and angry, too. All those people who gave me a thumbs-up or a honk as I stood out on the streetcorners in the cold and rain (do you hear violins starting up?)..were they just B.S.-ing me? Or did they go home and think about it and think, well, maybe it's too big a step to let them get married.

I take heart in the idea that the Bay Area and Los Angeles overwhelmingly voted No on 8 (I think) and that the big Yes on 8 votes came from other parts of the state. My sister lives in Sacramento and she said Yes on 8 signs and demonstrators were everywhere.

In an attempt to be comforting, a straight friend said that gay rights are where African-American civil rights were in the 60's and that "just wait forty years" and we will get our civil rights. Yay!!??? It reminds me of Martin Luther's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," where he says that everyone tells them it's not the right time that they need to wait for the right time. I personally feel it's been long enough, frankly!!!

Joyce said...

Well, swashbucklin' Cap'n, you can just call us and sing us a song on the answering machine! LOL We could use a little cheering up around here.

Lucia, yes. Yes. And yes. If not now, WHEN? I think a good many negative things can be boiled down to plain old fear--and unfortunately, old stereotypes about gay people die hard. That's why Harvey Milk kept driving home the message, "Come out, come out!" When people see us, get to know us, and realize we're not the boogeyman, then the door swings open. We need to keep reaching out.

Capn Dyke said...

Me Naughty Tigger, iffin Th' Cap'n was t'be singin' t'ye an' yer dear wife, it would be in Person - that way ye get th'Full Effect (aye, that Effect be Grand). :)

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Joyce said...

Hmm. Well, it's good to know about that site, but I have to point out that I'm already married. At least, I hope it stays that way. I think I've been spammed. LOL

John Bisceglia said...

More and more of us are WAKING UP, America. No taxation without equality; simple math.

Now the feds will need to repeal DOMA and DADT, grant us FULL equal rights (including marriage), and begin to start viewing our families - OUR FAMILIES - as the tax-paying contributing members of society we are.....well.....we USED to be!

Because if our HOMES, our FAMILIES, our very BELOVED are not acknowledged and valued as other families are legally, whatever we do outside of that home will never be acknowledged and valued legally, such as adopting children, working without discrimination, or serving openly in the military.

FAMILY FIRST. What is more important than FAMILY?

We owe the IRS absolutely NOTHING until equal. NOTHING. Get it?

This is NOT a test.
This is NOT a debate.
This is NOT a vote.
This is definitely NOT a popularity contest.

This IS justice - GAY TAX PROTEST.

Joyce said...

Hi John! I did read that Melissa Etheridge is planning to participate by not paying state taxes. Is the movement reaching to federal tax as well? It definitely is a travesty of justice for gay people to be taxed equally but not treated equally. I'll have to google "Gay tax protest" online and see if there's an official website about it...