Prop 8

02Feb10

I’ve been hesitant to write about the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial, although I have been following it very closely.  I’ve written before about my opinions on this issue (and I imagine what my feelings are could be guessed even if I had not).  But something I heard while the trial was going on has stuck with me, and been really bothering me.  I can’t just let it go, and so, although it seems like I’m repeating the same things over and over again every time I talk about gay marriage, I have to have another go at it.  First, let me quote from the American Foundation for Equal Rights website, which I think states this extremely well:

An integral part of our nation’s character and laws is the principle that all Americans are entitled to be treated equally by their government. And more than 30 years ago, in its landmark decision to strike down bans on interracial marriage, the Supreme Court of the United States recognized that marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man. Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to eliminate marriage rights for same-sex couples. As a result, the State of California is in violation of the United States Constitution, the “Supreme Law of the Land.” The United States Constitution guarantees every American basic fundamental rights, including the right to equal protection under the law.

This is why I have trouble believing that there is any question about whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.  It doesn’t matter what personal opinion is (though mine would still say same-sex marriage is normal), this is a clearly defined in our Constitution.  How it can be questioned is beyond me. But then the phrase that I talked about at the beginning of this post made me realize how this can happen.  Here’s from the article on the AMER website:

The trial began on Monday morning with lawyers seeking to overturn Proposition 8 submitting the remainder of their evidence, like an array of e-mail communications, videos from pro-Proposition 8 campaign activities and academic papers. The video presentations included footage from “simulcasts” to church groups, in which pastors say that gay marriage would lead to the legalization of polygamy, marriage with children and bestiality. “If Proposition 8 doesn’t pass we will see a domino effect and the social re-engineering of marriage will have a profound implication for every one of our lives,” said a man in the footage, in what appeared to be a live interview. He compared the potential failure of Prop 8 to the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks in New York, saying, “After 9/11 the world was a fundamentally different place.” A woman added: “If sexual attraction was the basis for the definition of marriage then pedophiles would have to be allowed to marry 6-, 7-, 8-year olds. Then a man could marry a horse. Mothers and sons. Sisters and brothers.”

Emphasis mine.  The quote in bold is what I saw, but I’d also like to draw attention to the italicized parts. You know the reason that some people can say that they don’t believe the constitution grants same-sex couples the right to marry?  They don’t think people who identify as LGBTQ are human.

I know some people are going to think that’s going too far, but honestly.  Our Constitution is pretty damn clear.  The only way that it could be understood not to apply to the LGBTQ population is if said population is not, in fact, human.

But there are other parts that really got to me.  I’m not going to get into the polygamy issue, because I don’t actually give a damn if someone wants to have multiple spouses (as long as all spouses are aware of the others and agree to it).  It’s a personal decision.  I don’t engage in polyamory, but I’m not opposed to it as a choice for others.

But bestiality and pedophilia?  I’ll actually ignore the fact that there’s no way a horse could take vows.  This is comparing same-sex marriage to two acts in which one party has no control over what’s happening to them (age of consent exists for a reason).  And then there’s the comparison of the failure of Prop 8 to 9/11.  Yes, gay couples being allowed to marry is totally like thousands of people dying, and the aftermath of such marriages being allowed will be just like the entire country going to war, killing more people, enacting laws that violated the rights of American citizens, and lighting a fire under all the ill-informed prejudices based on race and skin tone that the lovely American people can dredge up.

I hope like hell there is a domino effect when same-sex couples are allowed to marry.  I hope that people become more accepting of differences, less willing to judge people who don’t fall into the roles society has tried to give them, far less likely to base laws and morality on religious text, and that people will stop dehumanizing others because of their differences.

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

See that little bit that says “All persons?”  Not “All heterosexual persons.”  Not “All persons who are willing to follow religious edicts about their roles in the world.”  All. Everyone.  Even the ones who don’t agree with you.

This article from CNN states it very well.  Here’s an excerpt:

A pop star could have a quickie Vegas wedding tomorrow, to a man she meets tonight, if she so chooses. Scott Peterson, convicted of the murder of his pregnant wife and on death row, has an inalienable right to a prison wedding with a female pen pal if the mood strikes him.

Indiana grandmother Linda Wolfe holds the Guinness World Records title for most marriages: 23. One lasted just 36 hours. She’s on the lookout for No. 24, and when she finds him, no law can stop her from marrying him.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held unanimously that “the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man.”

So basic, so important, so fundamental, in constitutional parlance, that no state can interfere with even the most reckless heterosexual nuptials.

Yet in most states, my friends Wilbert and Carlos, “free men” together 16 years and lovingly raising a son, are shut out of the 1,100 federal and hundreds of state legal benefits that come with marriage. These include the right to visit a spouse in a hospital and make medical decisions; employer sick and bereavement leave; inheritance rights; the right to give unlimited gifts to a spouse without gift tax; disability, pension, and Social Security benefits; the right to bring a wrongful death case; the right to refuse to testify against a spouse; or the right to prevent the deportation of a foreign-born partner by marriage, among others.

Look, I admit I don’t get why anyone thinks that same-sex intimacy is wrong.  I just don’t see it, never have, never will.  I think that is one of the reasons that I have so little tolerance for arguments against same-sex marriage — because, if we’re being honest, it isn’t about protecting “American values” or ensuring that marriages will result in reproduction, or really any of the issues that anti-gay rights advocates try to convince us (and themselves) that it is about.  None of those arguments, when seriously considered and challenged, holds up as an acceptable reason to deny the right to marry to same-sex couples.  I could argue why, I could pick apart each piece by piece, but I won’t.  I have done it a million times before, and others have done it before me, and what it comes down to is that this is not about reason and equality, or about what is right.  This is about fear and religion.  No law should ever be made based on either of those things.  I live in a country in which I am supposed to be free from religious persecution (I am not, because my religion, or lack thereof, is not socially acceptable).  Ancient, bigoted religious text should not dictate my life.  If it did, I, as a woman, would have no rights.  Slaves would still be acceptable (and actually, slaves would be defying God if they attempted to fight their oppression), as would murder in the name of God.  My piercings and tattoos would get me into serious trouble.  Any display of sexuality outside of wedlock could lead to my death.  No one, not even the heterosexual couples, could divorce for any reason other than unfaithfulness (if we’re going by Jesus’s command on that one).  I also live in a country in which all people are said to be created equal.  Until we back those words, though, we are not a free country.  We are an oppressed people being told to pretend we are free, and being told to rejoice in our oppression.

The trial is over, and was argued well by those in favor of equality.  I can only hope that the judge can see that now is the time to make a decision to fight oppression and bigotry, to make history in one of the best ways possible, to leave a legacy as someone who stood up for what is right when the majority of Americans did not yet understand.

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12 Responses to “Prop 8”

  1. 1 mkg4583

    Good article. Marriage like all of our other civil rights are not “absolute”. Can’t marry your mom, cousin, etc. Why? Marriage is primarily about creating and raising children, not sex.

    The Supreme Court ruling in Loving v Virginia, in which the absolute right to marriage is often misquoted by gay rights activists. If you read below its says VERY CLEARLY “fundamental to our very existence” I think it kinda goes without saying… this means creating more babies. duh?! Two men and two women cannot create a baby through marriage. Besides this talks about race discrimination between a man and woman, only. The Supreme Court applies only the Strict Scrutiny tests to race and gender discrimination cases, not gay rights cases, since homosexuals are not considered a suspect or quasi-suspect class of disenfranchised citizens.

    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.

    • I’m rather doubting you actually read what I wrote, but let me respond anyway.

      First of all, no, the primary reason for marriage is not reproduction. Marriage started out more like a business merger — funds and goods were exchanged (the wife often being one of the “goods”), and property rights became settled in a more concrete way. Now marriage is seen a bit differently, as more of an act of love and symbol of commitment (which is not the only reason people get married, of course, but that’s generally how it’s viewed). People can reproduce without marriage (and often do), and while our society tends to tell us children are more acceptable in wedlock, it isn’t a requirement. Furthermore, by your reasoning, a heterosexual couple who is infertile (and therefore not able to reproduce), or a heterosexual couple who just doesn’t want to have children (like I and whomever I end up with will be) shouldn’t be allowed to marry. That would never stand up in court, and for good reason — it makes absolutely no sense.

      AND, the gay population is disenfranchised. Fucking hell, they aren’t given the same rights as heterosexuals, what do you think that word means? Let me help, it means “deprived of the rights of citizenship,” which INCLUDES MARRIAGE, as it is now considered a fundamental right (and yes, the decision was based on interracial marriages, but it cannot be considered a fundamental right for one group of people but not another).

      And, to close, this issue is not at all about race (although I don’t think marriage should be denied because of race any more than I think it should be denied because of sexual preference, religion, eye color, musical taste, etc.). Interracial marriage has been allowed for quite some time. Now we’re facing a different, though very similar, kind of marriage inequality that also must be ended.

  2. Personally, I think the government should only recognize civil unions and those shall be open to all sexual orientations. Take the power away from the word marriage. In order to get any type of tax breaks, a couple has to submit to the governments civil union. Marriage can remain a religious term and all will be happy.

    They won’t, but you will never make everyone happy.

    • 4 Edman

      The problem with the civil union “solution” is that it’s about as effective as saying “separate but equal”. While homosexuals may then be able to take advantage of things such as tax breaks, the term itself would only serve to remind them of their second-class status, and the fact that they can’t be married as two people who love each other.

      As a side note: I understand you are advocating removing the word “marriage” for all couples, straight or gay, and having all partnerships fall under civil unions, which is a novel, if slightly impractical, way to approach the matter. However, I still think the ideal solution will bring gay marriage into equality with straight marriage, regardless of what the extremist Christians want. We may yet have to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    • Another problem is that civil unions don’t give the same rights as marriages. Marriage isn’t just a religious term (and a religious ceremony is not required in order for a couple to marry). If they did something like that, would they grant all the rights currently given by marriage to civil unions? If so, it would be both more practical and more to the point to just allow same-sex marriages. If civil unions keep the same rights that they currently have, it doesn’t really make sense to strip everyone of rights rather than bring them up to the same level.

      From a more social perspective, it would still not be justice. The gay population deserves the right to marriage, and saying that we’d rather abolish the idea of marriage altogether than grant it to them is quite a slap in the face. I don’t think that’s what you were aiming for, but that’s the way I would see it.

      I have to say, I’m really enjoying the discussion on this. New perspectives always make me examine my own more closely.

    • But the word marriage has a lot of religious connotation to it. To force everyone to be in a “marriage” is basically demanding equality in a person’s religion and that is where you get the resistance from. It is not just Christian groups either. You will start to notice more resistance from Muslims in the coming years.

      Replace the word marriage with civil union in the eyes of the government and all are now equal. If it is truly just a desire to be equal under the law, then the name shouldn’t matter.

      • To me, the word marriage actually holds no religious connotations. I am atheist, and if I did want to marry, I would not feel trapped or otherwise offended by using the term.

        You have to realize that it isn’t as simple, legally or socially, to say all marriages are now called civil unions, problem solved. Not only does marriage hold a significant, deeper meaning for many people, it is also a term almost universally recognized.

        The only way I could see that working out fairly is if both marriages and civil unions possessed equal rights, and couples were allowed to choose on an individual basis which term would be applied to them. It’s still not a very practical solution, though. After all, didn’t you say the name shouldn’t matter? If that’s true, then the term marriage shouldn’t be offensive as the all-encompassing term for domestic unions, either.

      • If you wanted to call yourself married even though legally everyone was under a civil union contract, there is no harm. The way it is coming off is not that you want equality in the eyes of the law. It appears that you are demanding equality and acceptance in the eyes of man/religion. That view is why this will never be a win-win situation. No one will ever be happy and the struggle will always be there.

        My idea strips the power away from both groups. The religious side will have to be equal with same sex unions if they want the legal and tax benefits. The same sex couples can go to a church and have a marriage performed. It really does separate church and state from deciding who can be a couple. It wont work though, because neither side is willing to compromise. Thus we remain stuck.

      • You’re the one who is making marriage a religious term. It isn’t. If it was, that reasoning would say that atheist couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry. No one seems to be arguing against their right to do so.

        But let’s, for fun, say it is a religious term. Why, exactly, is homosexuality considered so much worse when it comes to “sins” than any other? And I do mean any other…murderers are not denied the right to marry. How is murder not worse than homosexuality? Adulterers are allowed to marry, and their “sin” actually has to do with breaking the vow of commitment. Rapists can marry, abusers can marry, thieves can marry. How did they “sin” any less? Homosexuality gets a tiny amount of attention in the bible compared to other sins, and yet, somehow, is considered a dealbreaker when it comes to whether or not you can be a Christian. (I’m focusing on Christianity, both because it is the main religion in America opposed to same-sex marriage, and because it is the one with which I’m most familiar.) It just doesn’t make sense. I have my own theories about why it is that way, but for the moment I will not bring them into play.

        Marriage is not just about tax breaks. It’s a term that we equate with love and commitment, not benefits from the government. Yes, it is important for all people to be granted the same benefits, but it really isn’t the reason most people get married. They don’t pop out the engagement ring and say, “Honey, I really want some tax breaks. And, you know, my mom really hates me, I’d rather she not have control over any medical decisions if I’m unable to make them. And we’ve done some pretty messed up, illegal things, and I wouldn’t want us to have to testify against one another in court if it comes down to that so…marry me, babe?” Civil unions would not be the same, and your “compromise” would just make all parties involved unhappy. It isn’t about making everyone lower what they want in order to make them equal, it’s about perpetuating equality, real, honest, equality in our laws. If all men are created equal, we do not have to abolish the idea of marriage from our laws. I’m not asking churches to welcome same-sex marriage with open arms and leave their prejudices behind (though it would be great if they did). I am asking for equality, and equality can not be gained by saying that the gay population doesn’t deserve marriage, and instead we’ll relegate the entire population to a less meaningful civil union (but they can try to seek out a marriage ceremony separately, if they want, but they must go to a church to do so). It would still be a “separate but equal” situation, which is not, in fact, equal at all.

        I honestly believe that fifty years down the road the newer generations will be saying, “I can’t believe they didn’t allow same-sex marriage back then,” the exact same way we discuss interracial marriage today. Imagine if they had tried to say, “You know what, instead of letting those mixed race couples get married, let’s just take the idea of marriage right out of our legal system. We can all have civil unions instead, and good luck to to them if they want to try to find a pastor who will perform a religious marriage ceremony for them. And if they want a non-religious marriage ceremony? They don’t need that, those crazy interracial couples! You know marriage is for the Christians of the same skin tone!” You’re going to say it isn’t the same, but it is. Too few people realize it yet, but, in the future, they will.

      • Didn’t think I made it a religious term. I was just trying to point out that marriages were performed by religious groups prior to the formation of the country and the laws that recognized it as a legal union between two people. The religious implications are set as precedence, but why argue about that.

        Being familiar with Christianity, you know that the person is not murdering while getting married, so no sin is actively being committed. Not raping or abusing during the ceremony either. Adultery takes place after the ceremony, so not an issue. Homosexuality is an active sin, thus they have a problem with it. Homosexuality does not forbid one from being a Christian, but people can’t always agree on that so I won’t push the point.

        ** Marriage is not just about tax breaks. It’s a term that we equate with love and commitment, not benefits from the government. **

        Not true all of the time. People are happy not being married because they don’t need a piece of paper saying they love each other. Others get married because of the tax breaks that are afforded the right. Divorce is at an all time high, so there is no real commitment with marriage.

        I understand where you are coming from and you have valid points. When same sex marriage is legalized and a church refuses to marry someone because it conflicts with their beliefs, you now have a possible discrimination case. The religious groups will either compromise their beliefs or stop performing weddings outright. No the state is dictating to the church and the whole process will have to be separated.

      • 11 Edman

        “Homosexuality is an active sin, thus they have a problem with it.”

        Wha? Are they sodomizing each other at the altar? The whole “homosexuality is an active sin” is a load of crap made by people who want to justify their “ew, gross” reaction. It’s no more active than a pathological liar, and last I checked, there’s plenty of married liars out there.

        Also, any church can discriminate who they will marry right now. Straight people have the freedom to marry, but it doesn’t mean that every sect will cater to their wishes. I’ve seen couples turned down for all sorts of reasons, from not being spiritual enough, to skin color. That won’t change if homosexuals are allowed to marry, but I believe we should give them the opportunity, at least.

        I’m with Josie on this one – taking everyone down a peg isn’t justice or equality at all. It’s cutting off the nose to spite the face.

      • Definitely agree with Edman on the “active sin” issue. Furthermore, someone who has committed adultery in a previous marriage is allowed to remarry. I think that would logically be an issue. There’s also that nice bit about how a man who divorces a woman for any reason other than unfaithfulness turns her into an adulteress, and any man she marries afterward becomes an adulterer. I imagine that would be counted as an “active” sin, being committed by the very act of marriage.

        I said before that I know that some people do marry for the government benefits (I know a guy who did, actually, though he’s currently going through a divorce). However, I’d be pretty comfortable saying that it isn’t the reason most people marry, and that it isn’t the main reason most same-sex couples want to marry (though, again, as I’ve said before, those benefits are extremely important for same-sex couples to have). I also know that not all people need to marry in order to declare their devotion — I am, in fact, one of those people. I am perfectly fine with the idea of spending my life with someone, but, if I did make the choice to do that, I wouldn’t get married. My sister, however, needs marriage. She has always had the marriage and kids dream, and to tell her she couldn’t have that would be cruel. Thankfully, she’s heterosexual and doesn’t have to worry about being denied the right.

        My father’s a pastor, so I have heard the “pastors will get sued” argument and given it serious consideration. As Edman said, pastors now get to choose who they will and will not marry, based on anything at all, including “I was planning to take a bubble bath and eat three boxes of chocolate while reading Sports Illustrated that day.” (For the record, my father hasn’t done that, it was just, strangely, the first thing that came to mind.) It hasn’t seemed to be a big issue in the states that do allow same-sex marriage. In any case, there are some things more important than avoiding trouble. We, as a nation, need to stop living under the illusion of equality and start doing something to bring it about.

        Alright, I think we’ve gotten about as far as we’re going to in helping one another to understand our opinions. I believe it’s time to just accept that we disagree.


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