Friday, May 1, 2009

Proposition 8

In Vermont the legislature ignored the governor's threatened veto and legalized gay marriage. In Massachusetts, California, and now Iowa, state supreme courts have declared the ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional. In Washington DC, the city council voted to legalize gay marriage and to recognize gay marriages in other states. The Washington DC action must be approved by Congress, setting the stage for an historic and unprecedented debate on the subject. In California, voters passed Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage. The California Supreme Court is considering overturning that initiative. The times they are a changin' and Regressives are outraged and Progressives are thrilled. In poll after poll, people under the age of 40 support allowing gays to marry by growing majorities. In Vermont, legislators were quoted as saying, "...we have seen how these relationships worked. They present no problem in our state." Majorities of Catholics, Episcopalians, and other mainstream Protestants under the age of 30 favor gay union. Calls are growing louder to end "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in the military; one of those voices being General Eric Shinseki who once administered the program in the Army. California's Supreme Court must overturn Proposition 8 because there are certain rights that cannot be taken away by a majority vote. When the founding fathers proposed a new constitution, they had to include the Bill of Rights in order to gain ratification. There had to be certain rights that neither the government nor the "tyranny of the majority" could take away without showing a "compelling reason." It has always been a fear in a democracy that the majority could trample the rights of a minority unless certain rights were protected. The majority may not like what you write or speak. They may not like you burning the flag. The government may not like your criticism or may wish to force you to incriminate yourself to win a conviction; but you are supposed to be protected from this. One of the most sacrosanct principles of this nation is equal justice for all. Telling gay people that they cannot marry and take advantage of all the benefits that accrue to such an agreement is a denial of that principle that no vote can violate. In each case, Massachusetts, Iowa or California, opponents of gay marriage lost because they couldn't show a compelling reason for the state to discriminate against gay couples. They couldn't present an argument which trumped their rights to equal protection. Oh they tried all kinds of rationales and boogie men to scare the courts, but they failed. They originally tried religiously based arguments. You know them all. God did not create Adam and Steve, but Adam and Eve. They could site Sodom and Gomorrah in the Hebrew Scriptures or Romans in the Christian Scriptures. (The one person they could never quote is Jesus who is surprisingly silent on such an important moral question.) They soon discovered that religious arguments didn't cut it anymore in court, so they had to try another tactic. The new argument was "tradition". (I can hear Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof belting out "tradition, tradition".) Gays cannot get married because they have never been allowed such rights before, (tradition). Marriage has always been between a man and a woman(tradition). Marriage is the backbone of American society and the vehicle used to transmit morals and values to our children(tradition). The purpose of marriage is to produce children, and since gays cannot; they cannot marry, (tradition). Gays cannot give children the same parenting experience that straight couples can, including clearly delineated rules of mother and father, (tradition). The problem with these arguments is that they represent a hypocritical double standard and they are patently dishonest as well. The religious arguments hold no water because of separation of church and state and the natural resistance Americans have developed to people imposing their moral values on others. We have come a long way in this country. We no longer allow the Bible to be used to justify laws prohibiting the races from marrying or women from buying and selling contraceptives. The same religious arguments that justified racism and bigotry have given way to President Obama. The same Bible that raised anti-semitism to a sacrament gave way to a melting pot of Jews and Christians and Atheists living and working together. As for the tradition argument, it fails under the weight of its inherent dishonesty. If marriage is about reproduction, then why are people incapable of having children allowed to marry? Divorced couples are allowed to re-marry despite study after study showing that the children of divorce are harmed or negatively affected in many ways. The values that straight couples pass on to their children include prejudice, bigotry, lying, cheating and stealing as well as infidelity, adultery, mental cruelty, and physical abuse. The "traditional" married couples have produced everything from 'The Inquisition' to slavery to genocide to Jim Crow. I can make a better argument from "tradition" for prohibiting divorce than prohibiting gays from getting married. The Supreme Court has to overturn Proposition 8 because it is the right thing to do constitutionally. There is no compelling reason to allow the state to discriminate against gay couples. If there was one good solid argument against gay marriage, it would have carried the day already; as none of these courts wanted to rule in favor of gay couples. They were left with no other choice. They either believed in equal protection under the law or they did not. If they did not, they should resign. Proposition 8 is the very type of law that the founding fathers were wary of and that is why the Bill of Rights was included. The majority cannot vote away essential rights of the minority. If Proposition 8 is overturned, it is not a defeat of participatory democracy. If Proposition 8 is voided, the "people's will" has not been crushed. If Proposition 8 is found to be constitutionally wanting, then we are safe in our homes from the reach of government intrusion into our privacy for another day. If Proposition 8 is tossed into the dustbin of prejudice and bigotry, then the experiment of this nation and he idea of all men being created equal continues to progress. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

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