After a nice, frivolous post about gigantic hats, it's time for another serious post. The election is only twelve days away (though we already voted. Yay!) and as you probably know, it's not big hats that are foremost on my mind. I'm only trying not to inundate my blog with politics. A nice ratio of frivolity to politics must be maintained! But today's a politics day. I'm going to write about gay marriage. Thankfully, this has not been trotted out as a major wedge issue in this election -- with one huge exception. Californians have to vote on Proposition 8, the "Protect Marriage" initiative which would amend the California Constitution to specify that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
I don't know that I would have written about this issue if I had not happened upon a blog post in support of Prop 8, written by an earnest young Mormon woman in California, who sincerely did not believe that what she was espousing was discrimination. She wrote:
"Please understand that I do not discriminate against same-sex couples. I feel everyone has the right to choose what they want to do. But for religious reasons, I believe that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, and nothing else."
discrimination = treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.
Anyone who is against gay marriage, it is your right to believe whatever you want, but do not be deceived by church rhetoric that this is not discrimination. It is the very definition of it. By telling yourself you support civil unions but not marriage, you might feel righteous and open-minded, like you have resolved an important conflict between civil liberties and religious beliefs, but you have resolved nothing. You are discriminating. And yes, my presidential candidate and his running mate espouse the same discrimination, and this bums me out, but the fact is: because of the pervasive religiosity of this nation, a president can not WIN who favors gay marriage. That is what sickens me most.
However, I am very proud to say that our Democratic Senate candidate, Jeff Merkley, supports gay marriage. Not just civil unions, but marriage.
I imagine that people like the young woman who wrote that post cannot understand why the gay community is not satisfied with their tremendous largesse at being willing to allow them civil unions. Why is this not enough? Why must they agitate for marriage?
I'm not going to try to answer this question for the gay community, but I am going to answer for myself, as a married person who is not religious. What is marriage to me? It is the highest expression of love and devotion one human being can make to another. It is powerful. As George Eliot once said, "What greater thing is there for two human souls that to feel that they are joined for life?" This is human and highly personal; it is powerful. To me, it has nothing to do with God. Whether you are religious or not, marriage is an extraordinary commitment of love and trust.
If you are against gay marriage: who are you to tell anyone else that their love is only worth a "civil union"? If you are voting for Prop 8, you should imagine your single vote as keeping a couple from making the ultimate commitment of love to one another. Casting a vote in privacy, it goes too easy on you. You should have to stand up and object at a wedding, perhaps a wedding between lesbian life partners who've already spent forty years together and raised a family. You should have to stride to the front of the church and stand between them, tell them they don't deserve it, and while you're at it, tell them how much better you are, how much more righteous and entitled. Marking a ballot is too easy; it's cowardly. To take away someone's rights, just like that?
Why should any potential bigot get to cast a vote on another person's civil liberties at all? This shouldn't even be on the ballot. What do you think would have happened if voters were allowed to decide on interracial marriage back in 1948, rather than the Supreme Court of California? For the record, 60 years ago the California court found in Perez v. Lippold that interracial bans on marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. But it wasn't until 1967 that the US Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia finally struck down all race-based restrictions to marriage.
As with interracial marriage, gay marriage should not be a matter of public opinion, but of civil liberties -- to be decided by courts based on the document wherein our freedoms are written and guaranteed. That document? Not the Bible, people, but the Constitution.
However, Prop 8 is on the ballot, and 77% of funding for the "Yes on 8" campaign is coming from the Mormon church. I know there has been a vocal contingent of Mormons who have opposed their church's involvment in this issue, and I commend them for their willingness to speak out. I can only imagine it isn't easy. And of course, it's not only Mormons and other religious groups who will vote Yes on 8, it's all manner of folk who think their personal beliefs should govern others. Some relevant quotes by Mark Twain:
"Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."
"In religion and politics people's beliefs are almost always gotten at second hand, and without examination."
Marriage is a human instititution and predates Christianity. Why then should Christianity be the arbiter of all marriages? We are not all Christian, and in America, we should not be beholden to the church for our freedom. And that is certainly not to say that many gay and lesbian Americans are not Christian or do not want a Christian marriage ceremony. I would just suggest that the churches decided for themselves whether they will allow the marriages within their own institution and not try to influence laws and enforce their own beliefs on all Americans. Because when churches enforce their beliefs through law, that is theocracy. Saudi Arabia has that. Malaysia has that, and I just read that Malaysia is trying to outlaw tomboys because girls dressing like boys is against Islam. Who do we want to emulate in our liberties?
So please, if you are in California, vote against putting discrimination into the California Constitution. Vote no on 8.
By the way, immediately after reading that Pro-8 blog post, I made a contribution to the Human Rights Campaign, which works for GLBT equality.
And to lighten up the mood a little in parting, a last Mark Twain quote:
"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."
[Updated to add a link to this beautiful post about love and family. Which made me think. I've been ruminating on a post about what it means to me to be liberal. Does anyone else want to write a post about what it means to them to be liberal or conservative? Say, Tuesday? Anyone?]