28 October 2008


California's Proposition 8 is stupid

It has no direct legal bearing on us here in Canada, but still, the existence of California's Proposition 8, which asks the state's voters to ban same-sex marriage in the state's constitution next week, depresses me. Here in northern commie land, gays and lesbians have had the explicit legal right to get married since 2005, and you know what?

Canadian society has not collapsed. Heterosexual marriages haven't spontaneously combusted into invalidity—at least, not the ones that wouldn't have anyway. Gay people haven't been out on huge "recruiting" drives at local evangelical churches. Things are pretty much the same as before. Alas, a few of those married gay couples have even gotten divorced, as you'd expect.

So I like the point that this video (via Bad Astronomy) makes, by replacing "same-sex marriage" in a Californian pro–Proposition 8 ad with "interracial marriage":

Gay marriage doesn't seem to have destroyed People magazine either. So if you're a California voter who reads my blog and on whom I might have any influence—a pretty small number of people, I'd guess—then next week, in addition to voting for Obama (what? is that surprise from me?), please vote No on Proposition 8. It's unnecessary, and doesn't deserve the ink.

If I seem meddlesome here, hey, if any of my American readers had given me advice on how to vote in the Canadian election earlier this month, I would at least have considered your opinion. But none of you did!

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it's not meddlesome. in fact, you make an excellent point, being from a country where everyone is allowed the right to marry.... canada has not fallen apart.
If standing up for human rights is meddlesome, I'd say meddle away!!
Love is the greatest gift you can share with someone. Why we would ever want to stop 2 people from sharing love is beyond me.

And to those who are in favour of "civil union" over marriage - that's just plain petty.

Why is it that the religious, who are raised to be so tolerant and loving, are the first to cast stones of hate and intolerance at others?

Seems kinda backwards that those of us who DONT go to church are more accepting than those who worship.

I agree with most of your comment, but to be not all the religious denominations/membership are as you describe.

My father is a retired United Church minister who has presided at a number of same sex unions. Not all Christians are right wing fundamentalists.
And on the other hand is the intolerance towards those who exercise their religious freedom in rejecting same-sex unions. Just thought I'd throw that one in to balance up the argument a bit.

It really comes down to how the Californians want their bit of society to act, and they'll have to live with whatever outcome prevails. Each side gets their say ... it's called democracy.

Steve Taylor
Melbourne, Australia
Steve, I would look at it this way. In the U.S. (and ideally elsewhere), the way the church-state separation law is supposed to work is that the government doesn't legislate particular religions as "official," and similarly does not prevent people from having particular religions.

By extension, the state therefore shouldn't unduly restrict people's ability to practice their religions -- but also shouldn't restrict what people who have different religious feelings, or none at all, do by basing its decisions on the beliefs of a religious majority.

There are also limits on how religious people can apply their beliefs. Some believe that homosexuals and others should be killed. Others think that even interracial, or inter-religious, marriages should be banned. Some say that no one should eat pork, or cut their hair, or do any work on the Sabbath. Yet we don't apply those laws to everyone.

As I wrote elsewhere:

"...we should neither tolerate nor accept ignorant and hateful speech and behaviour. I prefer thinking of things in terms of the older-fashioned 'prejudice,' i.e. we should not pre-judge people.

"In other words, there’s no reason we should, in advance, dislike Asians, or lesbians, or cat owners...

"Martin Luther King Jr. wanted people to be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. If their characters are shitty, we might want to figure out why, and maybe change them, or the circumstances that brought them to being that way -- but we we should still feel free to judge them as such. 'Post-judice' is entirely acceptable."

That's why I think I can call Proposition 8 "stupid," and say that the people who advocate for it, whether based on their religion or not, are wrong.
I've been living in Colorado now for nearly 4 years. It still surprises me how incredibly conservative people are. Especially the people I work with. I can totally silence a room by saying that I was proud when Canada legalized same sex marriage. (Oh, and yes, I am a Christian--people ask me that.) I'm one of two Democrats in my office.
I'm already planning to vote "no" on Proposition 8, as are my daughter and son-in-law, but thanks anyway Derek. I find the ads telling people to vote "yes" very annoying, to put it mildly.
"Seems kinda backwards that those of us who DONT go to church are more accepting than those who worship.", says buzz bishop.

hey wait a minute, let's not go with the sweeping generalizations. I go to church, and I am ridiculously progressive. How about "Seems kinda backwards that those of us who DONT go to church can sometimes be more accepting that some of those who do". It isn't all or nothing.

ps. i just came to see how Derek was doing :-)
I am for proposition 8. Gay couples have the right to live with each other, and that right should not be infringed on. But blocking gay couple from being married doesn't deprive them of any rights.
Except, of course, the right to get married.
But what do gay people have to lose by not being married?
Here's what: social and governmental recognition of the validity of their commitment. Some argue that civil unions (effectively, common-law marriage) are equivalent, but if they really were, why would this proposition even exist? If gay people lose nothing by not being married, then why go to the effort of excluding them?

Indeed, why not remove the institution of marriage from government recognition entirely, leaving only civil unions as legally recognized, with marriage being something churches (or perhaps other organizations) would choose to do? Some have argued for that.

Whatever it is gay people would lose by not being able to be married, it's the same thing straight people would lose if they weren't allowed to marry either. And that must be something, or the issue wouldn't be contentious.
Awesome answer Derek.

I'm one of the voices in favour of "civil union" being the only formal legal definition. If individual people or groups wish to use terms like marriage, partnership, established couple, symbiotes.. then that's their call.

I have no problems with gays getting married, as long they understand all that goes with that (eg. commitment, support, etc. ie. same as for hetero marriages). However, if it's legislated that churches must, if approached by a gay couple, conduct a marriage ceremony for them, then that's an infringement on the rights of that church if they oppose same-sex marriages. Separation of church and state would have to address that particular issue.

Steve Taylor
Melbourne, Australia
Well, we'll have to talk to all those heterosexual couples about taking marriage seriously too. :)

I don't think that, in any of these legislative contexts, nor in the current California constitution, it has ever been suggested that churches be legally required to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

The Yes on Prop 8 ads have apparently suggested that more widespread acceptance of gay marriage would lead to greater _public pressure_ (different from legislative requirements) on churches, temples, mosques, etc. to perform gay marriages -- and that those congregations that refuse to might be looked upon more negatively as a consequence.

I agree that's likely to happen, but here's my take on it: While churches and other organizations are free to resist changing societal mores, other members of society are also free to disdain them for doing so. There are, after all, social clubs that still don't admit women, but they're perceived as behind the times, and a lot less mainstream than they used to be.
Well, looks like the ban is going to win, which is sad. My favourite comment about it, from Cecily on Twitter: "African Americans were almost 2-1 in support of Prop 8. My people have no sense of irony, apparently."
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