I am asking every American who has a gay child, parent, sibling, cousin or friend to read this through to the end. It is my plea.
When Merideth and I exchanged vows seven years ago (on October 20), we asked Merideth’s sister to do a reading. She chose her text from various sources, all on the subject of “home.” She explained that that was what marriage meant to her, and what she hoped it would mean to us. She emphasized that that this one person, this one who loves and supports you and greets you in the morning and at the end of the day with a smile: This person is home.
In the past seven years, we’ve discovered just how true that is. We are each other’s home, and we work every day to make sure that is as true on the days when the most romantic thing we do is laundry as it was on the day that we promised to love one another forever.
We consider our wedding date to be that day: October 20, 2001. But the state of California thinks our wedding date is July 11, 2008, because that was the day that we promised we would love each other forever after the California Supreme Court declared marriage a legal option for ALL consenting, adult Californians on May 15, 2008. And to be honest, I didn’t think that second wedding date was going to be a big deal. We considered ourselves married already; this was just a formality. But when I heard the words, “By the power vested in me by the State of California…,” I knew there was a difference. There was a difference between a legal recognition of domestic partnership and a legal recognition of a marriage. In fact, there are over 1000 civil rights afforded by “marriage” that are not afforded by “domestic partnership.” The Supreme Court of California noted that this was a case of separate but (un)equal, and I agree. It felt different. (Please see Lesbian Dad’s similar post for what can happen when insurance companies will not recognize a designation.)
On the California ballot in the upcoming election, Proposition 8 proposes to reverse the California Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex marriage to make marriage between “one man and one woman.” This proposition has extremely heavy funding from the Mormon Church and other religious organizations who are using scare tactics that include unabashed lies (not very Christian, that) in their advertisements, stating that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if gay people have the right to marry. I have also heard arguments that Proposition 8 should pass because marriage between a man and a woman is “traditional,” that heterosexual marriage needs to be protected, because the Bible says being gay is bad, or because it’s all a slippery slope into bigamy and (my personal favorite) bestiality. I truly believe that these arguments are all a smokescreen because people feel icky about gay marriage. And to be even more forthright: They feel icky about gay sex, but have too much difficulty enforcing anti-gay sex laws, so instead want to make sure that gay families aren’t allowed the same rights as heterosexual families.
But let’s look at the arguments anyway:
THE LIE: Churches Will Lose Their Tax-Exempt Status
The pro-Proposition 8 ads note that if Prop. 8 is defeated, churches COULD lose their tax-exempt status.
Well, you know what? The sky could fall in, too. However, if churches lost their tax-exempt status every time they did something that went against law, then the Catholic church would have lost their tax-exempt status when they refused to let women become priests. Any other business would be in huge trouble with labor attorneys over gender discriminatory practices, but the Catholic church continues on its merry way because of the separation of church and state (otherwise known as the First Amendment to the United States constitution). And that’s fine. I truly believe in all of the amendments of the Constitution, that one first and foremost. I have no interest in legislating churches with my “gay agenda,” and neither does the government.
And while I hate to accuse anyone of lying outright, the pro-Prop. 8 people are LYING. I cannot believe that they are so stupid that they think that this one tiny proposition allowing gay marriage to be recognized by the state will spell the doom of any church, be it founded by St. Paul or by Paul down the street. And the fact that the pro-Prop. 8 campaign is predominantly funded by churches and church organizations means that they are knowingly lying, or at the very least purposefully misleading others through fear. Which is not really something I should expect from my church.
Marriage Between a Man and a Woman is “Traditional.”
Merideth, Mandy and I have a tradition where we go shopping together on the day after Thanksgiving. I get an eggnog latte, and we stroll the Stanford Shopping Plaza, picking up Christmas gifts and enjoying the high school carolers. We’ve had this tradition for seven years, so I think it’s time to legislate it.
Nevermind that I could argue that a marriage between one man and one woman is hardly “traditional” based upon historical documents and using the Bible as examples. Nevermind that we all have to give an offensive wink, wink, nudge about the Mormon religion’s idea of traditional marriage. You know what else is traditional? Slavery. Also? Subservient women, racial separatism, spousal abuse, peeing outdoors, and sitting in the dark once the sun goes down. Happily, along with tradition, there’s also progress, both in technical inventions and in societal understanding and conventions.
Heterosexual Marriage Needs to be Protected.
From whom? Me? Really? If anyone’s THAT intent on protecting marriage, I think all states should refuse to recognize marriages from Nevada unless all parties signed a sober affidavit. We should also maybe outlaw divorce. That’ll protect marriage.
The Bible Says Being Gay is Bad.
Merideth and I are both Christians, which might come as shocking news to other Christians who keep throwing their Bibles at us. (We have a few, and have actually read them, but thanks.) And while I would love to get into it about what the Bible says about homosexuality (this San Francisco Chronicle article did a good job, as did Jen Austin in her book, “Coming Out Christian,” a must-read for any Christian struggling with homosexuality) the Bible shouldn’t even be figuring into this. Once again, the separation of church and state must wield its ugly head and roar about how the Bible doesn’t get to dictate what happens in the law. And if the Bible DID get to dictate, I think we should probably be pointing fingers at the people who are trying to persecute gay people based upon outdated Old Testament laws when Jesus clearly said we had a new covenant. I’m pretty sure that if we all glanced at our bracelets and asked ourselves what Jesus would do in this circumstance, it would be to promote loving families, not stone a minority group.
The slippery slope has always been my favorite. If we let the gays marry, the next thing you know, bigamy will be rampant and people will want to marry their dogs. This will, of course, be right after my head explodes because of how obtuse anyone who spouts this argument has to be. How hard is it to have a law that marriage can be between two consenting adults?
I’m much more scared of the other slippery slope: If we decide to take away the right of homosexuals to marry, what’s stopping us from letting them have jobs? And who said they had the right to be out after dark? At what point will they have to wear a symbol on their clothes so we can recognize them? Sound familiar? If not, Tivo the history channel for one day for a big fat refresher on what the “slippery slope” of letting the government revoke human rights looks like. Or better yet, ask your grandfather what it was like to liberate Germany.
I realize that I’ve treated this with a silly tone in some parts, but I am deadly serious about this Proposition. The venom and bigotry behind it make me dizzy because of the amount of effort being put forth to restrict my right to pursue happiness.
I wasn’t alive when the Nazi party came to power, but I know it didn’t happen in one day. Little laws and restrictions kept sneaking their way in until one day those who were considered unfit for civilization were all hauled away, many never to be seen or heard from again. Do not misunderstand: I do not think we are on the threshold of a Holocaust, nor do I want to minimize the amount of suffering of those who lived through it or died because of it. My point is that we are currently seeing a specific targeting of a minority class who has not done any harm other than make some people feel squeamish. And that is dangerous. As Americans — hell, as people — we have an obligation to protect the minority classes, because often the majority turns into mob rule.
Call me melodramatic, but I am honestly fearful that those who will not help protect me today would also turn their faces if I or someone else were made to wear a sleeve insignia or get taken away on a train in the night.
So please: Donate to Equality California. Even if you don’t live in California, do it for every person you love who is or might be gay. Do it for the children you have or might have. Do it for that uncle who’s been living with his male “friend” for the last fifty years. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do you have ten extra dollars? Donate ten dollars.
And if you do live in California? For heaven’s sake, vote No on 8.
* and in case you're wondering, here's why it's called getting up on your soapbox.