There are currently three lawsuits going on with regard to the passage of Prop 8. The gist of these lawsuits seems to be that the amendment now written into the state constitution is so far-reaching, and takes away rights from a minority group, that it is actually a revision, and not an amendment. A revision requires approval from two-thirds of the state legislature, and then a majority of votes from citizens.
I appreciate that these lawsuits are out there, and I realize that this is the battle that the groups filing the suits think they will win. Think about the constitutional amendments you can remember learning in school (they're federal, but the point still applies). Do you recall any of them involving the idea of taking away the rights of the citizens? The only one I can think of is Amendment 18, which made it illegal to manufacture, sell or transport liquor (so drinking it was technically still legal, strangely enough). But that amendment was reversed with Amendment 21.
Amendment 1 gave us freedom of religion and press. Amendment 5 gave us the right to not incriminate ourselves in court. Amendment 13 abolished slavery, thereby giving black people more rights. Amendment 19 gave women the right to vote. And so on.
But Proposition 8, albeit a state constitutional amendment, takes away the rights of a large sect of the community. And the Republican Party's platform calls for a federal amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Luckily, they won't have the power to do that anytime soon, but just the fact that they want to should be cause for concern.
Obviously, you know I'm against Proposition 8, and maybe you know the reasons why. But I feel like I need to take this opportunity to write about what the other side thinks, and why all their arguments are completely illogical and illegal. Let's see what I can do (it's long, so I added something that will have it open in a new window for you, if you're reading this on the front page of the blog).
Okay, so many of the Christian right want us to believe that the bible expressly forbids homosexuality, so we therefore shouldn't embrace it with our laws. The argument against this one should be pretty obvious, but let's do it anyway, because it's the biggest one out there.
First, there is a debate as to what the bible actually says regarding homosexuality. But let's say they're right, and that one passage in Leviticus does say that homosexuality is a sin. The question then becomes, why is this the only part taken from that section of the bible that hardcore Christians still want to apply to life today? What I mean is, the homosexuality thing is one part of a large section in the Old Testament that forbids (or condones) many different actions. Leviticus says we can keep slaves, that eating shellfish is an abomination, that touching dead pig skin is prohibited, and even that farmers can't plant two different crops in the same field.
Now, I think we can all admit that those are pretty crazy rules for today's society. And I'm sure that most of those Christians who oppose homosexuality are busing owning slaves and avoiding lobster. So why is this one so important to them?
It can't be that they're so for "traditional" marriage. Marriage isn't explicitly a Christian rite, since the rite has been around since longer before Christ ever walked the earth. Christians certainly don't have the monopoly on marriage as a sacrament.
And, it's been said a million times, but it bears repeating--if the Christian right is so concerned with "protecting" marriage, why are they not as concerned with divorce rates? I read somewhere that the Bible Belt and traditionally Christian areas of the country have higher divorce rates than the rest of the nation. So where is the focus on that? Gay marriage doesn't actually affect their lives, but the divorce of family members and parishioners certainly does. So where is the outrage there?
But forget all that, because I don't care what the bible says. Not when it comes to the establishment of laws that apply to the entire society. The principle of separation of church and state is supposed to be paramount in this nation, even if many of the founding fathers happened to be Christian. Those who will use the bible in this argument claim that we were founded as a Christian nation, though, and point to "In God We Trust" on the money, or "one nation under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance as a prime example of this Christian foundation.
"In God We Trust" wasn't on money until 1861, "because of the increased religious sentiment" during the Civil War. For those lacking a knowledge of history, 1861 was almost 100 years after the establishment of the United States of America. And even then, it was only placed on the coin money. The paper money didn't get the motto until 1957, during the McCarthy era. So, war, religious fanaticism and/or fear of Communism made it necessary for the nation to add this phrase to the money. Something to be proud of, for sure.
"One nation under god" was added in 1954, also due to McCarthyism. This was an effort to make sure we appeared morally superior to the Communists in Russia. Once again, this supposed proof of our nation's Christian foundation was really just a reactionary response to an irrational fear.
Despite those two instances, and despite the fact that our current (but not for long) president, and others in control, invoke god often, this country was meant to follow the principle of separation of church and state. This is why we do not (technically, anyway) have a state religion, and why we don't require people to attend a specific church, or any church at all, if they so choose.
In fact, we all know the general reason people fled England for the American colonies--freedom of religion. That's why it's the first amendment to the Constitution. It doesn't specify a sole religion that is allowed such freedoms; it merely states that that government will not make a law imposing on religion. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among many others, are on record time and again, talking about how this nation was not founded to follow a particular religious creed, but rather to allow everyone to worship as he/she saw fit.
For that reason, you are allowed to believe that your god thinks homosexuals will burn in hell. But the government is not allowed to take those beliefs and make them into law. Conversely, homosexuals being granted the right to marry does not impose our beliefs on to others, despite what the supporters of Prop 8 want us to believe. It simply ensures that we have the same rights granted to other citizens in this country.
Gay marriage being legal doesn't mean you have to accept gay marriages. It doesn't mean you have to believe that homosexuals are anything other than heathens. It doesn't mean your church will lose tax exempt status if it doesn't want to perform gay marriages. That was a lie put out by the supporters of Prop 8, which didn't take into account the fact that churches currently have the right to deny marriage services to any couples (generally those who aren't members of the congregation) without fear of losing that tax exempt status. It is civil rights issue, plain and simple.
Which brings us to...
"Homosexuality, unlike race, is a choice, and therefore isn't subject to civil rights legislation."
This is the one used when gay rights activists compare our struggles to those of the African-Americans in this nation for the last several hundred years. The reasoning is that being black is something one can easily identify with one's eyes, so it is an inherent trait that should be protected (though think about how long it took before the government recognized the need for that protection).
Homosexuality, according to this argument, is something one chooses. Therefore, granting rights to practicing homosexuals is akin to giving "special rights" to one group of people. After all, homosexuals can still marry members of the opposite sex, so they have the same rights as everyone else, right? Allowing gay marriage would give special treatment to homosexuals, and we can't have that.
There are several flaws in this one. First, allowing gay marriage means that any one person can marry any other person. That means that if an avowed heterosexual wants to marry someone of the same sex, he/she can. Thus, the right is not "special" to homosexuals. It is simply covering all consenting adults under the same law.
Second, and this is the big one, is this idea of "choice." I don't believe for a second that being gay is a choice, because I know that many of us would not make this particular choice if it were. Why would we, when we are subject to torment and hate from a large part of the population? Who would choose that?
Yeah, okay, so they haven't identified the "gay gene." But, let's look at who fights gay rights the most vehemently--the Christian right. They are Christian. They go to church, they donate money to the cause, they raise their children in that faith. They believe in the death penalty, but not abortion. They believe in loving their neighbors, unless those neighbors happen to be gay. I'm not speaking of all Christians here, so please don't send me emails; I'm talking about the ones going out of their way to join this debate, despite the fact that nothing about gay marriage affects their lives. But I digress.
Anyway, Christians. Their religion is protected under the first amendment of the Constitution. They are allowed to assemble, to preach their beliefs, all because the government sees fit to protect their right to do so. Now, here's a question for you--were these Christians born this way? Sure, many of them believe in original sin, and most were raised by Christian parents who taught them these "values." But were they, biologically, born this way? Did science identify a Christian gene when I wasn't looking?
No? Okay, well, that certainly seems like a choice, then, doesn't it? The evangelical right has made a choice to believe in certain aspects of the bible while disavowing others, and guess what? The government says, "We respect your right to those choices, and no law shall be made to infringe upon that right."
Let's just ignore for a minute that many gay people identify as Christians. Instead, maybe we should just start referring to homosexuality as a religion. Do that, and there is no way in hell (pun intended) that the Christian right can attempt to put laws on the books that remove rights for us, because we would be unequivocally protected under the first amendment. No questions asked.
The supporters of Prop 8 keep telling us how the people have spoken, and that "activist judges" shouldn't go against the will of the people. Well, here's the thing. "Activist judges" didn't write the constitution. They didn't establish the doctrine of "all men are created equal." But when that principle is being compromised, it is up to judges to reaffirm the laws of the land. This matter should never have been brought to a vote in the first place. It is not a law about bond measures or animal rights or anything that involves taxpayers' money. We're talking about two consenting adults, and the five million voters who got a say in the decisions those adults make in their own lives.
I keep going back to this case, Loving v. Virginia, which said that the laws on marriage couldn't discriminate based on race. Keep in mind that this case was decided upon in 1967. 1967! 42 years ago, in many states, a minority couldn't marry a white person, and many people were okay with it because that was the way it had always been. And what stopped this was not a vote from the people, but a unanimous decision from the United States Supreme Court. If the people had been allowed to vote on it instead, how long would it have been before these anti-miscegenation laws were overturned? Would we still have them in some states?
Here's what the court wrote in the decision:
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.
It's pretty easy to see that, though this case was specifically related to race, it can easily be translated to the gay rights cause. Perhaps more important is this part:
There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy. [emphasis added]
Now, what about the fact that California (and Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, among others) prohibits only marriage involving gay persons? Doesn't that say something about what kind of supremacy the Christian right is attempting to maintain?