Thursday, November 06, 2008

Reflections on the Passage of Proposition 8

With the albeit narrow passing of Proposition 8, marriage is now defined in California as only between a man and a woman, thus overturning a recent California court decision legalizing same-gender marriage.

Despite the high I’m still feeling with the election of Barack Obama as president, I’m aware that the passing of Proposition 8 in California is, in the words of Rev. Madison Shockley, “a devastatingly painful affirmation of our culture’s capacity to inflict intentional harm on millions of persons whose only crime is a desire to live and love honestly.”

Christopher is one of these “millions of persons.” He’s a partnered gay Christian living in California. He’s also a very erudite thinker and writer, and maintains a blogsite, entitled Betwixt and Between, from which the following is excerpted.

With the passage of Proposition 8 yesterday, my partner and I will have to settle for domestic partnership when that time finally can come. I hope and pray that those who supported Proposition 8 will not now use this constitutional amendment to undermine local and state domestic partnership laws as they have elsewhere in the country. I fear that they will. We seem to always need someone to be inferior in order for us to feel good about ourselves.

. . . At heart, Proposition 8 reveals how fragile are our rights generally, and our civil rights particularly, not just those of lgbt people, but of all people. At any time a simple majority can amend away the rights of the minority when whipped into a frenzy. I am reminded of how quickly people can be stripped of rights and even full citizenship by the crowd. Our founding fathers warned of unadulterated democracy because of this tendency to mobocratic majoritarian tyranny. Democracy too can mete out evil toward neighbors. Ambiguity remains even with this system that has been called the lesser evil of the alternatives.

To read Christopher’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

Meanwhile, Geoff Farrow, a Roman Catholic priest who courageously spoke out against Proposition 8, recently posted a reflection on his blogsite in the wake of yesterday’s banning of gay marriage in California.

Following are highlights from Fr. Farrow’s informative and, in many ways, hopeful post.

In the past eight years, the population of California has moved from opposing same sex marriages, from 61% to 52%. And that, with the “yes on 8” side spending the lion’s share of seventy three million ($73,000,000.00) dollars. Much of this came from donations to non-profit religious organizations. In many cases, the intent of the original donors of those funds may have may have been set aside by the leadership of the various religious organizations. I’ve already had several Catholics tell me that they gave money to help in charitable endeavors and not to pay for a political campaign. They have informed me, they’ll remember this when asked to donate in the future and when/if they give, it will be “directed” or “earmarked” giving, i.e., for specific projects, or defined purposes.

Equally disturbing, were some of the outright deceptions engaged in by “yes on 8” partisans. For example, automated phone calls targeting African Americans in which the voice of Barack Obama was imitated. In these “robocalls” the person imitating Obama’s voice asked people to vote “yes on 8.” A position which the real, now President-elect Obama opposed. He was in favor of NO on Proposition 8. Beyond this, there was a letter which was extortionist in its tone. It demanded that companies which had donated to “NO on 8” pay the “yes on 8” campaign an equal amount of money or, else they would be targeted for economic retribution. Are these “sour grapes”? No, they simply are a review of facts. What is done, is done; however, it will now be undone.

This morning, an injunction was filed with the courts to prevent this measure from taking effect. This is the beginning of a legal battle which will probably end before the same justices of our State Supreme Court who, only a few months ago, ruled in favor of same sex marriage. Time is also on our side. As I mentioned earlier, only 8 years ago, fairness lost by a margin of 11% of the electorate voting against equal treatment under the law. Then, those in favor of legal discrimination were not nearly as well financed as they were this time and yet, this time they only managed to win by a 2% margin. In a few years, we will be positioned to overturn yesterday's results in a future referendum.

. . . Last night, after it was announced that Barack Obama was elected President, the press interviewed an elderly African American man who had fought for equal treatment under the law in the 1960’s. The journalist asked him if he ever thought he’d see the day when an African American would be elected President of the United States of America. The elderly man paused and stated: Back then, we were just fighting for the right to sit at the same lunch counter and drink out of the same water fountain. My grandfather was lynched by a mob, we were attacked by the KKK. I never imagined I’d live to see this day.

There were many battles lost on the way to greater liberty and justice for all; others were won. We lost a battle yesterday, by a very narrow margin. This is a time to lick our wounds, learn from our mistakes and redirect our wounded sense of justice to fight twice as hard to obtain justice. We lost a battle in California, we won a battle in New York. We’ve elected a new national government with a thirst for justice. We will prevail again in California and in our Nation. We will join many other people in Europe, Canada and South Africa where discrimination is now illegal. We shall overcome!

Yes, we will.

And, finally, while I’m certainly not one of blogger
Andrew Sullivan’s greatest fans, I nevertheless appreciate it when he says: “We must never let popular votes affect our own internal sense of our worth, our equality, our dignity as human beings. Our marriages are real; all that is at issue is whether a majority will recognize them in law. The next generation already does.”

Yes, and this next generation includes young Catholics. In fact, a recent study by the Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education has found that 57% of students in Catholic universities and colleges believe same-gender marriage should be legal. Of course, this number is only going to increase.

So, in the wake of today’s disappointing news out of California, I’m taking this reality of the inevitable increase in the already high level of acceptance among Catholic youth for gay marriage as my good news for the day!

NOTE: To sign a petition to support the legal effort to amend US tax laws so that the Mormon Church, Roman Catholic Church, and other transgressing churches would lose tax-exempt status if they continue lobbying for state propositions, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Gay Activists Jarred by California Marriage Defeat - David Crary and Lisa Leff (Associated Press, November 5, 2008).
Anti-Gay Hate Triumphs - Michael in Norfolk (November 5, 2008).

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Unrest in California Over Passing of Proposition 8
Fr. Geoff Farrow on Proposition 8
Same-Sex Marriage: Still Very Much on the Archbishop’s Mind
A Priest’s Courageous Act
Update on Fr. Geoff Farrow
A Mayor’s Change of Heart
Another Victory in Connecticut
The Same People
What Straights Can Learn from Gay Marriage
Good News from the Golden State
Love is Love
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
Naming and Confronting Bigotry
The Real Gay Agenda
Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
Separate is Not Equal
Mainstream Voice of “Dear Abby” Supports Gay Marriage
New Studies: Gay Couples as Committed as Straight Couples
Just Love
This “Militant Secularist” Wants to Marry a Man
Good News from Minnesota

Image 1: Sonja Edding Brown with “Yes on 8” announces the poll results at a pro-Proposition 8 election party in Irvine, California November 4, 2008. (REUTERS/Fred Greaves)
Image 2: Proposition 8 opponent Matt Vespa carries a sign in the Castro neighborhood on election day in San Francisco, California November 4, 2008. The California ballot measure would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry and provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the state.
(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)
Image 3: Same-sex couple Kristina Haas, left, and Jennifer Briz, right, are emotional after they were denied marriage by a city clerk at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2008.
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

1 comment:

crystal said...

I live in California and voted against prop 8. I was very disappointed that it passed and angry that the Mormon and Catholic Churches contributed so much to it passing. I hope the lawsuits being prepared will undo it.