I haven’t commented on the supreme court ruling in California on Proposition 8 yet for a couple of reasons. When it was announced I was out of town at a conference. And the past couple of days I’ve still gottten really upset when I think about the ruling. I’m still pissed, but I think my thoughts are better formulated now.
First, I can’t speak to the validity of the ruling. I don’t know the law as it relates to propositions. But here is what I do know, or at least what I believe: propositions (or initatives, as they’re known in some other states, like Washington) are bad policy. We do not live in a direct democracy – we live in a representative one. And I firmly believe that mixing the two rarely results in good. In Washington, it led to brilliant laws like the $30 license plate tab (resulting in drastically reduced funds for such luxuries as safe roads and public transportation). The biggest problem I have with allowing the general citizenry to vote on sweeping reforms (and basic civil rights) is that they think only about themselves. Now, politicians in general are, I believe, quite selfish, but they also are interested in achieving some balance. They have to look beyond the excitement of saving $200 a year on car licenses, to the millions needed to accommodate those same cars on safe roads. You and I? We don’t necessarily have to look at those things. Ideally we would, but I think it’s obvious that a lot of people don’t.
Second, the fact that a proposition can be used to take away basic human rights? That scares me. A lot. I’m lucky enough to have my sexuality validated by the mainstream society, but that’s just luck of the draw. What other rights could be taken away? Just because a right wasn’t always properly acknowledged (as I believe same-sex marriage has always been a right, but not properly acknowledged) doesn’t mean it isn’t a right just the same.
Finally, as I was flipping through my two channels on Friday, I saw a glimpse of Dr. Phil’s show on the ruling (I know, I know, but bear with me). Gavin Newsome (SF Mayor) equated this fight for equality to the fight by blacks in the 60s. Then a black woman started yelling about how insulting that was, because “I’ve never met an ex black person.” The suggestion with that statement is that black is an innate characteristic and thus those possessing that trait should be protected, but gay is a “choice” and thus not deserving of protection.
There are so many problems with this argument. The first is the suggestion that being gay is a choice. I know I can’t judge, but I am highly suspect of anyone who claims to be “formerly” gay. I think the more appropriate characterization would be these “ex gays” are bisexual and choosing to only date the members of the opposite sex to whom one is attracted, probably to make life a little easier as their family is bigoted. And I don’t remember choosing to be straight. I don’t believe sexuality is a choice; I think the fact that one can choose not to act on the feelings makes it foggier, but it doesn’t mean that the feelings aren’t innate and don’t exist legitimately.
But here’s the thing – let’s say that gay is a choice. Again, I don’t believe that, but let’s pretend for a moment. You know what else is a choice? Religion. Sure, there are some children who are essentially forced into their belief system, and there are some entire religions that are equated with race/ethnicity (Judaism comes to mind), but religion is, at some basic level and at some point in life, a choice. And it’s a very loud, proud choice for some of the very people who seem to hate gays – born again Christians (not all obviously hate gay people, but you know what I am saying). They make a choice to believe in Jesus Christ, and then they decide that we all need to accept that choice and afford them certain rights (like tax-free churches). I definitely think that freedom of religion should be protected, and that the government should not award or deny benefits based on religion. But it’s a choice, and it’s protected, so even if sexuality were a choice, that alone certainly is not a logical reason to deny the rights to gay people that are afforded to all other people of consenting age.
I don’t know where this will all go, or what will happen next, but I can only hope that some day soon my dearest friends will be able to stand in front of a judge or a pastor (should that church choose to ordain the marriage), declare their love, sign some papers, and get the same benefits I would get if I got drunk in vegas and found another equally willing drunk male and did the same thing.
Not cool California. Not cool.