Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Morning After...

It is so nice to wake up the day after election and realize the promising changes that occurred on Tuesday. We put Obama in office and Colorado said no to Prop. 48. Concurrently, we discovered some upsetting news: California, one of the nation's most progressive states said yes to Prop. 8 which will ban gay marriage. For many, Tuesday was bittersweet. Undoubtedly, America will be a better place with Obama as President, but nonetheless people obviously still harbor bigotry for those who chose an alternate life-style. California usually lays the ground work for progressive initiatives and I was surprised to hear they didn't step up to the plate this time. While it is promising that as a nation we took two steps forward on Tuesday, it is important to realize that we also took one step back.

1 comment:

Tara said...

After multiple debates with conservative colleagues, I feel compelled to comment on Proposition 8. I, for one, am completely devastated by the passage of this discriminatory proposition.

I think most people who read this understand this point already, but in case you do not: it is fundamentally prejudiced to deny a right to some people that the rest of society enjoys (unless, of course, there's some outstanding factor like prior criminal history, which of course homosexuals as a group do not violate). Period.

Secondly, the role of our government is NOT to step in and define people's personal lives in that way. While there is a religious aspect to marriage (or rather, some marriages), we do not live in a theocracy, so our government should not have a say in this regard.

I have heard the argument be made that passing the right for gay marriage is akin to allowing polygamists to marry. However, the difference between gay marriage and polygamy is not what polygamy does to the institution of marriage, but rather that it advances misogyny. Indeed, the very reason I oppose polygamy is the same reason I support gay marriage - all people deserve to be treated equally, and our governmental institutions should reflect that. A more apt comparison would be if a law were passed declaring that all people who partook in some marginalized religion (Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, maybe even Mormonism) could not marry because mainstream religions could not identify with this religion, and thus felt that people marrying within these religions undermined the sanctity of marriage. Or perhaps another analogy would be to say that anyone who did not engage in any religion at all should not be able to marry because it denigrates marriage to be an un-sacred institution.

Ultimately, marriage has already moved away from a necessarily religious ritual that involves a priest and Bible (or a rabbi and Torah, etc.), and has moved toward a symbolic, cultural (and cross-cultural) construct that signifies the committed union between two people. I would think it unfair for a particular religion to forbid marriage between two people of the same sex, but I do believe that that is where those rules can be placed (i.e. within a religion). It goes beyond the call of a government to enforce a rule that religion advances for the sole reason that religion advances it.

Where my argument fails is if one believes that homosexuality is wrong, like murder, rape, and child abuse are wrong. The government should step in to prohibit things that are fundamentally wrong. However, to me, I cannot believe that being a homosexual is wrong, just as I cannot believe that being black is wrong. Furthermore, the government has already taken the stance that homosexuality is not one of these fundamental, moral violations by not making homosexuality illegal; denying participation in a cultural event for homosexuals makes the government at best inconsistent and at worse discriminatory.

I am incredibly disappointed in Californians for letting this proposition pass. I think (hope) that this is one of those issues that we can look back on in fifty years with lenses unmarred by homophobia. It is just so sad to me that Californians were able to celebrate a huge civil rights achievement by overwhelmingly voting for our first black president while simultaneously perpetuating discrimination against another marginalized group.