November 10, 2009

Someone Else's Words on Prop 8

I found this blog on a gay man's myspace tonight, and thought since we are all LDS (current or former) it would be nice to hear at least one perspective outside our arena on the Prop 8 aftermath.
The writer is from Oregon so there are many references to the state.
On November 4 of this year, California voters went to the polls and using their ballots, their freedom of speech and the power vested to them by the State of California to amend the state's constitution, they did just that and passed Proposition 8, the so-called "ban on same-sex marriage." The proposition passed by a margin of 4.4% or over half a million votes. It was also on this day that the citizens of two other states - Arizona and Florida - voted on similar measures, both of which passed by greater margins than Prop 8 in California.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not believe in marriage, whether it be opposite-sex or same-sex, so my observations, opinions and frustrations have nothing to do with how I feel about the content of the constitutional amendment but rather the nation-wide reaction to it.

In California, voters have the right to amend the state constitution or state statutes through the referendum process. In order to have a proposition added to the November ballot, signatures in support of the proposition must be obtained from a number of citizens equal to 5% of those that voted in the most recent election for governor in the case of a change to statute, or 8% for a change to the constitution. For Prop 8 the latter applied and the requirement was met thus securing its place on the November ballot. In the state of Oregon, the same 8% is required for amendments to the constitution.

On November 2, 2004, the voters of Oregon passed ballot measure 36 which amended the state's constitution to read "It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage." The measure passed by a margin of 6%.
On November 15 of this year[2004], gatherings/protests were held across the country in opposition to Prop 8, 11 days after the election. Now hypothetically, had John McCain been elected President on the same day, do you suspect there would have been similar gatherings? And if so, what would their goal be? We must live in the future and not in the past. Now I can absolutely understand the feeling of frustration at the success of this ballot measure, but protesting something that has essentially become law by the will of the people will not reverse the outcome.
I've had numerous people attempt to get me involved with these demonstrations and what not and every time I politely decline with a few words of advice:

1. You are absolutely welcome to your opinions and I will always respect every individual's right to free speech and the ability to peacefully express yourself. If you are not a registered voter in California however, this was not a political process that you participated in. Supporters of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act most certainly did not appreciate Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempts to invalidate the law. This was something for Oregon voters to decide on and they did, loud and clear. The Attorney General has no right to tell this state what is right or wrong. We have the initiative process here and we used it for the betterment of our state. Flip the coin - how can an Oregon resident, or a resident from any other state but California, have a right to question what the citizens of California have decided? It was their choice, not yours.

2. Don't get stuck in the past, look to the future. November 5 was the day you should have started planning for the 2010 general election. If you're not from California and you feel strongly about this issue, then go there and help your friends to start the process of creating a new initiative to be put to the voters in two years. But if you're from Oregon I have an even better idea: how about you start the process of putting a measure on the ballot here that will overturn Measure 36. My opinion is that its highly hypocritical to protest a decision made in another state when your own state made the decision 4 years ago and you have done nothing about it! Sure we have "civil unions" here, but if you're okay with that, then why the outrage? My suggestion is that you start at home before you worry about what other states are doing.

3. Speaking of other states, why is Prop 8 the only ballot measure this year you're protesting? I have not heard a single mention of Florida Amendment 2 or Arizona Proposition 102, both of which did the same thing California's Prop 8 did. I'd think that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Prop 8 is no more or less important than the others, but its the one that gets all the attention. I don't believe the decision on whether or not to legalize the marriage of same-sex couples is a national one, it should be left to the states to decide. Here's your opportunity - start a movement in your own state.

In the words of a Kenan Thompson character on SNL: "Identify the problem, FIX IT!" The problem can only be fixed by the people, don't use the courts as a crutch.


  1. One of the more disturbing moments in the aftermath of proposition 8 was an exchange between Chief Justice Ronald George and attorney Kenneth Starr. Starr argued that voters have an inalienable right to amend the state constitution as they see fit through simple majority vote. Chief Justice Ronald George then posed a hypothetical: what if the majority demanded the right to free speech be revoked? Starr said that the people had this right.

    If civil rights and the right of free speech can be removed by the people, it seems logical that so too could freedom of religion. Proposition 8 was good for no one, it sets a terrible precedent.

  2. You make a good point, this is a very slippery subject.

    Then WHO is to decide what rights should be given to what people?

  3. There should never be a question of which rights should be given to what people.

    If something has been defined as a civil right, then it should be extended to everyone (no deciding who to give it to and who to withhold it from).

    The primary questions in the gay marriage debate are (1) whether "marriage" is actually a civil right (the courts have declared that it is, beginning with the US Supreme Court in Loving vs. Virginia in 1967) and (2) whether "marriage" is specifically defined as the union of a man and a woman, or more generally as the union of two individuals.

    If marriage is a civil right, and is defined as a man+woman union, then it can successfully be argued that equality already exists--a gay man is free to marry a woman (I'm evidence of that). But then we still have a situation where gay people are expected to either (1) settle for a mixed-orientation relationship if they want to obtain the legal benefits of marriage or (2) enjoy the emotional and physical benefits of a same-sex relationship but be denied the civil benefits of marriage.

    We still have inequality.

    Is it a civil right to receive the government-granted benefits and protections that are currently extended to married couples? Then we need to extend those rights to gay couples as well. Some states have done that (and called it "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships"), but there are still benefits missing on a federal level (and still many states that withhold any benefits at all from same-sex couples).

    It all comes down to my original statement--if something has been defined as a civil right, then by definition it should be extended to everyone. That's not the current situation.

  4. Very well put Scott, I think you hit the nail on the head.

    For me, I do not see marriage as a civil right.... in another topic nor do I see health care as a civil right, but maybe we should stear clear of that subject.