Proposition 8

People who know me pretty well know I’m not really political. I have a personal moral code, I like philosophy, and I was fascinated by Empire, but I’m not really political. (In some ways when it comes to politics, and a few other things, I get this sort of disinterested, “ha ha, let’s watch the foolish humans” attitude, a la xkcd #164. Other times it just makes me sad.)

But this fall, there’s a rather infamous proposition on the ballet to prevent homosexual marriage. And while I’m not gay, several of my friends are. (And as I’ve said to several of my friends, would it matter if I was? Would anyone stop being my friend if I was gay? I’ve come very close to doing something like that before (not regarding homosexuality) but fortunately chose not to take that path.) I can say right now that in the first election in which I can vote, I’m voting NO on Proposition 8.

I discussed this with my parents in the car a few weeks ago after I found one of my friends prominently proclaiming their support in favor of Proposition 8. I was a little surprised and a little disappointed. My mom in particular, though, reminded me that if marriage is a sacrament in your belief system, having homosexual marriage is basically anathema. The main problem is that there are two aspects of marriage: the “marital status” in the view of the state, which treats married couples different from those who are simply living together, and the “sacrament” (that word again) which in your belief system might be moving into a new phase of life, taking on a new role in the community, etc.—the same as a baptism or a bar/bat mitzvah.

At which point my dad, who has been supporting my mom up to this point, has another point to bring up. There’s a third aspect to marriage, one that you can still have even if you’re not religious. That’s the celebratory aspect, that you’re married in the eyes of your friends and family. For a lot of people, that’s incredibly important as well. And you can tell it’s distinct from the other two because you can have a marriage without it.

The thing is, all three parts are independent, or at least could be without any real trouble. But the word marriage is overloaded. And so I started thinking that really, it would be fine if the state called this union between two people something else. It’s not like people would still use the word “marry” casually, although it might eventually (re)acquire a religious connotation.

We got home and I looked up the text of Proposition 8:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.

And right there my sympathy or whatever-you-call-it ended. This phrasing would make it nearly impossible for homosexual couples to get the same rights as heterosexual couples, and yes, there are still differences between what the state calls “marriage” and what it calls “domestic partnership”.

And really, as a concession to those who view this as a perversion of a sacred union, I would be perfectly happy to have the state do away with “marriage” altogether, and have the legal status be something like “domestic partnership”. As long as it’s for homosexual and heterosexual couples. Legal language is all like that anyway; let “marriage” become a casual term for such a partnership and, technically, a word for a specific religious act. No, this isn’t quite the same goal, but it’s the rights that I support, not the use or disuse of a word. (Personally I support the word too, but practically it’s not really the issue, or shouldn’t be.) This would be proper separation of Church and State; you can get married in the eye(s?) of God, get a certificate from the state, and have a reception too. Three distinct rituals. Unfortunately, the current terms and the system in general have been around too long for this to happen.

Still, it’s biased and unfair to offer rights to some people and not to others because of their sexuality. That might have been OK even through the last century, but not anymore. This is my first election, and I consider this NO the most important vote I’ll be making. Yes, I consider this more important than the presidential election. Partially because I feel that if America votes another Republican into office we’re screwed anyway (and sorry to my Republican friends, but the party isn’t doing so well right now), but mostly because this hits a lot closer to home, and is something that will either cement societal human rights in place or crush them for an indeterminably long time. This is a freaking amendment to California’s constitution. It’s important.

It’s time people realized that homosexuality isn’t going to go away, and that being homosexual doesn’t keep you from being human first. That’s why I’m voting NO, and I hope that even if you’re voting for the proposition, you at least understand what you’re doing to your neighbors who are just as good people as you are.

P.S. Given the reaction that I had to the short and abrupt text of the proposition, you’d think the “Vote No” site would have it more prominently displayed. I could not find it on their site and had to turn to the “Protect Marriage” (*grimace*) site to actually find the text.

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