Yes we can. These three words sent surges of fervor and optimism through the spines of millions of Americans last Tuesday night. Despite the excitement and celebration, anxiety lingered in the minds of many, especially the gay population in California.
It was made official early last Wednesday morning that Proposition 8 – an amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as legal only between one man and one woman – had passed. Within hours, petitions were being signed and lawyers were preparing arguments for lawsuits in defense of their gay, married clients. The next day, protests drew thousands into the streets of both San Francisco and Los Angeles in response to the constitutional injustice of the proposition’s passage.
Last May, the California Supreme Court overturned a similar ban established eight years ago by Proposition 22. The religious right struck back with Proposition 8, which turned out to be the costliest proposition this year. According to the Los Angeles Times, supporters of the proposition raised an estimated $36 million while opponents raised about $38 million. In Orange County alone, almost $6.5 million was raised in support of the proposition—over two times the amount in Los Angeles County. Opponents of the proposition allege that a majority of the donations in support of it came from the Mormon community.
However, it took more than vast sums of money to pass Proposition 8—it took misleading and manipulative information. Ads promoting Proposition 8 said that voting yes would “restore traditional marriage.” But this misguided claim implies that the well-being of heterosexual marriage relies on keeping gays unmarried. It is fair to say that divorce rates have risen and households have fallen apart long before homosexuality even entered the spotlight.
On the “Yes on 8” Web site, a cartoon depicts a heterosexual couple living next door to a homosexual couple. The heterosexual couple is at first distressed when deciding their choice on Proposition 8. Then, a light bulb goes off. The cartoon says that domestic partnerships already give gays the exact same rights as those traditionally married and that Proposition 8 is really about the title of marriage.
This is misleading. Domestic partners share only some of the same rights as married couples. The idea that gays are fighting to get the title of “marriage” is the church’s way of scaring their supporters into believing that their marriage will no longer be as “sacred” if homosexual couples can marry.
Many religious people were not making their vote for the people; they were making it for God. In another “Yes on 8” ad, a judge states, “What this means is that gay marriage conflicts with our religious freedoms.” The truth is that the inclusion of religion into state matters conflicts with the fundamental freedoms of gays.
The problem did not begin with gay marriage; it began when the religious title of marriage became inextricably linked to the state. Children, regardless of religious or ethnic background, are raised to pledge allegiance to the American flag, under God and learn about traditional marriages. Our culture ingrains in children early on that they will get married in a church with a person of the opposite sex.
The majority view unjustly assumes that people are raised believing in religion. It is unfair to mix church with state and then keep those who don’t live according to religious thought separate from the state. Nothing could make gays feel more separate from their country than the thought that, because of whom they love, they are given fewer rights than the heterosexual couple next door.
The truth about Proposition 8 is that people didn’t vote for equality; they voted on the basis of their religious values. It was a battle fought through manipulation, fear and exaggerated statements about “tradition.” It was progressive thought that pushed America forward. And if the youth of America is the future, then the future looks a lot brighter, as according to a CNN exit poll, 64 percent of those between ages 18 and 24 voted no on the proposition.
The passage of Proposition 8 has just put California one step behind Massachusetts, and even further behind Western democracies such as Spain, who permit same-sex marriages. Conservatives can bask in their undue victory; but all that has been accomplished is an unnecessary delay in granting gays the equal rights they have always deserved.
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Filed Under: Opinion