Monday, October 20, 2008

Choosing my Legacy in American History

I have to say I was shocked and disappointed when Proposition 8 came on the ballot here in California:

ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

This propostion immediately reminded me of the outdated posturing of the anti-miscegenation laws (laws banning interracial marriage) finally overturned in the last century. I had to go to the Yes on 8 website to see the arguments in support of this proposition.

Yes on 8 mentions a previous Proposition 22, a measure in 2000 to prevent recognizing same-sex marriage, including same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. The argument is made that despite a large majority vote, the California Supreme court deemed it unconstitutional (the court found the statute discriminatory by denying a fundamental right due to one's sexual orientation), and overturned the measure. The indignant tone is "can you believe a mere 4 judges overturned tens of thousands of votes?!" The argument ignores that it is the Supreme Court's duty to overturn laws deemed unconstitutional. For example, even if an overwhelming majority voted "no non-whites allowed in the same restaurantant as whites", the California Supreme Court should find it unconstitutional and overturn it.

Also, Yes on 8 is concerned that children in public schools would be taught that gay marriage is on par with straight marriage because of the California Department of Education's compliance to Education Code 51933 (b)(7), which, according to their website, states, "Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships." Actually, due to California’s laws, which already prohibit discrimination against anyone based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, it appears the public schools would already be required to at least teach about gay domestic partnerships, as they can be defined as "committed relationships". The Yes on 8 website claims that "Prop 8 is NOT an attack on gay couples and does not take away the rights that same-sex couples already have" So, are Yes on 8 supporters fine with teaching about gay domestic partnerships?

Obviously, the answer is no. According to their website, Prop 8 "prevents other consequences to Californians who will be forced to not just be tolerant of gay lifestyles, but face mandatory compliance regardless of their personal beliefs." Ultimately, this is a "gay" issue for Prop 8 supporters. It is very unfortunate that they are willing to curtail the civil rights of their fellow Americans to justify such discrimination.

Gay marriage has been legal for a few months now. Not much has changed because of it including a lot of personal beliefs. As an American whose heritage comes from one of the most homogenous countries in the world--Korea, I have had heard many arguments in the community on why marrying outside of an ethnicity is disgraceful, shameful, and just plain wrong, despite the fact that interracial marriage has been legal for decades. I've also heard of similar parental and family "guidance" from friends of other enthnicities and religions. Bottom line: though it is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, you get to keep your personal beliefs about Korean, non-Koreans, gays, and so on.

Is this an argument of semantics? Is the argument simply about the meaning of the word "marriage"? The American language, due to our diverse influences, changes as the population brings new words, like "bromance" (ironically, not a gay reference) and "ginormous", and changes how other words are used. Can you believe that "gay" simply meant "merry" at one point in time? Do Prop 8 supporters want to eliminate the use of the word "marriage" when there is a "marriage of ideas" or "marriage of flavors"? I doubt it. I'm guessing salt and pepper "marrying" is acceptable, but not same-sex couples who want to make life-long commitment. Or is this about the semantics of "traditional marriage"? Biblically speaking, are we talking about polygyny? Historically speaking are we talking about marriages when women were simply property and had virtually no rights or when you could only marry within your race? "Traditional marriage" has also been redefined throughout history. Some might say it's been for the better.

And throughout various venues, it has been offensive and outrageous to hear Prop 8 supporters co-opt God to claim that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry. Such claims were also used back in 1965, when Judge Leon Bazile, who defended anti-miscegenation laws in the original Loving vs. Virginia trial, said: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Bottom line, Prop 8 is trying to create a "separate but equal" scenario creating two classes of people who make committed and loving partnerships. If American history has taught us one thing, when you treat people differently, it is already separate and not equal. Further, by keeping them separate and unequal, the door is open for rights to be taken out of one group (and not the other) down the line.

Therefore I am choosing my place, my legacy in American history by voting NO on Prop 8. No matter how Prop 8 does in the elections, when I look back at this time in California history with my grandchildren, I will be able to say I voted to keep equal rights for my fellow Americans, not eliminate them.

10 comments:

Pound said...

i completely agree. what makes me really mad is that commercial showing sf mayor.... and the narrator says gay marriage is being FORCED on everyone. cuz that gay couple getting married suddenly changes your world beyond recognition *eye roll*

Tomb said...

You are dead right. It's an indignity just to have to vote on something so fundamentally basic as this. What is wrong with people?

Anonymous said...

very insightful commentary from angle I had not thought of...hopefully the California voters enlighted and ignore the barrage of ridiculous ads.

gravitas said...

Prop 8 is a throwback to the dark days of Jim Crow and institutionalized racism. The fact that it is being promoted and funded by Churches today is shameful, and history will not look kindly on them for their intolerance. No on 8, for sure.

Tomb said...
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Anonymous said...

Right on girlfriend! I was happy to see Prop 8 overturned :)

Tomb said...
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Tom said...
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Tom said...
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Tom said...
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