Friday, October 31, 2008

A Few Words About Prop 8

Apparently, I still have the urge to be political in this 'blog (which I so rarely do), so I might as well get this one off my chest.

To review: The California Supreme Court recently interpreted the Equal Protection guarantee of the California Constitution to require that California extend the (state) right of marriage to homosexuals.

Proposition 8 seeks to overturn that decision by writing into the State Constitution that marriage in this state is reserved for heterosexuals.

Or, putting it another way, Prop 8 wants to pretty much put an asterisk next to California's guarantee of Equal Protection, with a little footnote that says, "except for gay people."

I am against this for a whole variety of reasons. Mostly because I can't think of any reason why my gay friends who are lucky enough to have found someone with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives shouldn't be allowed to have that relationship recognized by law like everyone else's. And also because I have yet to hear a reason why they should not be permitted to do so that isn't grounded in personal religious beliefs, and individual religious beliefs are not really a legitimate basis for state legislation.

But I'm not posting to here to argue in favor of gay marriage right now. I'm posting here to argue against Prop 8 -- and that really is a different argument.

See, we've been taught (as a matter of history) that there have been times when people -- often at great personal risk to themselves -- stood up to protect a victimized minority against a majority. And we've also been taught to admire these folks -- the abolitionists who helped run the underground railroad; the "righteous among nations" who helped save Jews from the holocaust; the white South Africans who stood up against apartheid.

(Yes, you're going to say that we're not enslaving homosexuals, or exterminating them, or segregating their communities. And you're right. And that's not my point.)

My point is, when I learned about these good people, I wondered, "If the situation ever arose, would I be like them?" Would I have the good sense to resist society's peer pressure, to realize that the status quo is wrong, and to come down on the side that history would eventually determine was obviously correct? Would I have had the foresight to know that slavery is wrong, or would I have sat happily on my plantation like everyone else, thinking that that's just the way it is, and that obviously you can't treat slaves like, y'know, people? And even if I knew it, would I have had the courage to act on it, and stand up against a society aligned against me, to side with the people who needed to be sided with?

And it recently hit me that this is that situation. I honestly never imagined that it would happen in my lifetime, in my country, but here it is. Prop 8 is trying to constitutionalize discrimination. Whether we personally approve of gay marriage or not, we should all oppose this. This is the "majority" trying to take away the rights of a minority group, and we should all be insanely vigilant against that sort of thing -- even if only because we should all understand that we may sometime find ourselves in a minority, and we'd want that same protection for ourselves.

And the beauty part here is that we can do the right thing without risk. We don't have to hide anyone in our attic, lie to the police, or suffer acts of violence because we're publicly standing up for the oppressed minority. We can do this simply, and quietly, in the privacy of the voting booth. Just by voting "no."

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