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Gay Marriage: What Can Our Society Possibly Gain From California’s Revising/Amending Their State Constitution Via the Passage of Proposition 8?

November 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Politics, Relationships & Family

Will Our Society Truly Benefit By Banning Gay Marriage?

I didn’t catch Keith Olbermann Countdown show this past Monday, when he delivered a rousing and eloquent six-minute editorial on California voters’ decision to pass Proposition 8 – the amendment to their state constitution, which would ban same sex, or gay marriage . Frankly, I wish I had.

Have You, Like Me, Been Struggling Since Election Day, Trying to Figure Out Just What California Voters Were Thinking?

As Baby Boomers, after all, you helped birth the women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, and the fight for migrant rights. You’ve helped save trees and forests, whales and wolves. Why stop now?

  • Personally, since California Governor Schwarzenegger’s comments, I have been wondering just where this clear issue of denied rights is going next…
  • Having been raised a Christian (actually very proper Episcopalian, thank you very much) I can’t believe God wants us to remove basic human rights from anyone! That would be against the very basic core of religious philosophy!
  • If you think about it, same-sex marriage is really an equal protection issue. That is, as a Baby Boomer – someone who realizes good health can be very transient – don’t you want all of your fellow humans to have the same rights to transfer property, visit loved ones in the hospital, and be present in times of trauma and trouble – even in death?

Olbermann’s video clip has been widely posted online.

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to view it. If not, take the time to watch it via the link provided above. Keith speaks quite passionately from a philosophical and sociological point of view, and what he says makes sense.

It seems that when we look back to the foundations this country was built upon, bedrock concepts like Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal…” we took two steps forward with the election of Obama, our first African-American president, and then about 20 steps back with the passage of this law, whose intent is to rescind the right of same-sex couples to marry.

As Olbermann notes, this decision “tilted the balance on this issue from coast to coast.”

I Don’t Have A Personal Axe to Grind: Like Olbermann, I’m Not Gay. But Realistically, This Is An Issue That Touches Us All.

  • Thankfully, I’ve been happily married to my second husband for over 20 years, and have personally enjoyed the wonderful experience of parenthood for three decades now.
  • But this issue still touches me, as it touches us all. As you do, I have family members and good friends who are gay, and perhaps it’s through my participation in their lives and stories that I have developed my strong opinions on this subject
  • Don’t be so naive as to think you don’t know any gay people: While statistics vary, we can agree that somewhere between one in ten and one in 20 people currently identifies themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In other words: of every twenty people you know, at least one was not born heterosexual.
  • You, I  – and everyone you know – have gay friends and/or family members – or at least work with someone – who was not born heterosexual.
  • If you think you don’t know anyone who’s not heterosexual, understand this is statistically unlikely. Instead, it’s much more probable that within the social world you live in, people are still forced to closet their sexual orientation in order to get along in this world. You know, as in “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Here’s a Part of Olbermann’s Commentary:

This is about the… human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not… understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want — a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them — no. You can’t have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don’t cause too much trouble. You’ll even give them all the same legal rights — even as you’re taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can’t marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn’t marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage.

If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal… in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry…black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are… gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing — centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children… All because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness — this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness — share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Impact Goes Beyond California – It Is Massive

  • Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re talking about rescinding people’s rights that has caused so many people to speak out, realizing that this is not just a California issue, it’s a nationwide issue
  • Or maybe it’s because the November election also saw bans on gay marriage pass in Florida and Arizona, while Arkansas stopped gay couples from adopting children
  • Currently, gay marriage is legal in two U.S. states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, where court-approved same-sex weddings began earlier this month.
  • But dozens of states have laws that limit marriage to a man and a woman, which brings forward another issue: whether a gay couple who marry legally in one state will have this marriage recognized in another

Here’s A Summary For Your Consideration:

  • “Marriage” is a religious sacrament, and has no place being defined by the state
  • All “marriages” should be legally defined as “civil unions,” which can be defined by the state
  • If we still support the concepts on which our country was founded, “civil unions” between same-sex couples MUST be allowed in every US state

What Can You Do?

Speak up. Stop the insanity. Demonstrate your Baby Boomer pride in supporting civil rights actions. There are a number of ways you can participate:

  • Visit the website,  Join the Impact, to keep up on the latest details of this effort. This blog site calls for coordinated action across the United States, beginning with marches planned for the weekend of November 15th. Since Amy Balliett, 26, used her lunch break to start this site a few days after the election, more than 1 million people have visited and dozens of marches and meetings are now planned for Saturday 11/15, 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT).
  • Send your local media copies of the press release created by Marriage Equality USA. For a copy of it, please email marchforequalrights@gmail.com
  • Make an online donation to fight Proposition 8
  • Join the Facebook group >”1,000,000 Million Strong Against Newly Passed Prop 8.” At the time of this writing, it had about 68,000 members. Join Facebook if you haven’t already and sign up. The group’s creators identify themselves as high school students. Would you let high school students, who learned about civil rights from the actions of Baby Boomers like you try to carry this cause alone?

Want To Know More?

Many great books have been written addressing the issues related to gay marriage. All will help you better understand the issues and resolve your feelings toward this issue, no matter whether you are gay or straight.

Among them is one I’m really looking forward to reading: Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, by Nancy D. Polikoff, which is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Polikoff asserts that, in American law, marriage is the dividing line between those relationships that matter and those that don’t.

For example, with regard to inheritance, a woman married to a man for nine months receives Social Security benefits when he dies; while a woman living for nineteen years with a man or woman to whom she isn’t married receives no government support.

Among the crucial topics this books covers are:

  • Inheritance
  • Tax consequences
  • Workers’ compensation death benefits
  • Social security
  • Probate
  • Adoption
  • Health care
  • Plus, their impact the diversity of today’s family units

Polikoff knows her stuff. She writes this book after having taught, litigated and written about family law, civil procedure and sexuality for more than 30 years. From that perspective, she reframes the family-rights debate by arguing that marriage should not bestow special legal privileges upon couples because people, both heterosexual and LGBT, live in a variety of relationships—including:

  • Unmarried couples of any sexual orientation (remember, the co-ho concept works well for single Boomers)
  • Single-parent households
  • Extended biological family units, and
  • Myriad other familial configurations

These relationships, she argues, like marriage, are about building and sustaining economic and emotional interdependence and nurturing the next generation.

Sounds like a “must read,” for all Boomers, don’t you agree?

Comments

13 Responses to “Gay Marriage: What Can Our Society Possibly Gain From California’s Revising/Amending Their State Constitution Via the Passage of Proposition 8?”

  1. Tracey on November 14th, 2008 2:20 pm

    Thanks, Anne, for writing so passionately and accurately about this vitally important issue. I hope your thoughts will open the hearts and minds of each of your readers and move them to put aside the ancient and outdated prejudices they hear everyday – even if only for a moment – and examine this issue for themselves.

  2. Steve on November 14th, 2008 4:27 pm

    Great post, Anne!

    To supplement, I just noticed an article claiming that the Mormon Church invested an enormous amount of money and effort [$20 million according to the Los Angeles Times] towards passing Proposition 8 in California.

    Based on the unique history of Mormons, there is no religious group in our country that should be more tolerant of “nontraditional” forms of marriage than those whose ancestors were polygamists, and who were persecuted because of their “peculiar” marriages.

    Imagine how much benefit could have been derived by spending $20 million on food, shelter and clothing for the countless number of less fortunate people struggling through this current economic crisis. Instead, this “charitable” non-profit organization wasted this treasure in an effort to merely hold down the quality of life for others who merely want the same rights and compassion due every other citizen.

    It’s time for everyone to focus less on what they don’t like about others, and pull together “positively” for the benefit of all.

  3. Ruth on November 14th, 2008 11:44 pm

    Once again Anne, you hit the nail on the head. I can’t believe California did this. My understanding was it was worded poorly and it was an issue of if you wanted to vote for gay “marriage” you had to vote no and if you were against it you had to vote yes. Very confusing. Very sad that a religious group that fled across the Mississippi to escape persecution for their own religious beliefs about marriage headed this up.

  4. Level on November 15th, 2008 12:33 am

    In denying gay couples the right to marry, governments and legislators are segregating them from mainstream culture. Level

  5. Mike on November 15th, 2008 7:53 pm

    Anne,

    Your reasoning on this is flawed in several ways.

    For one, the founders of the country would have never imagined gay marriage, let alone condoned it. The Constitution was also written to allow individual states maximum leeway in running their own affairs. So one cannot adhere to the concepts upon which the country was founded and demand that all states legalize gay marriage.

    Just because “we all know people who are gay” that is not a valid reason for condoning their behavior, any more than we all knowing people who are wife beaters, adulterers, liars, or thieves. I’m sure we all know people who are “gay bashers” and I doubt you would use the same line of logic to defend them.

    As for people being “forced to closet their sexual orientations to get along in this world” so what? We are all forced to closet many of our desires to “get along in this world.”

    It’s called civilization.

    If we think it through, even though we may disagree on a few details, I think we would all opt for it.

    A school teacher once told me how he judges whether a given behavior is good for society as a whole or not. That is to ask the question, “What if everybody did it?”

    He said, “If I pee in the river, no big deal. If everybody pees in the river, big deal.”

    At heart, the issue is religious, as are all questions of law and morality. That is why Olberman ends by quoting scripture in the classic pharisaical tradition, making “the word of God of none effect” as Christ pointed out.

    If the intention of the “golden rule” is what Olberman says it is, then anything goes.

    At heart the Christian position against “gay marriage” and homosexuality (and all sin) is simply this: God didn’t make us to do that. He made us for something greater.

    Where is there any greater elevation of man than to be “created in God’s image?” Where has there been any greater elevation of women than in the teachings of Christ and the Apostle Paul?

    Jesus said that he came not to bring peace, but a sword. This issue ultimately rests on the edge of that sword.

  6. Steve on November 16th, 2008 12:20 am

    Mike, I respect your right to your own opinions, but that doesn’t make them fact.

    The founding fathers wrote an outstanding constitution based on their desire to end “all” forms of persecution, so they deliberately created a separation of church and state to legally protect our citizens from any form of religious persecution.

    I also can’t accept your comparison of violent acts like wife beatings and theft to what two consenting adults do in private. Furthermore, how they chose to live their lives in private is not my concern, as long as it doesn’t harm or infringe on the rights of others.

    You are correct that states rights are important, and California has a right to amend its constitution, but my beef was the outside interference of the Mormon Church from Utah. By interfering with the laws of another state, it seems they do not respect states rights or the separation of church and state.

    Like you, I was raised with strong Christian beliefs, but my teachings were of a loving God, and not of a vengeful God. I was taught tolerance instead of piety.

  7. Mike on November 16th, 2008 1:24 am

    Steve,

    Your logic and understanding of history is quite flawed here.

    For one, “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution or even the Declaration of Independence. It was mentioned by Jefferson in some private correspondence. Several states had established churches before and after the Constitution was written.

    The intent of the framers was to keep the Federal government limited in scope, and reserved for the states most of the power. Of course, it didn’t last long, and the Civil War reversed the roles and gave the Federal government control over the states.

    While you may not equate wife beating and theft to sodomy, the bible and traditional morality in most of the world has treated it as such. But leaving that aside, by demanding public and official recognition through marriage means that these homosexuals are not living their lives in private.

    That is the whole point of the thing. They want to their behavior to be accepted and considered normative, out in the open before God and everybody.

    Biblical law allowed for things being kept private. Two witnesses were required to convict someone of an infraction. If two “consenting adults” kept their actions truly private, they could not be condemned for them.

    As for people outside of California being involved, what about the mainstream media? They are mostly based in New York, yet drive opinion everywhere. Are we to believe pro-homosexual groups from outside of CA didn’t contribute to the cause? Olberman lives in New York.

    No doubt your parents raised you to be polite and respectful of others, to not pick your nose, potty trained you etc. Most likely you didn’t consider them to be tolerant of you during those times. Yet they loved you enough to make you unhappy in the short term, because they saw something better for you.

    That was my point.

  8. Steve on November 16th, 2008 12:01 pm

    Mike,

    Again, you have a right to your opinion, as do I. I love that we live in such a great land, where we may each speak openly of our own views on law, religion and life, yet each draws such apposing conclusions.

    Since we have both had our say, I suggest we now allow others to comment, and not hijack Anne’s post any further. Thanks for sharing your views.

  9. ANTONIO on December 20th, 2008 1:22 am

    I am a young, gay, deputy district attorney and monogamously committed with my younger partner for 8 years. We are not married and we wont be getting married. There may be a group of gay-life-style type, GLBTQs who want to be married but my experience with most of our young friends who have been come out earlier and earlier, is that they are not inclined to buy into a failed social institution. — Its purpose was to set up a system of passing property, building an army, and controlling women and children. Those purposes are either discarded or served by other means now.

    People are far more responsible about the details of their relationship when the marital illusion of a life time of fidelity is depended on.

    However, I don’t know anyone who is in favor of discrimination for all the reasons Mr. Olbermann so eloquently stated.

    Most of our friends are in monogamous non-marital relationships. Some of them have children. Whether straight or gay, when children are involved, the comittment has to be fidelity and civility at least until they are adults.

    I don’t work in vice but those that do are always amazed how married men are the primary visitors to park bathroom and highway rest stops. We can only specutlate what causes them to seek the most dangerous kind of sexual activity. As for heterosexual marriage, Unhappy marriages, infidelity-including
    masturbation, the divorce rate, leaves the preaching -post for those opposed to same sex marriage, pretty shaky.

    antonio
    Los Angeles

  10. Brad@American Idol (live blogging every show) on February 19th, 2009 4:21 pm

    The real point of this argument is not who should get married and shouldn’t, but whether or not marriage is a religious or secular state institution. If it is a religious institution then no government in the US has absolutely any business being involved in it. That means no formal marriage license or other fees being collected and no laws banning or permitting it what so ever. If marriage is a state sponsored secular bond between two people, then they have absolutely no legal position to discriminate against two adults who want to marry. You can’t have it both ways in the eyes of the law no matter how the demagogues try and twist the subject around.

  11. Dainna on March 10th, 2009 3:17 am

    All marriages are, and have always been, Civil Unions first and foremost. The couple has to go to the Court House and obtain a license, and they have to sign a legally binding, witnessed, contract. The couple does not have to go to a church, there is no religious requirement or criteria to being married.

    The church cannot end a marriage; Divorce happens in the court house. Breaking the legal contract, ending the license, happens in the Court House. Therefore ALL marriages are a Civil Union, a legal agreement.

    In 1996, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3, in Romer v. Evans, that an identifiable group of people could not be fenced out of the judicial / legal system. Therefore it is Constitutional law, that Civil Unions MUST be made available to gay and lesbian people; that gay and lesbian people not be fenced out of this legal arrangement.

    And yes — Civil Unions must be the same as marriage; because some churches are willing to Bless Civil Unions, in the name of God. We cannot create a situation where the opinions of a few churches can overrun the opinions of other churches.
    What GOD has joined together, let NO ONE rend Asunder.

    The State MUST issue the licenses, acknowledge the contracts, and respect the Blessings that are done by licensed pastors/priests/ministers.

  12. Nick from Legal Separation on June 3rd, 2009 11:01 am

    I agree that nothing can be gained from California’s revision. In my opinion it is a step backwards.

  13. Jenny@lesbian forums on August 23rd, 2011 6:02 am

    New York has recently legalized Gay Marriage. We have had a 33% Rise in marriages since doing so and as such NY is receiving much needed tax and living income from Gay and Lesbian Couples moving to NY.

    This is a win win for NY as they get to be known as usual as one of the progressive capitals of the world and reap the benefits of addition tax windfalls.