I have to admit, I’m a bit stunned by the passage of Prop 8 (gay marriage ban) on California’s ballot. It kind of scares me honestly that we live in a country where the rights of a minority group can be put up to a popular vote. Imagine how long it would have taken Jim Crow laws to permanently fall in the Deep South if the rights of black citizens were put on the ballot for a largely white, largely hostile population to vote on. In California, there simply aren’t enough people who can separate their faith (mostly Christian) with a legal system that should account for Americans of all beliefs.
We’ve already acknowledged as a society, through our discrimination laws, that sexual orientation is a protected status under the law. For example, you can’t fire someone based on their sexual orientation. Yet it is the only status that isn’t afforded marriage rights. We don’t legally discriminate against anyone’s marriage rights based on race, gender, disability, age, or religion. Two people of different religions or disabilities can’t be denied the right to marry. So why do our marriage laws single out sexual orientation? As Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic put it, “If someone wants to give me a reason why gay people shouldn’t be able to marry that doesn’t, at its root, boil down to ‘yuck,’ I guess I’d love to hear it.”
I guess I don’t understand these propositions in general though. What’s the point of representative government if the people are voting on individual laws, voting to amend the constitution? The night before the election, my wife and I stayed up studying, to give a final look at each proposition– the pros and the cons– before we voted. And the hour or two we spent doing that, I guarantee you, is an hour or two more than 90% of Californians spent on it. I’m guessing most people didn’t even realize there were propositions to vote on until they got to the booth. So rather than our laws being passed by at least a halfway educated lawmaker who is at least accountable to someone, we get people walking into the booth and voting for “clean energy” bills without even understanding the economic cost or who those bills are really benefitting.
The other problem is when the arguments of supporters and opponents of a particular proposition basically amount to, “Nuh-uh, it won’t do that.” “Uh-huh, yes, it will.” “Nuh-uh, it totally won’t.” “That’s a complete lie, of course it will.” “No, you’re a liar.” “No, you are.” Which is basically what the arguments for and against Prop 4– a rehab program for non-violent drug offenders– sounded like to me. One side saying that it would provide a loophole for sex offenders and burglars to get out of jail free, another side saying it wouldn’t and that that was just a despicable scare tactic, with no way to independently verify which side was telling the truth. And Prop 2, giving rights to farm animals at the cost of possibly driving farm business out of California. How am I– Joe the Uninformed Layman– supposed to weigh something like that?
But back to the Prop 8 aftermath. My other problem with all this is that somehow most of the blame for the passage of Prop 8 has fallen on the black community, a small slice of the population who voted overwhelmingly in favor of it (though the black population is so small in California that ultimately it probably wouldn’t have changed the final result, only the margin of victory). In fact, Andrew Sullivan has pretty much spent the last two days blaming a homophobic black community for– ironically, it would seem– stripping away the rights of another oppressed minority group. But lest we forget, it was the overwhelmingly white Mormon Church’s homophobia that conceived, executed, and funded Prop 8. Without them, there is no Prop 8 to vote on. So while there definitely needs to be some outreach by gays into the black community, they’d be better served through focusing on bottom-up reform and education in the religious community. Though, good luck with that.