Posted by: Travis | November 18, 2008

Election 2008 – The Other Stuff

“Great! Based on their voting this year, Californians care more about the quality of life for the farm animals they eat than their gay and lesbian neighbors and co-workers. What the hell is that about!?!” – Rachel

The above is not a direct quote, as i couldn’t remember what Rachel said word for word, but it’s pretty close. As we begin to come down from the emotional high that Obama’s win brought, we can start to look at some of the other things that happened on election day, most notably that 4 states (Arizona, Florida, Arkansas, and most surprisingly my temporary home state of California) passed ballot initiatives outlawing gay marriage.

Now, i realize that complaining about this is a bit like blowing another team out by 25 points in basketball and complaining about the foul that you thought should have been called on the lay up you missed in the second quarter, but i think it’s a big deal. The fact that my own religion (no, i’m not a Mormon, but a Christian) had a significant role in the passage of the ballot initiatives bothers me to a point that is beyond description. The ability of the church to use ‘the word of God’ to achieve its political agenda (not to mention that that agenda discriminates against other human beings in a way that is quite contrary to the teachings of Jesus) never ceases to amaze me. Adds were run (at least here in California) that dispicably claimed that young children would be tought gay marriage in school and that pastors that refused to marry homosexual couples would be sent to jail, both assertions are completely false.

There are two inherent problems that i see with the logic of the anti-gay marriage movement:

First, we’re talking about civil marriage here, not religious marriage. There’s a difference, folks. Civil marriage is how you are seen by the government. It doesn’t matter if you get married in a catholic, mormon, hindu, jewish, muslim or prtestant ceremony, or hell, even in a court room. Civil marriage is what this argument is about. Its about the benefits you get from the state and how the state treats you as a result of you’re being married to another person. Any arguments about the sanctity of marriage, or that start with “Well, the Bible says…”, are totally irrelevant because those concern religious marriage, not civil marriage, and we have this little thing here in America called the seperation of church and state. If churches don’t want to marry gays, they don’t have to, because that is religious marriage, and churches can pretty much do what they want when it comes to religious marriage. And don’t tell me that civil unions are the same as civil marriage. Would any of you that got married in a court room happily exchange your civil marriage for a civil union? The Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision clearly states that separate is not equal.

But even if we are going to make the argument about what the Bible says or the sanctity of marriage, i believe in the verses before or after the piece of scripture that people use to justify the banning of gay marriage, the Bible states that owning slaves is okay and that a woman must go into exile the week before, the week, during, and the week after her period. All you literal interpreters of the Bible don’t seem to be jumping up and down to follow those verses do you? The there’s the sanctity of marriage thing. If we are to protect the sanctity of marriage, is gay marriage really the front line of that battle? How about Las Vegas, Britney Spears, ‘The Bachelor’ and those ‘Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire’ shows? But i digress.

Secondly, all you folks on the right love to beat your drums about how our freedom is what makes this country great and that ‘freedom isn’t free’. Well, i agree. This is a great country, a free country, and last time i checked freedom was about EXPANDING personal rights, not constricting them. We have to keep in mind that the basis for freedom in this country is that you should be able to do whatever you want in your pursuit of happiness as long as it doesn’t interfere with the well being of others. That means that something doesn’t have to be seen as morally right by a majority of the population in order to be legal. Lets look at a few examples: pornography, adultry, not taking a shower for two weeks. I’d imagine that all three of those things are seen as morally wrong by a majority of the population, but since they don’t interfere with other people’s pursuit of happiness, they are legal, and they should be. This is not an issue as the anti-gay marriage commercials have stated of whether or not you think gay marriage is right or wrong, its about whether or not you think it should be LEGAL for gays to get married. Thats a huge difference.

While i am very frustrated by the anti-gay movement and its inability to see the big picture, i’m not having the appocalyptic, its the end of the world, reaction to the passage of these ballot initiatives. As much as the Christian right wants us to think that the door is being slammed shut on gay marriage, the truth is that it is being swung open for gay rights, this was just a little hiccup. A ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California passed with 61% of the vote in 2000, but when a similar measure cam up this year, it passed with only 52% of the vote. The tide is changing.

I feel that the gay rights movement will follow a similar trajectory as the civil rights movement of the 60’s. I say similar because i don’t think the fight will ever reach the intensity that it did back then with dogs, fire hoses, and tear gas. Additionally, back then the country was pretty divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. As a result blacks knew mostly black people and white people had mostly white friends. On the other hand, homosexuality doesn’t break along racial or socio-economic lines, so gays are much more integrated and spread out in society than blacks were when they started their fight for equality. Most people in my generation have at least one gay friend, or someone they went to high school or college with that was gay, that they can see on a daily basis and realize that they are not any less of a human being because they are attracted to members of the same sex.

Having said that, i think it’s pretty messed up that in California blacks went 70-30 in favor of the amendment. I know that this is largely attributed blacks on average being more religious than the median American, but still, to not see the bigger picture and realize that this is just another aspect of the right all human beings have to be treated equally is unfortunate.

We are just reaching a point where those who were alive when racism and segregation were acceptable are starting to get older, vacate powerful positions in society and for lack of a better term, ‘move on’. Each new generation tends to be more open and accepting of diversity than the previous one and as replace members of the outgoing generation, society slowly changes. You want proof? We just elected a black president. Ask someone in their 80’s if they ever thought they would see that happen. I believe it will take a similar slow, generational change before gays are seen as completely equal.

I know that this recent set back is hard for my gay friends, but be patient and keep fighting the good fight. Soceity is changing, we’ll get there soon.

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