Saturday, November 29, 2008

Reflection on Prop 8

I wrote this for the Ragweed, the JVC South newsletter:

Election night was a night of mixed emotions for me. I was excited that Obama had won, but every time my phone vibrated with a call or text message, I was anxious that it might be my sister calling with bad news. She had told me that she would let me know how the California election results were going as soon as she knew. She called me a little while after the polls closed, and I excitedly started talking about Barack Obama. When she said "Yes, but…" I felt my heart sinking. She told me the results so far for Proposition 8, the state proposition that would end gay marriage, adding a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. It was winning. I tried to come up with reasons why the reporting precincts might be skewed conservative, but it wasn't looking good. I just couldn't believe it could possibly pass. I felt shocked and betrayed by the people of the state where I was born and raised, in whom I had faith to do the right thing, and I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

As a straight woman, the government will recognize my marriage, no matter when I choose to get married or what man I choose to marry. Imagine being in love with someone, wanting to spend the rest of your life with them and get all the legal and social benefits of a marriage, and the government telling you you're not allowed to. This is what millions of couples are being told in California and in most of the rest of the country.

Earlier this year, California judges overturned a state proposition from a few years ago that defined marriage as between a man and a woman and declared same-sex marriage legal. The marriages officially began after 5 p.m. on June 16, 2008, and a number of cities kept their offices open late that day. I was working in San Francisco this summer, and on my bus ride home after work that day, I passed by City Hall. I saw people with signs protesting the marriages, including one that said gay sex is a threat to national security. I was horrified. Imagine having protesters at your wedding. It's a time of celebration, happiness, and love, and as you walk out of the city hall, you see people with signs saying you're going to hell - going to hell for being in love and committing yourself to your partner for the rest of your life.

I have a very hard time understanding any justifications for banning gay marriage at the government level. No matter what your religious beliefs may be, if the state is issuing marriage licenses, it has no right to discriminate against a group of people and deny them their civil rights. Allowing more people to get married is not going to destroy the fabric of our society – it will strengthen it. As many people have mentioned in these debates, it wasn't very long ago that people of different races couldn't get married in parts of this country. Those laws weren't just, and neither is Prop 8 or any other law against same-sex marriage. This is a matter of equality, and by denying gay people the opportunity to be legally married, we are making them second-class citizens. The government is telling a group of people that their committed relationships are in some way less valid than those of straight people. This is why civil unions are not enough. Not only do they not bestow all the legal rights as a marriage, but by putting the relationships in a different category, the state is saying that they are not worthy of the title of marriage.

On November 15, I had the great pleasure of going to a Prop 8 protest here in Houston. Rallies were held all around the country to call for marriage equality and an end to legalized discrimination. The passage of Prop 8 did not end the movement to legalize gay marriage, and I firmly believe that we will change these laws.


david silver said...

a beautiful post about a horrendous vote.

it is hopeful, though, that protests against 8/hate have gone national, stretching to all fifty states.

good for you for writing this and for submitting it to ragweed.

we miss you out here.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

These truths we hold self evident: New folks get it. Old folks *will* die and get out of the way. In this case at least it seems progress is at work.

And, of course, DSil is correct. We do miss you. Gave an AP style test to advanced reporting last week. One of the questions was the canadian/canada goose thing. I do recall you were the one who explained the distinction *to me* that a Canadian goose is no more or no less than *any goose from Canada*, hence the useful distinction.

Amber said...

Thanks, Silver and Robertson, for the encouraging comments. I miss you and USF too!

Robertson, I am very impressed that you remember the Canada/Canadian goose distinction I offered.