Saturday, September 20, 2008

Getting All Political

Believe it or not, I try not to get too controversial on this site, lest I lose my 10 readers because they are offended.

But I began to think this week that if I don't voice my opinion on this one, I am not challenging the views I think should be challenged. And not giving those people an opportunity to give me some rational explanations for their position.

And so today I'm posting about a ballot proposition that's drawn its battle lines as religion versus the secular. And I think it really boils down to a battle over the "ownership" of a single word.
I'm talking about Proposition 8.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Proposition, Prop. 8 is the California Proposition that will amend our state constitution to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman. It's a response to a California Supreme Court decision from earlier this year that held such a definition unconstitutional. Of course, if the constitution gets amended, the definition will not longer be unconstitutional (based on the California constitution).

A couple weeks ago, a pro-Prop. 8 pollster came to the door. Here was our exchange:

Pollster Dude: Hi, I'm here about an proposition that's going to be on our ballot in November. Proposition 8 (handing me a flyer-thing).

Me: I'm familiar with it. It defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Pollster Dude: That's right. We believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Me: I'm in favor of marriage between a man and a woman.

Jason (who came up behind me to the door): That's right, we do.

Pollster Dude: So, how do you plan to vote in the election?

Me: No.

Pollster Dude (looking a little confused): Uh. Ok. Thanks.

And here's the thing-- just because I'm opposed to Proposition 8 doesn't mean I'm opposed to marriage between a man and a woman. I mean, I'm in a marriage with a man. And I'm a woman. So clearly, I like this definition. But why does it have to be so exclusionary? Just because I've opted to marry a man, why does that mean I should limit others to the same definition of family?

As a general rule, I subscribe to the notion that churches should do what they want to do (obviously within limits)-- I mean, I don't want government in my church. And I definitely don't want church in my government. I know that our religious beliefs inform our views of the world. But I'm of the opinion that non-religious rationales should inform our political decisions.

Then I got some mail from the Catholic Church last week. And it really made me mad. The literature explained why our bishops supported Proposition 8 (and why we should too). It boiled down to two arguments:

1. If we allow same sex marriage, then marriage will just be a contract between two people
2. Marriage is for the purpose of procreation, and if we allow same-sex marriage, we devalue its true purpose

Ok. Well, first of all-- marriage is a contract between two people. Call it a civil union. Call it marriage. As far as the state is concerned, marriage is just a contract between two people. And when it's breached, it's handled, if the parties so desire, through divorce.

And the second explanation-- well, I imagine it's obvious why this would be offensive. I didn't marry Jason for the sole purpose of making babies with him. And it's a good thing - because we haven't made any babies together. What we have made is a life together-- nine years of friendship, loyalty and support-- and we've built a family together. Not by procreating, though.

I don't believe for a minute that the state or the church looks at my family and thinks we are somehow a lesser family because we've built it through adoption. So I don't get it. If the church acknowledges and supports couples who never have children and couples who biologically cannot have children and couples who choose not to birth children, how can the position be that marriage is for that purpose (and ostensibly that purpose alone)? And if it's "just as good" to build family through alternative means, then why limit the definition of marriage based on the procreation argument?

I know there are passages in the Bible that indicate same sex marriage is not acceptable. I get it. But then let's just call a spade a spade. Let's not say that same sex marriage is wrong because gay people can't procreate together. If the church opposes same sex marriage, say it's because "the Bible says so."

And if that's the only reason we have for opposing same-sex marriage, then I come back to the beginning. I don't want my government basing it's laws on a rationale like "because the Bible says so." Because what if we interpret its verses differently? Or rely on different religious texts?

I could go into all the reasons that I think it should be okay for gay people to be married. But I don't think I need to. Because allowing gay people to marry doesn't change my beliefs. Doesn't change my relationship with God. Doesn't even change my church's rules.

I have no idea how the proposition will do. But I will be voting NO. The marriage of two men or two women just doesn't devalue my marriage to a man. And I haven't heard any (non-religious) reason justifying the rule. . .


Johnny said...


If they would only attach a rider to that amendment:

Marriage is between a man and a woman and FOREVER (i.e. no divorce and no re-marries).

I mean, if you really mean it than it should be FOREVER, dontcha think?


Gina and Tim said...

I found your blog through Delinda (I went to college with her), and I occasionally read and catch up on your family. I rarely ever write political things on my blog for the same reason of not wanting to lose the few readers I have.
However, I am so pleased and proud that you wrote this. My argument for same-sex marriage is the same as yours. I feel that there is no reason for other couples to have that same contract with the state (because, let's face it, that's pretty much all it is), and a "family" should not be defined as a man, woman, and children. Life just doesn't work that way.

Thank you, for putting this into very articulate words.

Michelle said...

I totally agree. I used to work for a Catholic church and it pissed me off every single time the whole "marriage is for procreating" bullshit came up. I guess that means my 15 year marriage isn't real. Riiiiiiggghhhht. My Dad, however, has a "Support Proposition 8" sign in his front yard. I listen politely while he tries to sway my political decisions, but when I go to the polls to vote it will my my decision, and mine alone. And I think that two people, regardless of sex should be allowed to get married and have the rights that come with it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...think about it..."relations" between a man and a man or a women and a women are not NATURAL [think about this]

Also, have you ever seen a gay parade? Why aren't the people attending normal? It's like a freak show. Now these people may marry and adopt children? Those poor,poor children.

Karen said...

I'm leaving Anonymous at 8:34 pm's opinion up, but obviously I disagree. I have not been to a gay parade (I assume this person means gay pride parade because I'm not sure what a "gay parade" is- unless it's a different use of the word "gay," in which case I've seen many happy parades.)

First, allowing gay people to enter a contractual marriage is already permissible in California (we call them civil unions).

Second, permitting gay marriage does not mean permitting gay adoptions.

Third, in the U.S., where most birth parents choose the adoptive parents, you don't have to be married (or straight) to adopt. Only through public adoptions (or adoptins through private agencies) is that an issue.

Fourth, kids can be "born into" a gay relationship- even without it happening via adoptions. Particularly with lesbian relationships because sperm donation is not particularly expensive.

Finally- and this is the most important thing of all- anyone who thinks a child is better off with NO PARENTS over having gay parents or a single parent has obviously not been an orphan. How does a child with a mom or a dad (or two moms or two dads) fare worse than a child with no single person who chooses, for no money, to advocate for them and love them unconditionally day in and day out? There is no scientific or social evidence to show that having a gay parent harms a child.

Karen @ bsinchina

Karen said...

One more thing--
There are plenty of "unnatural" things men and women do together, too. . . or so I've heard.

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Holly said...

I've been horribly out of touch and trying to catch up with the holidays nipping at my heels. So, I just want to say BRAVO and THANK YOU! I loved your interaction with the "Pollster Dude"!

I'm pretty sure the 10.5 yr relationship I have with my wife has not harmed our kid - who turned 17 this year. If anything, our family has made her stronger, more independent and empathetic.

If Prop 8 fails in November - which, as a native Californian who happens to be gay, I hope it does - my wife and I plan to come down to our home state and tie the knot legally on our 2nd anniversary. Further, my wife's father will marry his partner of 24 years. Our relationships aren't harming anyone, but they are making our individual communities stronger, due to being in healthy, supportive families.

Anonymous said...


I think you know from back when we discussed proposition 22 when I was in high school that I am in support of Proposition 8, although I no longer live in California. I have respect for your opinion on this issue, and I know that I won't change your mind on it. (I know you well enough to know that. ;) )

That being said, if you truly have any questions as to reasons for supporting this amendment, I would be happy to answer them from my perspective, though I cannot speak for all.

One thing I did want to mention is that I believe many people's perception of the First Amendment as a strict separation of ANYTHING religiously related, including ideas, with the state is misguided. Just because an idea has religious underpinnings or is religious in nature does not mean that this should not be entitled to public discourse and political action. It is not the religion that is being vetted in the political forum, it is the idea. Free speech actually guarantees that all may speak their ideas, hopefully leading towards greater truth as these debates continue to flesh out important issues. This right MUST apply to religious ideas as well for the right to mean anything at all. I get a little bit frustrated when people try to say that any idea, just because it may be religiously based, is not entitled to the fair political process or to the law. In reality, many of our laws are based upon our ideas of morality, often based in religion. Even such basic laws as not murdering or stealing down to our laws regulating marriage relationships, such as laws prohibiting polygamy and consanguineous relationships, have a basis in our concepts of morality.

That being said, I understand that you are looking for secular reasons why people support this amendment. For me, even my "secular reasons" do have some basis in my moral beliefs, but I still find them to be justified. For example, you are probably familiar with the California education code which requires that if a school teaches sex education (which 96% of CA schools do) then they must teach marriage. No parental consent is required or allowed in this issue. Already in Massachusetts parents are not allowed to receive notification when same-sex marriage is being taught in schools. The same would probably happen in California if proposition 8 had not passed. (The teacher's union did give a million dollars to defeat proposition 8.) Of course one might say, "Why do you care if same-sex marriage is taught to your children in schools without your consent?" Obviously, this is because I feel that it is a moral issue, and that I as the parent have the right to teach my own children morality and do not wish to have this job relinquished to the government. I do not want my 5 year old to have to deal with this issue in schools. Period. At an older age, I could have an intelligent discussion with my child and inform them of our families beliefs and allow them to make their own choices, but I want to determine when is the right time to have that conversation, based on the emotional and moral maturity of my own child.

I am also concerned about sexual orientation becoming a protected classification, similar to race, gender, and religion, under the law, thereby being entitled to strict scrutiny review in any discrimination case. I prefer that it remain at rational basis review. I believe that religiously affiliated institutions and others who object to homosexuality, even if it be on religious grounds, should be able to decline to hire actively gay individuals if there is a good reason to do so. (For example, a religious school should not be required to hire a teacher whose lifestyle directly violates it's teachings. Simple discrimination "just because" should not be sufficient. Hence the "rational basis.") Organizations should be allowed to withhold adoptions if their beliefs forbid them from participating in these actions. Catholic Charities has already closed up shop for many things in Massachusetts because of this, hurting many people they would have otherwise been able to help. I am concerned that with the current trends in the law, when "free exercise" comes against "equal protection" free exercise will lose. I think you can agree with me that it gets very little protection. (Any generally applicable law, if not designed to discriminate against religion, can be applied to them.) Thus, I believe that recognizing same-sex partnerships as an equivalent "marriage" under the law will lead to harm to many of the things that I and many others in this nation hold dear.

Is this influenced by my religious beliefs? Yes. Does it make my opinions, ideas, and defenses under the law less valid? No. Once again, the First Amendment prohibits state churches. It does not prohibit ideas from being taught or voted on that may somehow be connected to religion, nor should it. It should encourage all viewpoints to be entitled to free and full expression in a political forum. (Of course, as I partly learned from you, this includes non-criminal, proper expression of the ideas opposed to my own.)

I believe that the best environment for a child to be reared in is with a mother and father in a stable and loving relationship. I understand that this is the ideal, and is not always attainable. I know many same-sex couples with children, and many seem to be good parents. The research on this matter contradicts itself, since it is impossible to truly do objective social science research. There are very valid studies that show that same-sex relationships harm children, and studies that show the opposite. It seems that the opinion of the person performing the study makes a huge difference in the outcome. Therefore, I cannot prove this point one way or another, but can only default to my personal beliefs in this, as must each individual. (Though I have read the studies and done a lot of research on this issue.)

I have love and respect for many of my friends who feel differently on this issue. I am not opposed to some kinds of civil unions and certain rights being given to same-sex couples such as probate rights and health care. I understand that my words will not change your mind, and may be offensive to many. This is such an emotionally charged issue for so many people, and I understand that. I just wanted to respond, since from your post it seemed that you had some honest questions about the perspectives of those who support the amendment.

All the best,