The America we should be: vote no on Proposition 8
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen demonstrations in support of Proposition 8 in and around my neighborhood in Oakland, California.
If you don’t know by now, Proposition 8 would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to legally marry. Proposition 8 proponents have refused to comment on whether they would actively seek to invalidate the marriages of those couples who have been united since same-sex marriage was legalized in California.
Let me be perfectly clear. I am, to the very core of my being, opposed to Proposition 8. I believe that passage of Prop 8 effectively creates a religious dictatorship in California and would export bigotry and discrimination to the rest of the nation and the world. I believe that the right to marry is universal, constitutionally protected, and that it is a civil rights issue to the core.
And that’s why I can hardly keep myself from jumping out of my car when I see African Americans and other people of color demonstrating in support of Proposition 8, and why I can hardly breathe when they are also women. Notwithstanding the fact that slavery itself was only abolished in this country about 150 years ago and discrimination in all forms is still thriving here, interracial marriage in the United States was still banned in 17 states as late as 1967. That is forty-one years ago. If there were a Proposition 8 41 years ago, Asians, blacks, Samoans, and Hispanics I saw with a Yes on 8 signs this weekend, it would have been about you. Interracial marriage was banned because it was considered unnatural, it was thought to be “against God’s will,” and it constituted illicit sex. Sound familiar?
That long, rich history of marriage-related discrimination in this country ought to be enough to get any thinking person, and particularly a person of color, on the side of the Proposition 8 opponents. For whatever reason — probably the simple fact that it’s human nature to find someone out there you disagree with and go messing around with their lives — that doesn’t cut it. And that brings me to women.
Less than 100 years ago, women in the United States would not have been allowed to vote for or against Proposition 8. In some countries, they still cannot. In the U.S., women were still considered chattel who could not own their own property or even the clothing they wore until 1890, when Kentucky finally changed its laws. The Equal Rights Amendment, which says “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” wasn’t even proposed until 1923, has only been ratified by 35 states, and is still not part of the U.S. Constitution.
Then there’s the religious question. Proposition 8 comes from a fundamentally religious argument — our society rejects homosexuality as a sin that is specifically proscribed by the Bible. But here’s the thing: the Bible is not the law. If it were, we’d live in a pretty chaotic, contradictory society that allowed for putting people to death for all kinds of minor and outdated offenses and let guys like King Solomon have as many wives and concubines as they want. And don’t get me started on the teachings of Jesus — nearly all of which flatly contradict the spirit in which Proposition 8 was proposed at all. And before we use religion — again — as a tool for oppression in this country, can we please remember that our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom and that our Constitution was created out of the desire for a democracy that did not specifically endorse one religion over another, did not put the beliefs of one religious group over the beliefs of others, and did not force its citizens to believe and act based on the will of a religious majority?
It is unfathomable to me that America can have such a deep wellspring of hate and violent discrimination from which to draw its lessons, and that we can still have Proposition 8 on our ballot; that we still have not risen above petty, passionate, semantic bickering about who has the right to be a legally sanctioned family. It’s unthinkable to me that women and minorities can look past not just their own history but the active discrimination that still thrives in this country, and still try to find a target for their own bigotry. And it’s frankly abominable that so many people feel it’s acceptable, in 21st century America, to create a “separate but equal” caste out of productive, successful, law-abiding citizens with whom they happen to have a “lifestyle” disagreement.
Proposition 8 is un-American. Period. And I am begging you, no matter what your personal or religious beliefs may be, live your own life. Go your own way. Teach your children that they don’t have to worry about being discriminated against or marginalized in this country, no matter what future determinations our society decides to make about who is “anti-family” or “against God” or somehow the unacceptable “them” to the greater “us.” Because make no mistake: as long as we think discrimination and marginalization is ok, we’ll never stop trying to pick on somebody. In the future it could be the anti-technologist religious sect or heck, scientists and software engineers, or the half-robot people, or why not, women again, who are somehow picked out as somebody that it’s ok to hate and make laws against. Think this is about the children? Unless we make a stand as Americans and human beings, no child is safe from becoming a victim of somebody’s beliefs.
Like the right of women to vote, the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and the possible election of an African American man as President, this change is coming. There’s no good reason to tell gays they can’t marry, other than pure, naked, ugly discrimination. Don’t be the pro-segregationist of your day. Don’t become a villain in the story of America’s march toward tolerance and freedom. Vote for the America we should be, instead of the America we have been. Vote no on Proposition 8.