Arguments in favor of California’s Proposition 8 are a fascinating study in hate apologetics. Just as with the “life begins at conception” anti-choice movement or the pro-creationism lobby, from the start there is an intense pressure to hide the religious foundations beneath the nearest available logic-like substitute. It comes down to an often hilarious yet very sobering look into the kind of people who think discrimination belongs in the California state constitution.
The favored defenses of institutionalized bigotry are:
- Cultural Definition/Clarity
- Protecting the Institution of Marriage, Social Role of Traditional Families, Etc
- Claiming Same Sex Relationship are Unnatural
- OMG They Will Make Our Children Gay
- Majority Rule vs Courts
- Protecting Religious Freedom
The first argument goes something like this (DocDodson’s first comment):
Marriage law in this culture represents one thing.
A man and a woman. For clarity another word must be used to represent any other type of union. Specifications reject confusion. Now, Let’s do talk about religion. If you attend a church, would it be a church of God in Christ, or a church of Satan? What if you walked into a building that just said church, and became trapped? You thought it was one thing, but you got trapped in another. Deciet is a horrible thing. Misrepresentation of values, a crime.
I can see why DocDodson is afraid, who would want to become trapped forever in a building that “just said church”? Its painfully easy to dismiss the idea that straight people might become so confused by marriage in a post prop-8 world they might accidentally marry someone of the same sex. The cultural definition provides more to go on. This argument is remarkably similar to the Southern Way of Life arguments against racial equality:
The Southern way of life divided the world into white and black – sacred and profane. In this sacred way of life, all who were white were viewed as fully human and all who were black as less than human.
The anti-gay movement and the support for proposition 8 shares a lot in common with the racist campaign against equality during the civil rights era, as this brilliant video hack shows (via Amanda at Pandagon):
By taking the Morman Church’s campaign against equality regardless of sexual orientation and substituting in “interracial” for “same-sex”, they’ve effectively shown the true colors of those who claim to champion family values.
Which leads us to the next three arguments, which often go together. The basic idea is that Same sex marriages somehow:
- Effect opposite sex marriages
- Go against the purpose of marriage, which is to further society (ie make more people)
- Provide an Immoral/Unnatural/Icky Environment for Children
The first point is the easiest to tackle. One can simply look to Massachusetts, which has a complete lack of “Well, gay marriage is now legal” statements in divorce proceedings. The opportunity to point out the utter nonsense of this argument is not one to squander. At its heart is the idea that the actions of some can affect the morality of unrelated persons. The reasoning is remarkably close to the heart of many pro religion-state marriage partisans: Its about removing temptation so the weak do not succumb to what they view as sinful. We need look no further than the tendency of Republican officials – paragons of morality – to seek out prostitutes and other sexual activities they rail against in public. It is religious conservatives of all stripes who seek to institute a nanny state.
The second point is often lightly dealt with by referring to childless marriages, and offering to institute a deadline for producing offspring for marriage licenses to remain valid. Anyone foolish enough to walk into this arguing that would be fine by them can be shamed by bringing up the example of infertile couples.
Against the third point there is some encouragement to find in popular culture (Apple Trailer: Breakfast With Scot). This boils down to two implied arguments: That homosexuality is learned behavior (which feeds into the paranoia about children even being taught same sex couples exist), and that homosexuality is ok “for adults who already are gay, but not for children!”. The clear implication being that despite all the assurances to the contrary, people who use this argument are really wearing their homophobia on their sleave. The best thing to do is to bring the discussion back to the biological basis of sexual preference, and to argue so as to bring out their homophobia into the light, where you can then counter that they have no place forcing their fear and hate on the general public.
To quote Comparative Religious Ethics again:
The Southern way of life divided the world into white and black – sacred and profane. In this sacred way of life, all who were white were viewed as fully human and all who were black as less than human. Therefore Southern white morality did not require whites to treat blacks with the same dignitiy that they treated each other. For a black person to enter the sacred space of white society, except under strictly controlled conditions, was to pollute that space.
The fear and hate of homophobia, combined with the disapproval of religious authority, has had a similarly violent impact on homosexuals. When people are viewed as hateful, less than human, or a sinful influence, they become objects of aggression. Opposition to same sex marriage is innately eliminationist in its expression.
We now arrive at the last two arguments for proposition 8, wherein the anti-gay movement tries to have it both ways at once (preservingmarriage.com):
One the one hand, the anti-gay contingent is intent on insisting their religious freedom to believe homosexuals are sinners are at risk, and need to be protected. They are however quite comfortable with ensuring their beliefs restrict all same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights as straight couples. With regard to their perceived vulnerability to a flood of lawsuits demanding churches marry homosexuals, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back up this kind of fear (mormonapologetics.org, emphasis mine):
But will it happen? Will churches be forced to perform gay marriages, even when it contradicts their religious convictions?
No one can see the future, but we can look to the past for similar situations. The closest comparison I can think of is the legalization of interracial marriage. I’ve searched and searched, but I can’t find a single case where a church was forced to perform an interracial marriage. From a broader perspective, the same argument could be applied to civil rights as a whole. The civil rights era created anti-discrimination legislation which was applied to public and private institutions, but churches were (and still are) exempt from such laws. The LDS church was free to deny priesthood status to blacks until it decided on its own to end the practice. The government never attempted to force the LDS church to change its policies regarding blacks, even though those policies were racist and discriminatory. The church was never threatened with the loss of tax exempt status for those policies.
History shows that churches will be free to practice their religion, even when such practices are discriminatory. There is, therefore, no reason to believe the hysterical arguments now being put forth with respect to same sex marriage.
Further down in the same thread, there is a link to a California law professor debunking the legal threat:
Kaimi Wenger, a law professor addressed this question in a discussion of the legal issues in California, and his conclusion was that it is unlikely that the Church would be required to perform same sex marriages.
Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California are warning businesses that have given money to the state’s largest gay rights group they will be publicly identified as opponents of traditional unions unless they contribute to the gay marriage ban, too.
ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.
“Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error,” reads the letter. “Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. … The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.”
No word on whether or not in addition to being “outed”, supporters of gay rights would wake up next to a disembodied horse’s head:
Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors said Thursday he has heard from two other business owners besides Abbott.
“It’s truly an outrageous attempt to extort people,” Kors said.
A church is acting like the mafia to protect institutionalized inequality and hate. Their excuse for doing so is mind boggling:
She called the tactic “a frustrated response” to the intimidation felt by Proposition 8 supporters, who have had their lawn signs stolen and property vandalized in the closing days of the heated campaign.
Individuals act out inappropriately and the response is to extort business owners? WTF?
Its an incredibly stupid move, and one we can help backfire simply by bringing more attention to it.
I’d like to draw your attention to a particular scene at the end where one of the “No on 8″ counter protestors attempts to debate with the “Yes on 8″ supporters. Unable to defend their desire to impose their views on others, they break into a chant, drowning out the lone “No on 8″ activist, literally turning their backs on him.
There is literally no room for nuance on an issue like this. Supporters of Propostion 8 are on shaky ground with only veiled appeals to theocratic tendencies to lean on. In contrast the opponents of Prop 8 have their shit remarkably together, and are willing to engage in smart and reasoned discourse.
This post was written by Dan on October 29, 2008