the blame game, starring prop 8

The world can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that America has pinned her hopes of restoring her once illustrious world (and domestic) reputation on the man currently referred to as President-Elect Barack Obama. Unquestionably the most historic election in modern American – if not world – politics, November 4th, 2008 will be noted as a day when Americans chose hope over fear, excitement over anxiety, and awarded the nuclear (nee nucular) codes to a man who not 20 years ago would have fallen victim to the bigotry that still had yet to be sufficiently stymied by the previous 20 years of civil rights fights. Yes, America, no matter how President-Elect Obama ends up performing (since our previous POTUS has graciously set the bar below knee level), a change has most definitely come.

But there is no joy in California, for the No on Prop 8 campaign has struck out. Like 47.6% of Californians, I am not only unhappy with this popular verdict, I am flat out outraged. How could this happen, here of all places? This is California, damn it! When the rest of the country sucks, we’re the ones who are still fighting to keep abortion rights on the books! Who pave the way for alternative energy and lower emissions standards! And since we’re not Oregon or New Hampshire, we don’t look like crazy hippies doing it! So how could we, as a state, so royally blow it by CONSTITUTIONALLY curtailing civil rights on the same day that we overwhelmingly support the election of the first African-American president?

Like I said, I feel one with the collective frustration, and like most people, I am looking to point some shameful fingers. So in my blind rage, I say shame on the Mormon church for preaching to its parishioners the heavenly virtues of donating to the Yes on 8 campaign, even if you don’t live in the state! Shame on Focus on the Family for trying to dictate morality in government policy under the guise of “common sense” and “tradition”! And shame shame shame! on the Yes on 8 campaign for propagating lies about the pseudo-side effects of gay marriage on our churches and (gasp!) children! Oh, the children, who would woefully be unwillingly corrupted at such a tender and innocent innocent innocent age! I mean, never mind the fact that gay marriage legislation specifically protects a church’s right to refuse religious service to anyone it feels violates their sacred teachings (I actually say this last part with no sarcasm whatsoever). Nor mind the fact that nowhere in California’s education policy is marriage a mandated part of mainstream education. The only time marriage is “taught” is during sex education, out of which a student may be pulled at the parents’ discretion should they deem the curriculum counter to their home teachings (which makes sense. After all, this isn’t Massachussetts). I mean, these were BLATANT LIES intended to play on the fears and emotions not only of the very devout, but mostly on the casually religious and the undecided voters, who are surely rational people – keep in mind, 52% of Californians also struck down a parental notification law for underage abortions that would have surely left young victims of rape and incest vulnerable.

How could these lies, these mistruths, these obfuscations take root in the heart of good, decent Californians? Was it the Mormons? Focus on the Family? The religious minorities who came out to support Obama? The elderly and hillbilly who cling to their guns and religion? It’s gotta be somebody, so who is it?

I went through all these options, granted, with a built-in hesitation since some of my very good friends happen to be Mormon, though I cannot speak to how they voted. But, ultimately, my disdaining glare fell mostly on the No on 8 campaign itself. From the get-go, these cats, virtuous in their intentions, took their lead in the polls far too much for granted. We were all riding the high of the Superior Court’s May ’08 verdict, but once Prop 8 was put on the ballot, these organizers should have immediately been reaching out to the fence straddlers, showing how non-existant a threat gay couples actually posed to their own heterosexual “lifestyle”. And as soon as the negative propaganda ads hit the airwaves, there should have been counter ads broadcast within 24 hours, not the next 4 days. And while No on 8 ultimately raised more money than the Yes kids, that was only after a finish line surge of donations. For more details, check this article here, courtesy of that delightful bastion of the left, The Nation, outlining all the ways the No on 8’ers failed, not least of which being a lack of plan B should, God forbid (yes, that’s right. God), Prop 8 actually passed. To this day, the No on Prop 8 organization has yet to post anything as to what the next step is, whether that be to organize protests or fight this out in the courts; the only response has been the tempered if appropriate statement calling on their supporters to, ahem, stop blaming everybody else.

Of course, I also blame myself. There were phone banks to man, communities to visit, and the most I scheduled myself to do was to make a handful of calls for Obama/No on 4 and 8 to registered Democrats on the day of the election. Yes, every little bit helps, and I’m proud of the time I was able to donate; but if I’m really looking for reasons why No on 8 failed, I need to look to myself first, and ask if I did everything I could have done. The answer, much like the way I feel about the No on 8 campaign as a whole, is sadly no. And this is a very hard pill to swallow.

I’ve already posted my strong feelings on the matter of gay marriage and the secular/religious arguments against it (the entry is below). But it took Prop 8 passing for me to really understand why I was so fired up about it. Yes, it is a civil rights issue, the predominant one in my lifetime. Yes, it is a church and state issue, a line I feel has been blurred over the past 8 years. And yes, both these issues in and of themselves are worthy of my passion and ire. But I also felt, with the passing of Prop 8, that it wasn’t just homosexuals who had their rights curtailed. I had my rights curtailed. While I am not gay, I still want the freedom to marry whomever I so choose. Should I happen to fall in love with a man and decide to enter into a legally binding, state recognized relationship with him, why shouldn’t I? And be honest with yourself: do you really ascribe civil unions the same social currency as marriage? Granted, both institutions share virtually the same legal rights (minus, most dramatically, divorce law, of all things). But that’s virtually the same thing as saying the black school has the same curriculum as the white school, so what’s the big deal?

The one great thing that has come out of this is people are getting publicly angry, taking to the streets and marching for what they believe is right. I’m a big fan of justified civil disobedience and social inconvenience, so to hear about these marches happening across the state, with ground zero being right here in Los Angeles (odd that it’s not San Francisco) is very exciting. There’s a great article about the protests here, basically documenting how it is a leaderless, disorganized youth movement, and how that is actually turning out to be a good thing, especially since the No on 8 people still seem to be reeling from defeat. Someone’s gotta pick up the baton and show that we will continue to fight the good fight for rights all of us deserve… even if that person is a globulous rage searching for something or someone to hold accountable. But let’s hope that at some point soon we take a good look to each other and ourselves, no matter how painful or shameful that is. Because, remember, it’s always easier to blame the “other” for our own shortcomings.

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 7:28 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation about LDS support of prop 8 which suggests Mormons have some sort of vendetta against gays. In reality, many Mormons respect gays’ right to live as they choose; even church leaders have officially stated they support legalizing domestic partnerships so that gays can obtain the rights they deserve.

  2. First of all, thanks for the comment, Willard! I agree with you in that a lot of the blame on the Mormon church is somewhat knee-jerking; after all, every Catholic bishop in California came out in favor of Prop 8 as well, and there seems to be no significant Catholic backlash. However, I wouldn’t classify there being misinformation about the church so much as broad generalizations or slightly skewed rhetoric (by contrast, saying that gay marriage will fundamentally change school curriculum and leave parents without the option to remove their child from said curriculum is misinformation), especially considering that, according to the Yes on 8 campaign, anywhere between 40-70% of their funding came from Mormons, and not all within state, either. Granted, these were individual donations, but still encouraged by church officials.

    Now, that said, while I can take to task the church itself as an institution with a universal dogma (in that I don’t think any church should get involved with political movements), I don’t want to make generalizations about Mormons themselves, since I cannot be sure as to where their own hearts may lie. I do know that many of those who oppose gay marriage feel no (at least conscious) ill will towards homosexuals themselves and want all of God’s creatures to have the same legal rights. And while I respect this viewpoint in and of itself, I would also raise the notion of social standing/currency and how marriage stacks up to civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc. I consider this to be a “separate but equal” argument, but perhaps you don’t, in which case I would be curious to hear why.

    I agree that it is wrong for people to unequivocally assume that Mormons have some sort of vendetta against gay culture (though there has been some fiery rhetoric on both sides), and it hurts me to know that my Mormon friends are in any way living in fear of harsh judgment from liberal friends and associates. Ultimately, my point here was to show how painful it is for us No on 8 supporters to shoulder the responsibility of failure when the stakes were so high, and that as we look outwards for blame we’re creating a lot of bogeymen, legitimate or not.

  3. Simply put – the Mormons have proved with their complete obsession with PROP 8 to be a Tax-Exempt Hate Group.

    Heterosexuals – You better wake up. Instead of pondering a cerebral concept like how gays want the “1,138 rights of marriage”, you need to educate yourselves about the CONSEQUENCES when one or more of those 1,138 rights are denied. GOOGLE “Freeheld” or “Tying the Knot”; watch the DVDs. Write it down now.

    Your laws HATE us, and we’ve had it! Yes, I did said HATE – I stand by it. Because how else can you explain these 3 realities?:

    A police woman loses her life in the line of duty; her wife of 13 years is denied all pension benefits.

    A rancher loses his husband of 22 years; his inlaws evict him and try to take the home he built and lived in with his beloved.

    A detective spends 25 years risking her own life while protecting society; she has to spend her remaining days on this earth worrying whether her earned pension will be transferred to her wife (while living with terminal cancer).

    YES, H-A-T-E. And your silence on this matter is a serious affront to our families’s safety and security. FAMILY – isn’t that a cherished concept in the U.S.A.?

    So now after decades of disinterest, some of us in the LGBTI community have AWAKENED. And we will refuse to pay one penny of income tax to the IRS until the government (i.e. – you) decide you WANT our tax dollars as EQUAL CITIZENS.

    This ain’t a vote.
    This ain’t a debate.
    This ain’t a popularity contest.

    You will PAY OUR TAXES until we have what your family ALREADY HAS; your apathy is costing you money as you read this.


  4. I wasn’t gonna respond to this last one, but since it smacks of the vitriolic (and why shouldn’t it?), I thought I’d at least make sure it was clear where I stood here.

    First of all, I’m a big fan of the gay tax protest. Why fund a government that doesn’t support your basic civil rights? It’s what Thoreau did when he dissented against the Mexican-American War. Though I will say, despite my support of the tax protest and my own stated feelings that my own rights have been suspended, I am choosing to show my dissent in other ways and am happy to carry the tax burden in the meantime.

    However, I think it’s important to make two specifications here: 1) heterosexuals are coming out in droves to these protests and supporting the No on Prop 8 cause. In fact, I know more heterosexuals who volunteered time and effort to the campaign than I do homosexuals, and that’s not for a lack of homosexual friends. And keep in mind, there are also homosexuals out there who oppose marriage (few though they may be), so be careful where you wag your finger. 2) there’s a difference between hate and apathy, and I think this issue deals more with the latter. While there is certainly a lot of hate out there, there are also a lot of folks who simply think that marriage is defined a certain way and that civil unions are the same thing (they’re not). These people don’t have hate in their hearts, just apathy to really consider the larger picture and the consequences of their actions. I say this not just to get specific about what we’re talking about – and therefore be able to combat it better (tactics for taking on hate are much different than apathy) – but also because I personally consider apathy to be more destructive than hate. At least hate wants to make itself known; apathy can remain hidden until the damage is nearly overwhelming.

    I’ve also never heard any direct reference to the 1138 rights of marriage, though I think your overall point is valid – no matter how much of a “legal” equivalent civil unions are to marriage, the reality is that insurance companies, medical facilities, pensions, etc. don’t always look at them as such, even though they are legally bound to do so. And I’ll check out those DVDs that you mentioned.

  5. While Prop 8 was funded in large part by Mormons, the idea that the measure was passed by far-right religious wackos isn’t true. Anyway you slice it, the majority of California’s adults voted for this law, and most for reasons that had nothing to do with religion. Proponents of gay rights should stop framing their response as an attack on religious believers, and launch the sort of massive PR campaign needed to make sure this sort of idiocy ends.

    The fact of the matter is this: if we’d seen this level of interest in Prop 8 BEFORE the election, it would not have passed.

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