Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's the story?

I've been struggling a lot with how I am going to vote on Proposition 8. I am not going to present a case for either side, but I do have a few questions about the arguments that have been presented both for and against the measure.

Let's start with the word "marriage." If Prop 8 passes, gay and lesbian couples will still be allowed to form a legal union (or domestic partnership) that carries all the legal rights of marriage. So why call it something else? What's next? Gay couples won't be able to introduce their spouses as their husbands because a husband is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a male partner in marriage?"

Next, apparently, four judges overturned 4,000,000 votes and made gay marriage legal. Now, whether you consider gay marriage to be wrong or right, 4 judges turning over 4,000,000 votes shouldn't really make you too happy, no matter what the subject.

Finally, one of the "Yes on Prop 8" arguments is that churches may lose their tax exempt status if they refuse to perform gay marriage ceremonies. Now, whether or not that's the case, my question is, why do churches have tax exempt status in the first place?

Whether I vote yes or no on Prop 8, I have a feeling I will not be totally satisfied with my decision.


Ben said...

DING DING DING! Hit the nail on the head. As a married person, I feel that if two men or two women want to subject themselves to the same tax penalties that a man and a woman are subject to upon marriage, by all means - go ahead. As for the churches, yes, why are they tax exempt in the first place; but by law in order to keep tax exemption they cannot discriminate. Gray area there between separation of church and state, but you also see plenty of that in government. Churches are for the most part archaic institutions with outdated laws that need to evolve... sad it's going to take a new law to do it, but about damn time.

Annie said...

As far as I know, and correct me if I'm wrong, if a gay couple enters into a legal "domestic partnership," they are subject to the same laws, taxes, etc... as married couples. Why do we need a constitutional amendment to say they can't call it a "marriage?" The fundamental question here is, is it a question of semantics, or, dare I say it, civil rights and discrimination?

Ben said...

semantics. at the end of the day, marriage is a domestic partnership.

Turquoise said...

Imagine if you could not marry the person you love and cherish and want to marry. Imagine being told by a group motivated by a religion you personally don't believe in that THEY have the final say on a business so personal as YOUR marriage!

As gay person in CA, legally married this past August after being in domestic partnership since 2001, I can tell you with absolute certainty that domestic partnership is not equal to marriage in significant ways. It is not semantics. The legal differences between DP and marriage are quite real, and they cost us personally in several ways - financial, social, emotional. It boils down to the fact that some people don't like gays for whatever reason and their solution is to penalize us because we are gay. They consider being gay bad in some way and therefore deserving of institutionalized punishment. Restricted rights, as though we were criminals. That is what Prop 8 is really about, no matter what its supporters claim.

It's been 60 years since CA's Supreme Court struck down the ban on interracial marriage because it violated the equal rights of an individual of one race who wanted to marry someone of another race. The current CA Supreme Court decided the marriage ban that was put into the state Constitution in 2000 by vote and applies only to gay people is unconstitutional for exactly the same reason, because it violates our equal rights. That court is majority Republican and applied the strictest legal standard in deciding this case. Not only that, but twice in the past four years the CA legislature has voted to strike down the ban, but the governor vetoed both times.

Who among us has applied the same attention to the facts? Most haven't, of course. I have because it matters so much to me and my family. My partner and I happen to be different races, as well as gay. That's just who we are, who we fell in love with, who we want to marry. We were married in San Francisco in 2004 (for the first time, both in our 40s), but they took our license away. More than 4000 couple got married during the three weeks that little window was open. When they annulled our marriages we appealed, and when the Supreme Court looked at the facts under the light of reason, they found that preventing gay people from marrying violates the equal rights that are guaranteed to all citizens in the state Constitution.

The noise and rhetoric from certain religious leaders - who have a vested interest in controlling their own people and society to whatever extent they can - has confused many people. Prop 8 is about one thing: denying the right of two adults to get married if they are same gender.

Today's campaign ads are funded by the same religious groups that funded anti-gay sentiment in 2000, when the original gay marriage ban passed with 61% of the vote. The religious right would have you believe a majority of Californians are against marriage equality, but the facts are that 4.6 million people voted for the ban - only 13% of the state's population at the time - and 3 million voted against it. A great deal has changed since then, both in the numbers of gays who have come out of hiding and young voters who tend to be more pragmatic about gays than some of their elders. Internet access has grown tremendously in that time, giving the lonely gay in a rural town a way to find others like himself, and making it clear to most that gays are everywhere, every day people.

Back in 2000 the big lie was that allowing gays to marry meant people could marry dogs and horses and children and multiple partners. Today, just as in 2000, Mormons alone funded almost half the anti-gay campaign after being told by their leaders to support it or risk their own place in heaven. Their commercials spread outright lies such as the one about children having to learn about gay sex in kindergarten, or that parents don't have the right to prevent their children from going on field trips to witness gay weddings, or that churches will have to marry gays whether they want to or not.

Consider that the religious groups spreading these lies are in effect trying to deny the religious freedom of other religious groups and the non-religious who believe that gay people do not deserve to be penalized for who they are. Consider that they want to prevent businesses from earning millions of dollars and supporting thousands of jobs every year in CA alone by serving gay couples who marry here. My partner and I are hardworking businesswomen, employers, good neighbors, and long-time community volunteers. Why should criminals in prison have the right to get married while we are barred? Why should anyone want to weaken us, to hurt our businesses and our families, to prevent us from building wealth and supporting the economy?

Just like anyone else, not all gays want to marry or to marry in a church. Voting NO on 8 is about gays in California having the same rights as everyone else to choose our own partners and determine our own lives to the best of our abilities.

Equal rights. Not special, not different, certainly not lesser. Just equal. That is the basic, singular fact. Voting NO on 8 simply assures that gay people are treated equally under the law.

Annie said...

Thank you, Turquoise, for sharing your experience. As I said in my original post, I was not trying to present a case for either side, just asking some questions. By saying it was a case of semantics, I wasn't trying to trivialize the issue at hand, but trying to make a point as to how ridiculous some of the arguments in favor of the proposition have become. Again, thank you for offering your perspective, perhaps your comment will help those visiting my blog to make a more informed decision when they head to the polls.