bg/ish: Prop (H)8, Sex, and The American Way
Professor Hubert Farnsworth: You must take him to his ancient home world, which will soon erupt in an orgy of invertebrate sex.
Fry: Oh baby. I'm THERE.
Leela: Fry, do you even understand the word "invertebrate"?
Fry: Nope, but that's not the word I'm interested in.
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After the California Supreme Court upheld a challenge this last Tuesday morning to Proposition 8, a state ballot measure that passed in November of 2008 and changed the state Constitution to add a new section (7.5) to Article I, which reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California", the protesting and social commentary that followed was welcome, if not predictable. Although personally I was not surprised by the decision (I'd spoken to an attorney I work for last week on Friday who explained to me what the decision would be and why with startling accuracy) I found myself searching the reactions of other people for clarity as to how this thing known as Prop 8 truly reflected our society currently and how it would stand the test of time and eventually reflect us as people now in history.
Forgive me in advance, for this will be a lengthy discussion, and the lead-in quote from Futurama may be as humorous as it gets. That quote however, will not be in vain...
Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my friend Steve Morozumi's eloquent and intelligent discussion of the recent Prop 8 decision. Steve, I cannot hesitate to say your post was not only an inspiration, but also a catalyst for me to finally get my thoughts out in this forum. But we'll get back to that in a moment, as this post will not rehash his many valid points, yet, will use one of them as a starting point for the purpose of this discussion.
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In October of last year, my parents came to visit me. As has been mentioned numerous times in this blog before, your boy bg lives in San Francisco. We were spending an unusually warm afternoon in Dolores Park, sipping beers, watching the dogs play. A man approached our table holding a clipboard, and kindly enough asked our group if we "supported gay marriage". My father, without hesitation, and likely any real thought, quickly responded "No."
(A quick aside: If you ever want to find your boy bg, Dolores Park is a likely spot. That's my hood. Corner of 18th and Church. So, in addition to my minor embarassment due to my father's thoughtless answer, I certainly didn't want his views construed onto myself, especially in my backyard.)
At any rate, the situation diffused rather quickly, the guy offered up a brief question of protest, as in "why not?", but I ushered him on his way before a clash of ideals ensued. Here's the thing... I know exactly why my father answered the way he did. My parents are Christians, and they believe homosexuality is wrong, condemned by God, and in direct opposition to Biblical law. That's fine. They have every right to feel that way, and to believe what they do.
The root of the issue is, and perhaps some blame can be put on the man who approached us for asking the wrong question, fundamentally, it's not about "gay marriage" at all. He could have asked us, "Do you support gay ice cream sundae parties?", and my father would have said, "No". And we all know there is nothing wrong with ice cream sundae parties.
So, maybe what the man should have asked is, "Do you support equal rights for all men, women, and children, regardless of their race, nationality, religious beliefs, or sexual preference?" Because something tells me that then, my father being a mixed Black Irish man who has seen his extended family divided by racism and who is free to practice his own personal religious beliefs, would have said "Yes".
Sadly, Prop 8 passed with a 52% majority a couple weeks later. "Gay Marriage" was banned, and I'm sure plenty of common folks like my parents never even batted an eye.
Here in San Francisco, the night of November 4th was bittersweet. I've written briefly about this before, but I'll reiterate again, it was a stunning display of irony as people celebrated the nation's first Black President while mourning the demise of equality for all people in this state. The Advocate shortly thereafter ran the following cover:
I'm not sure if they coined that phrase, or if these guys did...
...OK, couldn't resist just a tad bit of humor there.
Initially, I wasn't sure how I felt about that phrase. But the more I thought about it, I came to understand that being part Black, I had more understanding of that struggle, and being no parts gay, I had a very limited understanding of theirs. And yet, I understood, they related on a common level. A level of equality for people, and civil rights.
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So, in the aftermath of the recent Court decision, I think it's important to examine why Prop 8 came about in the first place, why it passed with a majority of California voters, and what principal this all conspires to violate. Let's start with a snippet from Steve's post mentioned earlier, and go from there...
"okay, so here's the opinion i hold on the 2 legal loopholes that prop 8 will have to withstand in order to not be struck down in The Supreme Court of The United States:
1. Separation of Church and State - Since marriage itself is a sacred bond between individuals, it is carried out in/under the auspices and authority of a church or similar spiritual belief system. For the state to intervene in a sacred rite such as marriage, is a violation of the separation of church and state.
2. All (people) are created equal - This legal proposition should never have arisen in this case to begin with, because separation of church and state should have been stipulated and upheld before any marriages in the United States had ever taken place (all the way back to the day the U.S. Constitution was ratified)."
The key here is the Separation of Church and State, which "in the United States is generally discussed as a political and legal principle derived from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution." So, why is that the key? Well, Prop 8 had two major supporters in the form of the Roman Catholic Church, and the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka, the Mormons.
(Let me quickly say, this discussion will in no way cast judgement on the beliefs or rights of those churches or any of their members.)
Why is this important? According to wikipedia, "Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution, in accordance with marriage laws of the jurisdiction. If recognized by the state, by the religion(s) to which the parties belong or by society in general, the act of marriage changes the personal and social status of the individuals who enter into it."
The key in that definition lies in, a "legal concept" that "changes the social status of the individuals who enter into it". Individuals have a choice to enter the arrangement of marriage. Just as they have a choice as to what church they attend. However, the conflict arises when a church uses it's influence over it's members to then manipulate the law. Especially in a case where the law then restricts the rights of some to change their "personal and social status" and to obtain the benefits or detriments of that social status, based on sexual preference.
Does this logic apply to marriage? Absolutely. Married couples receive tax breaks and are afforded other legal rights that unmarried couples are not.
Listen, I don't have a problem if the Mormons believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. I'd encourage them to allow only those unions within their ranks. What I do have a problem with is this well documented fact:
"The First Presidency of the [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter intended to be read in every congregation in California. In this letter, church members were encouraged to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." Local LDS leaders set organizational and monetary goals for their membership—sometimes quite specific—to fulfill this call. The response of the LDS membership to their leadership's appeals to donate money and volunteer time was very supportive, such that Latter-day Saints provided a significant source for financial donations in support of the proposition, both inside and outside the State of California. About 45% of out-of-state contributions to ProtectMarriage.com came from Utah, over three times more than any other state. ProtectMarriage, the official proponents of Proposition 8, estimate that about half the donations they received came from LDS sources, and that "eighty to ninety percent" of the early volunteers going door-to-door were LDS."
This is a clear cut example of a Church using it's influence over it's members to manipulate the law, manipulate democracy, manipulate the State. It's wrong. It's morally reprehensible, and it is discriminating against people, and denying them their equal rights. It confuses what are in all probability, ordinary, well meaning people. It spurs them on to actions that if they truly examined, they might very well find to be disgusting. And if you get enough people to believe the same thing, you might end up with convoluted views and misplaced passions and a sign that says something completely inane like, "Prop 8 = Religious Freedom".
So, if I'm understanding this correctly, Prop 8 seeks to maintain religious freedom while infringing on the freedoms of others. By banning gay marriage. One can only be left to wonder, why the hell are people so afraid of gay marriage?
The answer of course, is the only word that Fry was interested in. Sex.
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"I thought this was America!?!"
So, allow me one more moment of humor, as it's a necessary audio aid...
Randy - Arrested
Now, as you read the next part of what I have to say, just keep Randy's voice in the back of your head... "I'm sorry, I thought this was America!"
This is in fact, America. A brief fact check will reveal that many of the earliest settlers in the colonies that would eventually form this country were Puritans. The Puritans were advocates "for more "purity" of worship and doctrine, as well as personal and group piety." Many were motivated to leave England to escape persecution on the grounds of their religious beliefs. The irony is a little too thick there so let's just move on.
The reality is that these Puritan ideals have been around for the duration of this nation. We could branch off into a lengthy discussion about how fearful this society remains of sex. I can't be the only one who remembers the outrage and disgust over Janet Jackson's nipple showing up during the Super Bowl Halftime Show for a split second, right? Yet, some would say it's silly to infer that this American society is one that is afraid, if not terrified of sex...
- Sexual positions other than missionary-style are illegal in Washington D.C.
- It's illegal to purchase a sex toy in the state of Alabama.
- In Romboch, Virginia, it is illegal to engage in sexual activity
with the lights on.
...OK, maybe were just a little afraid. That's called sarcasm.
On a side note, my research for this entry led me to discover that Utah, homebase of the aforementioned Latter-Day Saints, consumes more Internet porn than any other state in the country. Way to go Utes! Well, technically, they were the #1 state for "porn subscriptions", which just leads me to believe they aren't all that savy at leeching porn for free.
Moving on, before I lose my point here. This country is terrified of sex. And gay sex!?! * gasp * Well, clearly, that's the worst kind!
See, people are fooled into thinking that by condoning gay marriage, they are condoning gay sex. And they're terrified of that. Scared shitless.
(Insert any number of "no sex after marriage" jokes here.)
But anybody with half a brain will tell you that sex and marriage are not the same thing.
It's this underlying fear that causes otherwise logical, well meaning people like my father to blurt out "No" when asked if they support gay marriage. It's a byproduct of their mental conditioning. The fear causes them to be reactionary, they cower back and feel the need to "protect marriage". But what are they really aiming to protect? An ideal? An institution? A religious value?
I'm really not sure. I don't hear a lot of uproar about the divorce rates in this country. "The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs second or third marriage: 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.”
Guess what, the Bible also states that God "hates a divorce". Pretty clear cut if you follow the Bible as your moral compass. Homosexuality is a "sin". Divorce is a "sin".
So, that brief examination of the divorce rates in this country leads me to believe that people are in fact, not really interested in protecting marriage at all. I'm going to need a different line of reasoning here, or I'm not buying it. Ya, the "God says it's wrong" angle isn't going to work for me either.
But that's just it. There is no other logical line of reasoning. There are a lot of excuses. Lot's of "moral outrage". Lot's of loosely applied values. But in reality, it's all lots of nonsense.
Here's the good part though. Randy was right. This is America. People here have the right to fight for equality. Let's not lose sight of what is really at stake here in California, and that is equality.
Proposition 8 may claim to be many things, but in reality it's nothing more than a craftily written religious agenda funded and put into motion to deny people equal rights offered under state law. And it's based in fear. But as I said in a text message to a friend on Tuesday night, "it's the dying gasp of a conservative generation". Prop 8 too, will die.
Mark Morford of SFGate had this to say: "Gay marriage is a foregone conclusion. It's a done deal. It's just a matter of time. For the next generation in particular, equal rights for gays is not even a question or a serious issue, much less a sinful hysterical conundrum that can only be answered by terrified Mormons and confused old people and inane referendums funded by same. It's just obvious, inevitable, a given."
So the battle for equal rights here in California will continue, and in the end, likely win out. After all, "this is America", and people here have the right to believe in whatever they want, express those beliefs, and live according to them. They do not, however, have the right to impose them on others, and ultimately, that is why Prop 8 will fail.