Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

We Are Family!

The California Supreme Court, as you all know by now, has spoken:

The designation of marriage to a union "between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Woo-hoo! So, sometime next month, Amy and I will be getting married. Again. And that marriage may or may not be permanent, since there will be a ballot initiative in November to amendment the California constitution -- the only thing that supersedes a Supreme Court decision -- which would define marriage as between "one man and one woman," if it wins.

It goes without say that we're opposed to the ballot initiative, and that in fact we will be spending a lot of time between now and then pounding the pavement trying to get people to NOT vote for it. I'm hoping that anyone reading this who lives in California will be doing the same, if you can, and I'm also hoping that all of you donate as much as you can to organizations like Equality California and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry who are fighting this amendment.

I spent a few hours yesterday reading the comments on various websites about the Supreme Court decision, and the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage seem to have three main arguments:

1. The Religious Argument: the Bible says it's wrong.
2. The Democracy Argument: the voters already voted against this (in 2000).
3. The Slippery Slope Argument: next they'll be saying you can marry your sister, or your dog.

Since you will undoubtedly encounter one or more of these arguments, should you decide to discuss this issue with a Californian, I thought I'd take some time to expound, in the hopes of providing my vast readership (all 6 of you!) with some ammunition.

1. The Religious Argument

It's hard to argue with someone's religion. However, that's not really necessary in this case. The only argument to have with someone who believes that the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong or that marriage between men and women is sacred (or whatever) is that we all have the right to our own beliefs.

I don't really care if your church refuses to marry same-sex couples. My church celebrates same-sex marriages, and my faith is just as good as yours. This country was founded on the principle of Freedom of Religion, and so its laws should not promote one particular religious belief over another.

Besides which, there is a tremendous amount of disagreement among religious scholars about how to interpret the various faiths' teachings on this issue. There is also a tremendous amount of support for same-sex marriage among faith-based organizations, institutions and clergy. One of the Friend of the Court briefs in the Supreme Court case came from faith-based groups who support same-sex marriage. It was signed by many hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques, religious organizations and clergy members, representing many faiths -- Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Native American.

2. The Democracy Argument

In June 2000, California voters approved a ballot initiative (Proposition 22) which added language to the Family Code stating that marriage could be only between a man and a woman. It was that part of the Family Code which was overturned by the Supreme Court decision. Hence, while it's true that the Supreme Court decision rescinds the "will of the voters," there are a number of reasons why it just not accurate to claim that this is somehow undemocratic.

First, our Constitution (both the U.S. and the California ones) designates a system of checks and balances. The Legislature makes the law, and the courts determine if it is constitutional. In California, voters can also make the law through the ballot initiative process. Whether a law is created by the voters directly (by ballot initiative) or indirectly (by the Legislators the voters elect) it is still subject to judicial review. Laws are overturned by the courts all the time. That's the system. Have a revolution and write a new constitution if you don't like it.

Besides which, the voters will get to vote again this fall, this time to actually amend the Constitution itself, not just the Family Code. So, we'll see if the "will of the voters" is the same as it was 8 years ago.

Oh, and about that "will of the voters" thing. Fewer than 5 million people voted for Proposition 22 -- about 10% of the population. It was a low significance, June primary election with very low voter turnout. It was still perfectly legal -- I'm not disputing that -- but whether it is a good indicator of the will of the voters remains to be seen.

3. The Slippery Slope Argument

Well, last time I checked my dog didn't want to marry me, nor does my cat, my guinea pig, my sheep or my cow. You know why? BECAUSE THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT MARRIAGE IS! Therefore, they can't consent to it! CONSENT, you people, CONSENT. I'm sorry to yell, but really, that is such a stupid argument. We're talking about marriage between TWO CONSENTING ADULTS here. Not children, not animals.

As for allowing you to marry your sister, or marry more than one person, when someone comes along and advocates for that, we should argue that on its merits. I just don't see why one whole class of people should be denied their civil rights just so as not to set a possible legal precedent for another class of people who may or may not in the future ask for the same right.

Besides which, all you people who say that the Bible prohibits homosexuality, doesn't the Bible ALLOW polygamy? How come you're not petitioning the court to legalize it?

There are other arguments people put forth against same-sex marriage, but I'll let you all figure out how to respond to them, since I'm starting to froth at the mouth. Just remember, it will take ALL OF US to defeat this ballot initiative.