More on Prop 8

Regarding those of you upset by this ruling, I wonder: How does it feel to be on the trailing edge of progress, or, if you will, on the wrong side of history? For those of you old enough to remember, how did you feel about the legalization of interracial marriage? Or school integration? Or public accommodations being required to serve people of all races? Conservatives opposed all of these changes, blaming them on an "activist judiciary," and predicted dire consequences.

Do you believe now, decades later, that those enormous changes in "what was and always would be" have disintegrated the fabric of society? Do you believe the apocalyptic changes predicted by their opponents have taken place?

Conservatives, by their very nature (and by definition), desire to preserve the status quo. I can think of three underlying reasons for such a desire:

1) Fear of the unknown. (Things may not be great now, but at least we KNOW how they are -- but if we change something, what if things get worse instead of better?)

2) A desire to return to an idyllic (albeit imaginary) past. This is the past where life was straight out of "Leave it to Beaver" or Mayberry, and all our families were like Ozzie and Harriet, and Donna Reed baked cookies for us to have after school every day.

I prefer both of those explanations to the third I can imagine:

3) Not just fear, but a dislike of things alien. This is a belief that difference equals inferiority, that tolerance of those differences represents a threat to a certain way of life, and that granting equality will somehow diminish those currently in a position of power and privilege.

The third explanation is ugly, by all means.

Let's read the Perry, et al v. Schwarzennegger, et al, ruling. There are five rationales advanced in support of Propsition 8. To which of these reasons for maintaining the status quo can we attribute them?

The first rationale is about the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and preserving that definition for its own sake. I think I can attribute this one to the second reason above: Clinging to an imaginary, idyllic past. The traditional definition of marriage stems from, as Judge Walker put it, "antiquated and discredited" gender roles that used to be legally mandated, but have since been eradicated from the law. (We won't even go into the absurdity of trying to apply traditional gender roles to same-sex marriage -- but that may be the point of this argument from Prop 8 supporters. How can a same-sex couple fulfill the traditional gender roles that marriages were originally designed to impose?)

Of course, the answer to this is that the definition of marriage has already changed. In today's society, marriage is a union of equals, and the lines between traditional gender roles have already been blurred to the point of eradication. Clinging to a traditional definition of marriage would also mean clinging to gender discrimination. So to suggest that the only part of a traditional definition of marriage that needs to be preserved is the restriction to a man and a woman is nothing more than intentionally, specifically targeting one group to deprive them of a fundamental right. And, as Judge Walker stated in his ruling, "...the state cannot have an interest in disadvantaging an unpopular minority group simply because the group is unpopular."

The second rationale, "proceeding with caution when implementing societal changes" was, in the trial, based on the assertion that this change is a "radical transformation to the fundamental nature of a bedrock social institution," and that such a change could weaken the institution itself. The proponents of Prop 8 didn't present any evidence that same-sex marriage weakens the institution of marriage in general. So where did this rationale come from? Sadly, it's part of the third reason above -- that permitting individuals who are different to be equal represents a threat to the advantage the current situation affords the opponents of change.

The third rationale, "promoting opposite-sex parenting over same-sex parenting" is based on the notions that same-sex parents are better than opposite-sex parents, and that denying the right of marriage to same-sex couples somehow promotes the likelihood that opposite-sex couples will marry, procreate, and raise children that are the biological offspring of both parents, and that this is a good thing. Of course, the evidence shows that children raised in same-sex households are just as successful as those raised in opposite-sex households, and there's no evidence that Prop 8 is going to encourage opposite-sex couples to marry, procreate, and raise kids. So which motivation prompted this rationale? Again, the third one -- that difference means inferiority.

The fourth rationale advanced by Prop 8 supporters is, "Protecting the freedom of those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples." This is so absurd on its face that I'm having a hard time even making the effort to address it. I'll let Judge Walker do it for me: "Proposition 8 is not rationally related to an interest in protecting the rights of those opposed to same-sex couples because, as a matter of law, Proposition 8 does not affect the rights of those opposed to homosexuality or to marriage for couples of the same sex."

May I just add a resounding, "DUH."

And where does this come from? Reason 3 -- only a belief in one's own superiority would permit anyone to suggest that the rights of those who don't like something that doesn't affect them at all should trump the fundamental rights of a group they don't like.

The fifth rationale is odd on its face: "Treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples." The arguments are based on "using different names for different things," "maintaining the flexibility to address the needs of different types of relationships," "ensuring California marriages are recognized in other jurisdictions," and "conforming California's definition of marriage to federal law." But all of these arguments are based on the premise that same-sex marriages are legally different from opposite-sex marriages.

All the evidence is to the contrary, so Judge Walker dismissed these arguments. Where does this rationale come from? Sadly, I think it stems from number three again -- that which is different is inferior, and admitting that it is not inferior somehow diminishes a persistent notion of superiority.

Judge Walker sums up his refutation of all these rationales with this: "Many of the purported interests identified by proponents are nothing more than a fear or unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples. Those interests that are legitimate are unrelated to the classification drawn by Proposition 8. The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal."

Let's see: We can attribute four out of five of the rationales advanced by Prop 8 supporters to Explanation 3 above. Judge Walker certainly did.

Here's a news flash for conservatives: This change does not threaten you. It does not fundamentally alter your way of life. It does not unravel the fabric of society. Instead, it promotes stable relationships, financial prosperity (evidence shows that married couples are more prosperous), stable households, and stable families -- all things you purport to embrace.

Comments

  1. I shared on my FB page tonight and signed up to Follow your blog - thank you for the clear eyed view! Julia

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  2. About to post a link to this on my site. Oh? Where is my site, do you ask?

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    http://rslevinson.com/gaylesissues

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