Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proposition One: a stand for equality

I know many people are dispirited and sad about the passage of Proposition 8 in California. I can understand. I'm very discouraged by it myself. I felt so sure California would reject that proposition. But perhaps California wasn't quite ready yet.

I retain a great confidence that someday, the equal dignity of gay partnerships will be recognized not only in California, but across our country. Failing that, I'm hopeful that someday people will recognize that whatever their personal views on homosexual love, the government has no business deciding which two consenting adults are fit to enter into the legal contract of marriage with one another. That simple grace of being left alone, and being willing to leave others alone in turn, is as American as the highway. I hope someday those opposed to gay marriage will recognize how simple and natural it is, to say to themselves "never again will I take it as my business judging the dignity and righteousness of gay love."

As for my own continuing support of gay marriage, I have to look to the youth, the next generation-- and yet I can't permit myself to imagine that gay marriage is inevitable anymore. Prop 8 has taught me that. We are very vulnerable, as political creatures, when we allow ourselves the pleasant fantasy that the world can't help but move in the direction that we want it to. I'll remember that nothing's inevitable, and that no social justice will be given. It has to be taken. Power concedes nothing without a demand, as the man said. So I'll keep advocating for the recognition that gay men and women deserve marriage, the real deal, the whole thing, not some pale, separate, carbon-copy institution that by its very existence degrades and insults gay love.

And I will teach my own children, when I have them, about the basic human nature of gay people, that they are like any other group of people, with exactly as much good and bad entails. I hope that this will move them to support gay marriage, and to understand the folly of "separate but equal." I won't go on long harangues about gay marriage. Oh, if they ask me, I'll tell them how I feel. But my education for them about gay people will be the same education my father had for me: I'll introduce them to gay people, in the course of their day to day life, so that they can see that they aren't dangerous, or hyper-sexed, or foreign, or bizarre, or pedophilic, or part of some strange alien culture. That, it has always seemed to me, is the only lasting and worthwhile way to prevent discrimination and mistrust-- mutual exposure. Part of the reason desegregation was such a wild success is that this act of justice begot more justice. White children, growing up alongside black children, learned that they aren't inherently violent, or criminal, or stupid. The hope for a future free of discrimination is one where people have the example of seeing difference in people, real people, and learning from that example.

In Connecticut we had our own proposition. It received very little ballyhoo. It was an amendment asking the people of our state whether they wanted to have a constitutional convention to amend the state constitution. And that amendment would be? Why, outlawing the gay marriages that the Connecticut supreme court awarded just weeks ago. No, it wasn't an up or down "gay marriage yes or no" ballot initiative. But make no mistake about it. Politically savvy or interested people from Connecticut knew very well that this was a proposition about gay marriage, and wheter we were going to move forward as the third, and now, only one of two, states to allow gay people to marry. That proposition was defeated, by a count of 60%-40%. You can tell Maggie Gallagher at the Corner that indeed there is a state in this country where the majority of voters took a stand for equality.

I'm not a Christian. But I grew up in a Christian church, and people I love very dearly continue to go there every Sunday. If any gay couple wants to come to Connecticut where their partnership can be recognized with the full rights of an equal marriage, my old church and others would be glad to have you. It's a UCC church, open and accepting, with many gay members of the congregation. Picking up stakes and moving is a tall order, I know. But I'm proud of my state, along with Massachussettes, and I look forward to the days when gay people don't have to cast their eyes on far off places if they want to marry.


bcg said...

I don't like liberals selectively using limited government arguments when it suits them while simultaneously arguing for invasive government in other areas. It just comes off as intellectually dishonest.

Freddie said...

Luckily, this isn't a limited government argument. Allowing gay marriage isn't any more limited government than preventing it. There's already an institution of marriage; there's already bureaucratic infrastructure to accommodate it. All that legalizing gay marriage does is extend it to include same-sex couples. There's no size-of-government difference either way.

bcg said...

I'm not talking about a limited government in terms of size (although ultimately that's where it leads), but limited in terms of reach. The "Keep the government out of our ______!" argument was constructed to capitalize on bitter feelings towards an overreaching government.

But increased government action is a staple to liberal thought. The argument is being misappropriated in the medium-term, until it can be discarded.

individualfrog said...

Um, bcg, the legal status of "married" is something the government grants you. If the government "kept out" of legal marriage, there would be no legal marriage. It's like saying, "keep the government out of the Judicial Branch!" (Being married in a non-legal sense is not under discussion.)

So nothing in freddie's post had anything to do with "limited government", and your comment is a bizarre non-sequitur.

josephus said...

Freddie, for family reasons, I have strong feelings about the "gay marriage" issue. My post on this subject today is at if you're interested. (BTW, I found your blog because Andrew Sullivan quotes you this morning.)

bcg said...

Freddie, is it weird getting linked from bigtime blogs? Exciting? Or pretty run-of-the-mill now for you?

Freddie said...

A little of both. It's always cool to see, and I appreciate the links and the interest. One of the reasons that I've gotten links is that I've developed relationships with other bloggers by being a commenter on their blogs. They've graciously included me and interacted with me, and that's led to some linking. I try to responsibly link back in return. This blog has a tiny readership, but I like to imagine it has some influence in certain heterodox circles, and that means a lot. I'd much rather have depth of readership than breadth, if that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

"Failing that, I'm hopeful that someday people will recognize that whatever their personal views on (X), the government has no business deciding (Y)."

This is the first great insight.

Run with it, Freddie. Run with it. Feel it. Let it sink into your chest.

rortybomb said...

What we are telling ourselves in SF: The last time (2000) this was on a CA referendum vote, it passed 60-40. Now it passed 52-48. And that is after a national-wide funding campaign ($40m!) to ban gay marriage. They threw everything at it and it barely passed.

It is disheartening, but the arc of history bends towards justice here. We'll get them next time.