Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Reaction: Proposition 8

The most disappointing result of Tuesday night was the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which amended the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The margin by which it passed (52.3% to 47.7) was surprising, given that in the last weeks before Election Day, polls showed the measure failing by about the same difference.

Some notes:

1. Why is it that in California, ballot items that involve tax or spending issues seem to take a supermajority to pass, but amending the constitution needs only a simple 50%+1 majority? This seems hopelessly backwards.

2. Thankfully, the CA Attorney General has stated that the approximately 18,000 same-sex couples who married this year will remain married. Here's hoping that continues to stand, and that the normalcy of those marriages continues to undermine claims that gay marriage somehow endangers the sanctity of heterosexual unions. Of course, the way that opponents of equality have lied and spun statistics (Sweden is dying, you know!) thus far, perhaps this is wishful thinking.

3. It is disappointing that two particularly high-profile opponents of the amendment didn't do more to stop it. Barack Obama and Gov. Arnold Schwartzanegger both voiced their opposition to the proposition, but did not campaign against it. I find it hard to believe either that their voices wouldn't have at least made up some of the difference OR that spending this bit of capital would have harmed them politically enough to make a difference for their respective electoral chances. Grow a backbone, people.

4. Early exit polls suggested that African-Americans might have made the difference in passing the bill, but subsequent analysis seems to prove otherwise, though it is true that, of ethnic groups, African American voters in California showed the largest proportion of support for Prop. 8 (about 70%).

5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, officially, as an organization, poured money into the Yes-on-8 effort in California, and encouraged its supporters to do the same. Mitt Romney recently explained why:
[S]everal months ago, not long before he died, I had the occasion of having the Rev. Jerry Falwell at our home. He said that when he was getting ready to oppose same-sex marriage in California, he met with the president of my church in Salt Lake City, and they agreed to work together in a campaign in California.
Romney's difficulties in the Republican primaries came in part from being a Mormon in a party dominated by a religious base distrustful of that religion. Was this agreement by the Church of LDS a way to buy respect from the religious right? Gross.

Note that not all Mormons were willing to follow the Church's lead. Hall-of-Fame 49'er Steve Young, a Mormon, contributed and campaigned for the No-on-8 efforts. Here's hoping that he can continue to be a strong example. It's disturbing to see the official institution of an entire faith group play politics in such a hateful, discriminatory way, but heartening to see that some of their membership is bucking the leadership.

On this last note, Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy wrote an either under-informed or under-honest post painting the marriage equality supporters in California who have taken out their frustration by picketing at a Mormon temple as mindless bigots. He trots out the misleading exit polls and suggests the protests would be more accurately (but "less-politically-correctly") pointed at black churches. Even with two updates, he does not address the very substantial role that the Mormon Church played in the passage of Proposition 8. His blogging colleage Dale Carpenter, who writes often about gay rights, had a much more on-point post discouraging people from tarring all Mormons with the same brush, while still encouraging drawing attention to the church's actions and making constructive suggestions as to useful projects for protest.

6. One lesson I'm personally taking from the Proposition 8 campaigns in California is that it isn't enough to argue against these marriage amendments, as the No On 8 campaigns did, from a perspective that says "no matter what you think of marriage, we shouldn't put discrimination in the constitution." That may be true, but it isn't the point, nor is it the whole point that supporters of 8 lied in suggesting that kids will be indoctrinated or recruited. The point is that America needs to get past thinking of gay people and their relationships as necessarily icky. There is nothing icky about a committed monogamous relationship that seeks to grow deeper with time. What those of us proudly allied with the gay rights movement seek is not somehow special or unique, but the same boring stuff to which the rest of us are already blessed to have access. Tuesday was a setback. But it's not the end of the story. Onward and upward.

1 comment:

LRM said...

I'm still heartbroken by this. I worked really hard to make sure 8 failed and we fell short. But I agree with you that taking it out on individuals and groups is counterproductive. Even the Mormons & the Knight of Columbus and they deserve every invective that's hurled, imho. The Yes side made a lot of noise about how churches would be attacked, sued and lose their tax-status if No failed - utter bullshit - but picking on churches in this fight only strengthens that hand.

Two stories. I was working the polls (electioneering is the official term, I learned) on election day handing out flyers and encouraging people to vote No on 8. I was in a working class, heavily Hispanic and union neighborhood. With one or two notable exceptions, everyone was civil, even the Yes folks. About halfway through my shift, a guy came running up asking to help. I needed someone on the other gate, so I said sure - ran him through a quick training (no engaging the opposition, stay 100 feet away, smile & make eye contact) and sent him to the other end of the parking lot. Long story short, I had to ask him to leave. He was shouting at people, flipping them off and damn-near jumping on cars. This kind of behavior shows passion, but it's not going to win the day. It only alienates and frightens people on the fence, people who think that kids won't be corrupted but...they saw a commercial and well...

I saw a great sign at one of the post-election protests, "No More Mr. Nice Gay" it said. Hilarious...but wrong. I think the only thing that's going to change people's minds is getting to know Mr. Nice Gay and seeing that s/he's not going to hurt you or your kid.

Second story - Miles (will be 5 next month) asked me if No on 8 lost, would all the people who were married (same sex) have to get unmarried? I said I was pretty sure that would happen. "well that's just awful," he said.

I couldn't have put it better.