Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mob rule comes to Salt Lake City

That's what you'd think, given the reaction to the reaction to the passage of Proposition 8 in California. There have been excesses, like the mailing of white powder to Church headquarters. There have been absurdities, like the flaming Book of Mormon left outside a ward building.

Though these acts should be condemned by anybody with a conscience, the bulk of the anger from defenders of traditional marriage* seems directed not at such anti-democratic bullying, but to the organized protests that are not only pro-democratic, but the funnest part of living in a democracy.

I went to the second protest yesterday, held outside the City-County building, across from the main library. The protest was well attended, 100% peaceful, and 90% civil. The remaining 10% was out at the crosswalk connecting City-County to Library Square. That's where the two counter-protests clashed with the pro-gay forces who were itching for a confrontation.

Smartassery ensues. People, is this the sort of public discourse Thomas Jefferson had in mind? Really, if he'd seen this video before sitting down to pin the Declaration of Independence, he could have saved a lot of parchment.

King George,

We've decided to make George Washington supreme dictator for life.


TJ & Crew

P.S.: kthxbai

What frustrated me more than anything was the basic premise of the counterprotest, which boiled down to a few salient points, which I'd like to engage here. I'm sorry if I misrepresent these positions, but hey, I tried to get some more nuanced explanations from the lady in the Youtube video, and got only a splitting headache for my efforts.

The people voted, you're just being sore losers.

Now, as someone who believes gay marriage is in fact a civil rights issue, and agrees with the California Supreme Court's ruling that "civil unions" are not an acceptable substitute, I reject the notion that civil rights are subject to a vote. Alabama shouldn't be allowed to decide whether the Book of Mormon should be offered in public libraries. Massachusetts** shouldn't ask the voters whether they think Republicans should be given the vote. The Constitution sets firm limits on how much respect should be given to "the will of the people".

But the impression I got from the counterprotest was that they thought our protest was an anti-democratic attempt to overturn the vote. That's one of the things I couldn't get Loud Angry Woman to address: how exactly would that work? Nothing I saw at the protest could have or should have coerced a single person to vote against their conscience the next time arount.

One of the contras did express the sentiment that he would have been perfectly happy had the vote gone the other way, and that he wouldn't have raised a word in protest. Which is almost certainly false, though he may have believed it. People invariably believe themselves to be more fair-minded and principled than they actually are. Uhhh, except me?

The LDS Church is being unfairly singled out.

So why is the LDS Church being "singled out"? After all, other religious organizations supported Proposition 8 as well, and Mormons themselves make up a small fraction of California's population (less than 2%, the actual margin of victory).

The New York Times gives a few reasons. According to Prop. 8 proponents themselves, Mormons contributed about half the total "yes" money. Alan Ashton (grandson of David O. McKay and cofounder of WordPerfect) alone donated $1M to the Yes campagin. To be fair, another cofounder sent a million dollars to the No campaign. LDS members also constituted an amazing 80-90% of the early volunteers for the campaign.

So for those who ask why the first protest was held outside Temple Square, rather than the Catholic church three blocks east, well, there's your answer. It may be -- as some argue -- a political miscalculation. But the argument that the LDS Church did nothing to paint a target on their own backs is hogwash.

One man, one woman.

Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman with a multi-millennial track record for societal stability, they say. What we actually have is a multi-thousand year history that includes concubines, harems, mistresses, underaged marriage, forced and arranged marriages, homosexual affairs, moratoriums on interracial marriage, divorces, ritualized non-monogamy, and Britney Spears. See the Daily Show clip below.

This isn't to object to marriage or the people who use it. But the myth of stability is just that, a myth. There is no one thing that "marriage" has ever signified. It doesn't mean that you're in love. It doesn't mean that you're raising children, or trying to have them. It doesn't mean that you're monogamous, or even that society expects you to be. The French love their mistresses. The ancient Greeks considered dude-on-dude sex a normal part of social life. In some Native American and Pacific Islander tribes, extramarital sex hardly raises an eyebrow, even if that brow belongs to the other partner.

The question is not, will same-sex marriage destroy or degrade society. It won't, and those who claim so have to avert their gaze from the litany of ways in which marriage has already been modified by society. The real question is, are homosexuals part of the human condition? Is Adam's love for Steve as deeply felt and as worthy of respect as the marriages we already validate? I say, absolutely, and to deny marriage to same-sex couples shows profound disrespect for their basic human dignity.

Civil unions are enough

I don't agree, but I think I'm persuadable on that point. But if civil unions are in every way the equal of marriage, if the difference is about the labeling rather than the product, then why all the sound and fury? The question is mostly directed to opponents of same-sex marriage, because they're the ones most likely to offer it. If I can name a laundry list of rights that marriage confers -- from hospital visitation, to inheritance rights, to the right to make medical decisions, to protections in the event of the dissolution of the relationship, and on and on -- and in every case you say, "Yes, they should have that," then who cares what it's called?

Final thought: Same-sex marriage is inevitable. The repeal of Proposition 8 is inevitable, and I would bet a good sum of money that it won't last beyond the 2012 election. I base this on a couple of factors. First, in the 2000 election, a similar repudiation of same-sex marriage passed in California by 60%, not 52%. Younger voters are replacing older voters and people are getting more used to the idea of civil unions (which California still offers), so the electorate is slowly getting on board with the idea. Yes on 8 was headed for defeat before a well-funded misinformation campaign got it back on track.

Once it's repealed, and once gay marriages have been a part of everyday life for a few years, and once the states offering it fail to catch fire or get struck by meteors, I think the fear that drove the Yes on 8 campaign will dissolve away. Other states will begin offering it, and similarly fail to feel the brunt of God's wrath. I figure by 2020, something will happen on the federal level, at least to the extent of forcing states to recognize marriages from other states.


It's all good, but the "definition of marriage" starts around 2:30.

** Man, I can never spell that one right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did Jon Stewart mispronounce "plague"?