Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Proposition 8 Overturned: About Time!

It took long enough, but I guess it's true when they say "better late than never."  Back in 2008, a slight majority of Californians voted on Proposition 8, which stated that only a marriage between a man and a woman will be recognized.  Federal Judge Vaughn Walker overturned that proposition today.  The judge ruled that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment, and he was right.  I'm sure that my friends on the Religious Right are lamenting over the fact that the votes of seven million Californians were "silenced" by one "activist judge." But honestly, I don't care.  If I let my rights as a Jew be dictated by the Christian majority, I wouldn't be able to keep kosher or observe Shabbat.  In a frightening, hypothetical situation of this country became increasingly reactionary, not only would I not be able to practice, but I could have a conversion forced upon me or even be put to death for refusing to accept Jesus.  The point I'm trying to make here is that if minority rights were contingent upon a majority vote, the Constitution would be superfluous.  If you're still crying over the "sanctity of marriage," here's a refresher from James Madison on the importance of minority rights.  Keep an eye on the line that says "If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure."

Regardless of one's views on minority rights, the Religious Right shouldn't be so lamentable.  Theodore Olson, the attorney who was famous for winning Bush v. Gore, actually presents a nice, solid case for why conservatives should support gay marriage.  To summarize his article:
  • Marriage, that being a "stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership," should be accessible to gays because it promotes so many of the values that conservatives cherish.
  • Equal rights is a basic American principle embedded in the Declaration of Independence.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
  • The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.
  • Tradition is the most common reason given to keep it as "one man, one woman."  It's even the reason that ProtectMarriage, the primary organization in support of Proposition 8, states on its website.  But as Olson states, just because we do something simply because "that's the way it has always has been done" is not an argument to keep it as such.  "Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors' prisons."
  • Another common reason for "traditional marriage" is for the sake of procreation.  "Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex."  Furthermore, if procreation became a requirement for marriage, not only would we have Big Government in the bedroom, but any couple that does not procreate would ultimately have to have their marriage nullified.  Sounds a bit extreme, doesn't it? 
  • The final main reason, and a ridiculous one at that, is that homosexual marriage will affect heterosexual marriage.  People for "traditional marriage" fail to realize that heterosexuals have already done a "fine job" killing of such a "sacred institution."  Gay marriage doesn't affect the stability of heterosexual marriage--straight people do. 
  • As such, there is no good reason to deny gay people the right to marry.
  • We need to uphold such values as "families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another," and we should give gay people those same rights to uphold such conservative values.
It comes down to the "marriage is between one man, one woman" crowd not liking this ruling for one of two reasons.  One is that they interpret the Bible in such a manner not only to try to force their reading of it on others, but to deny other Americans the ability to act on their own free will, even when that comes to sexual morality.  The second is "you fear that which you don't understand," which is a nice way of saying "you're an ignorant troglodyte." 

Marriage, by definition, is nothing more than a contract between consenting parties stating that they want to have a social, emotional, and economic relationship together.  Judaism has this contractual concept--it's called a כתובה.  Whether an individual church, mosque, or synagogue accepts such a marriage is their prerogative.  And on a personal [or religious] level, I don't care how you feel about same-sex couples.  How you deal with that sentiment is your issue, but do realize that if you support Prop 8, it erodes the very notions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which, at least the last time I checked, was un-American.

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