Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prop 8: The Question Nobody's Asking

I really don't want to get political on this blog. That is to say, I don't want to mention the names of any politicians, unless they're doing something sex-related. I just don't want to be dragged down into that bog, because I've seen too many non-politically-focused blogs get overrun by political opinion posts. I don't want to be that blog, losing all of its fun with rants that can typically be found elsewhere, and often by much more informed folks than myself.

Moreover, I doubt it would have much effect, except perhaps for a cathartic effect for me as the writer. Almost everyone who reads non-news blogs has already formed an opinion, and probably won't budge very much . . . they read the same old things screaming either "Heck yeah! Dead-on!" or "Heck no! What an idiot!". And that's just not productive, satisfying as it may be. And for those moderates and undecided voters whose minds I could potentially sway, well, I'm pretty sure they will have decided with the help of bigger, better, famous-er blogs by the time they finally come to mine. I'm just not in the business of trying to convince you.

And yet, whenever I see a certain viewpoint missing in a discussion, I feel the call of duty, particularly since such discussions usually have reached a stalemate, locked in a dead heat between proponents and opponents who feverently believe in their cause. It's my opinion that nobody wants to somehow 'destroy America' the way some politicans would have you believe. We all have needs and desires, as individuals and as members of groups/communities with their own interests, and though I may disagree with some of those interests, I certainly believe that they all should be taken seriously. Political fanatics who don't listen to any reason are not just stupid and/or brainwashed, as we'd like to believe- they are made when they [sometimes legitimately] feel they are being pushed aside and not being listened to. If you think the world is against you from the start, there's no way you're going to listen to the well-founded criticisms you receive. And then we're back right again to that stalemate.

My inspiration today was in an op-ed piece about- what else?- California's Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban (for those of you who, as I often forget, don't live in Cali). Though it's certainly a serious topic, I can't help but read all the debates with amusement. The "yes" supporters often fall on arguments I find most ridiculous. But occasionally they do hit a strong nerve that can't be laughed away so easily, and one of them has been the accusation that allowing gay marriage would create legislative imperatives for those individuals and institutions who don't agree with it- i.e. churches having to marry gay folks, kids being taught about gay marriage in school, etc.). This has raised a series of commercials about who's lying- will kids know about the fact that um, there are gay people in the world, or will they be able to ignore this fact by locking themselves in their basements and being isolated from the general world? I'm going to skip the "Liar!" accusations and go right to the assumption that neither side really knows just how, exactly, the legislation will work. It's a nebulous thing, law. The Prop 8 supporters might be right about some changes taking place- and if they are, what then?

Case in point: the article offered several concrete, documented examples, wherein doctors were sued for not artificially inseminating a lesbian woman because of their personal religious convictions, churches lost some of their tax-exempt status for refusing to let a lesbian couple hold a civil union ceremony in its pavilion, and parents were refused the right in a court case to opt their children out of school discussions of homosexuality. Now, you, like me, are probably rolling your eyes, because you know that it's stupid and ridiculous for people to have their panties all in a bunch over homosexuality in this day and age. They're stupid, they're bigots, whatever, it's soo over. Deal with it. Don't try to legislate your homophobia and weird mixed up feelings onto me. But these are still big concerns to these people, and like I said above, when nobody listens to your grievances or dismisses them, you start launching ugly campaigns.

The problem, then, becomes one of competing rights. How do you bow to both without becoming discriminatory? And that's the question nobody's asking.

I believe people have the right to get married, because according to our Constitution, we have the right to, as individuals, voluntarily enter into contracts regardless of their nature. When we sign, by the fact that we pay taxes, the justice department will honor that in court, and make sure both parties hold up their end. Calling it 'civil unions' when it provides the exact same thing (which, actually, it often doesn't), is eerily reminiscent of the 'separate but equal' thing, which the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education struck. And I believe that individuals have the right against the government forcing them to serve and interact with those they don't want to. So even though I get odd looks for saying it, I believe that a bigot who doesn't want to let a black person into his store, or hire a woman for a job just because she's a woman, for example, should have the right to do so. The government cannot do this, of course, because Lady Justice wears a blindfold and the law is impartial; there can be no discrimination in a democratic government, and injustices in hiring and whatnot should be brought to suit. But if you own a business or institution and wish to do the completely idiotic, counterintuitive and counterproductive act of turning away qualified employees or paying customers because of your bigotry, your business will suffer (and hopefully conscientious citizens will launch boycotts and raise awareness about how much you suck).

If there are some Prop 8 supporters who are truly motivated by the fears mentioned in this article and still feel that gays should have the right to marry, if it weren't for all these complications (and I'm sure there have to be some, right?), then nobody is asking the question: why don't we get the government out of our lives and have the best of both sides? If you don't want the government being able to say who your church has to marry, then you have to give up your tax exempt status (which has always bugged me, anyways, especially since I read Winnifred Sullivan's The Impossibility Of Religious Freedom, which made a wonderful argument that government's protection of religious "rights" privileges the religious over the non-religious and takes on the impossible task of deciding what constitutes a "true" religion, particularly when it comes to more hybridized folk faith). If you want to resolve the question of what students learn, you need to get the government out of education and turn to private schooling and homeschooling. If you want to be able to not treat/serve/whatever to various people in your business, you must get the government out of your business- and that includes the laws that benefit you.

Of course, I know not everybody shares these Libertarian thoughts, and it's far too extreme for our gigantic, bloated government to instantly do. But what irks me most is, again, that nobody is even offering this as a possibility to be shot down.

That's it for today's politics.

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