OP-EDS

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November 18, 2008

Civil rights and wrongs

Gay-marriage advocates undermine their own cause with unfair protests

[img id="77009" align="alignleft"] I won’t misuse “ironic”—not now, anyway. But, it is at least “striking” that Barack Obama should win and Proposition 8 pass at the same time. Prop 8 is an amendment to the state constitution, recently approved by the voters of California, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Let it be established that I think homosexual couples should enjoy the same allowances and benefits that state governments bestow on heterosexual couples. The actual issue of homosexual unions is hardly a debate among college students. Even those privately opposed have all but squared themselves to living with the general idea. Yet, zealous for the fulfillment of such ideals as “equality” and “justice,” many protesters have directly contravened these very principles. While focus has narrowed on the singular issue of gay marriage in the state of California, we have lost perspective on what exactly promotes equality and justice. In recent days, mindless vitriol has marked the protests against Prop 8. Feckless raging has superseded rational consideration of not only the issue at hand but also of broader patterns that should be used in public disputes over civil rights.

Do not forget “federalism” and “democracy.” In this instance they lived up to their respective purposes admirably. Prop 8 passed. That’s it. I can only hope that those who would condone some sort of very unconstitutional federal intervention are few. In January, Obama will be inaugurated into the lowly office of the presidency. We have no king. Obama can do absolutely nothing about Prop 8. At this point, any reversal of the proposition that does not involve voting would be a direct subversion of democracy. Besides, some of us still think it would be imprudent for us to begin extraditing judgment on matters like marriage to a small group of narrowly elected bureaucrats in the far-off city of Washington.

Perhaps the most disquieting part of the issue is what is ignorantly being called a church–state conflict. An article in the L.A. Times last week reported on anti–Prop 8 protestors…at a Mormon Church. This is, unmistakably, religious intolerance of a medieval sort. The Mormons are being labeled as gay-bashers, but from all indications, they have actually been nothing if not deferential and respectful. In fact, all the Church’s members did was exercise a basic democratic right in supporting the proposition. For this, enraged strangers gathered outside their places of worship last week and under the illusion of moral superiority, denigrated them and their faith in front of their families in a place they consider sacred.

Undergirding the frustration at Prop 8’s passage is the desire of those against it for total victory. They are those who want not only the rights, but also the recognition and validation; they want the government to coerce society into reform. By demanding the term of “marriage,” the anti–Prop 8 people are trying to legislate to guide beliefs. They are calling for the thought police.

On Election Day, black voters supported the proposition overwhelmingly, with more turning out for the election than ever before because of Obama’s historic candidacy. It would seem as though the black community as a whole looks disparagingly on homosexuality. Now consider that many opponents of Prop 8 have very recently made it abundantly clear that they consider any person or group that does not support gay rights to be either ignorant, stupid, bigoted, or immoral. This logic leads to that wondrous juggernaut, that indomitable Gorgon’s Head of public debate: racism. This is not the diluted, vague sort to which we have become accustomed (for example, jokes about community organizers are racist), but the real thing. Where are the racial-sensitivity police now, when there is an actual infraction? Why is the Mormon Church ridiculed and castigated, but not the black community? It is because Mormons are white, religious, and their ways and lives are even more foreign to the average white American than are those of black Americans. The whole project smacks of a perversion of civility and an intransigence to dialogue that should be widely condemned, but is not. Why?

Finally, the comparison between these present times and the civil rights era, which is so often made by Prop 8 opponents, is instructive. In the ’60s, which side shouted obscenities and made menace its instrument? It takes a group of people who think they are standing on unimpeachable moral high ground to do society serious harm. Opponents of Prop 8 are blacklisting businesses that gave to Prop 8 and are challenging religious institutions. This is 21st-century America in hyper-enlightened, urban, coastal California. The inconsistency amounts to a hypocrisy. Venomous hostility is swelling in California and the peace, love, and acceptance are all dried up.