A sin, an abomination, all words used to describe homosexuality, all reasons Proposition 8 was put on the California ballet in 2008, but is it only part of the motivations leading it to be passed with 52 percent of the vote, in essence banning gay marriage in the state? We could soon find out; this week that ruling was overturned by a federal judge sparking outrage and celebration. One supporter of the ruling said “it says that we are people too.” Federal judge Vaughn walker said among other things: “moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence conclusively shows the Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples” he also found that…proposition 8 violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the constitution.” A ruling destined for the Supreme Court is in the meantime headed to the 9th circuit court of appeals as the so-called culture war wages on, a war between right and wrong for some, a war rooted in equality for others. It is quite telling however, to see a state known for its sin and debauchery say no to what 4 other states in an area seen as the birthplace of America has said yes to or the Midwestern state flying in the face of the areas hometown values; could California be on to some negative that goes beyond the morality shouts, the religious jargon, political haggling?
As wrong as the judge believes California voters were and still are in both passing and supporting Proposition 8, it can be argued that he is equally as wrong in his thinking, concluding a moral bias is not good enough to ban gay marriage. How can he say moral imperatives do not apply particularly considering the Judeo Christian values America is based on; we have laws against fraud, because lying is wrong, we have laws against embezzlement, robbery, because stealing is wrong, fundamentals coming from the same bible that says same sex intercourse is wrong. Something else, nearly all religious books speak out against all the things mentioned, including homosexuality; religion aside, we have laws based on moral imperatives involving child pornography, human trafficking, underage marriage. How many cult leaders have police gone after, attempted to apprehend for marrying off young, teen girls to 30, 40, 50 year old men? To say morality does not apply to law is saying all of these things should be legal as well; to say morality doesn’t apply to law means murder, assault, rape, neglect, anything and everything else should be legal. Maybe we should go back to the ancient Greek model of older men, young boys and the known sexual contact between them; most people would say of course not on all counts, but that’s today what about 10, 20, 50 years from now, if we continue the way we are going?
The moral issue here may be less cut and dry but it is there; for people who believe in the bible, or other religious teaching, stating same sex romantic relationships and their outcomes i.e. marriage is wrong, for them it is as wrong as theft, robbery, murder, so of course they do not want it. Others feel it tampers with the natural order of the world, the universe with negative consequences; what if there is a god who does think it’s wrong, what if it is against nature and could have cosmic effects similar to what humans have done to the environment? Pulling religion, cosmic questions out of the equation, allowing same sex marriage does bring about questions. Chiefly, what’s next, legalizing bigamy, polygamy, polyandry; Utah and other heavily Mormon populated states already look the other way in regards to polygamy, potential hotbeds for abuse and mistreatment, mainly of women. Do we simply shrug and say that is an alternative form of marriage; women’s rights groups would, no doubt, disagree. What’s next, legalizing marriage to pets, and in so doing, creating a defacto excuse to legalize bestiality, thoughts along the lines of I’m married to it why can’t I have sex with it?
This is what conservatives and religious individuals, often labeled fanatics, are talking about when they voice their worry about a world turned upside down, no longer knowing right from wrong. No one is talking about hating gay people, beating them over the head with a religious book or condoning the atrocities that have been committed against them in the past, but that is a far cry from turning the institution of marriage on its head, making same sex marriage legal. No one is telling anyone who can live with whom, dictating how anyone live their life; most of the statutes against the types of sexual contact found in such relationships, if not taken off the books, are not enforced and they join the ranks of the now silly laws still in print about where you can park your horse on Sunday. But that is a far cry from agreement that same sex marriage and its potential Pandora’s box of issues be legal.
On the practical side there is a trickle down effect of potential legal and social problems accompanying such a law; one of the speculated reasons for its passage in the first place was not an irrational hatred of same sex couples, but the sticky situation of it basically rewriting contract law. All of the sudden same sex couples would be entitled to spousal benefits, healthcare coverage for their spouse from an employer and a host of additional benefits and payouts given to married couples in a state so financially strapped its budget woes are making the national news, state offices being closed one to two days a week, state workers salaries being cut back to 7.25 an hour, the national minimum wage. There is a domino effect of other laws that will require rewriting, rewording, if the ruling is finally upheld; this quagmire is what many voters thought they were voting to avoid. Yet somehow the politicians backing the lawsuit against Proposition 8 made it all about unfounded hatred rather than voters who can do enough math to see the state cannot afford it, neither do they want their taxes raised, their benefits cut to accommodate the ruling. Likewise the state cannot afford the prospect of wrongful death suits brought against doctors and hospitals raised by immediate family members who’ve lost loved ones in part due to decisions made by a same sex spouse.
Socially it opens the door for gay adoption and gay foster parenting; while it is heralded by an overtaxed system needing to put abused and neglected children into stable, permanent homes and discouraged by those who see it as putting kids in a morally bankrupt situation, there is something else at stake that can be even more harmful for adopted kids, becoming defacto champions for their parents cause, becoming victims of their parents’ lifestyle. Children should not have to defend and explain their parents’ choices as they go through life; depending on where the same sex parents live, the child may be the only kid in the class adopted never mind with same sex parents, they may endure taunts and teasing because they have 2 dads or 2 mommies. In some cases it may lead to violence perpetrated against the child; one midwestern town saw people protesting outside a school memorial held for 2 students who lost their mother, protesters blaming the mother’s homosexual lifestyle for her death. Clearly not an environment you want to put an already abused child into or one who has been bounced from home to home and needs security; we cannot help all circumstances children are born into but we can insure foster kids and adopted kids don’t have to add more baggage to whatever they have already been though by being placed in a home that is ostracized by the majority of the public.
Everyone in that debate needs to slow down and think about the children, not just their want and need to have one, but the host of issues the child may have in growing up in such a home, young men who wonder if they will be gay because their dads are, young women who wonder if they will be lesbian because their moms are, children who wonder if their heterosexuality will be accepted in a non heterosexual household, kids who are confused about their own sexuality because same sex romance is all they know, teens who have to address the fear, uneasiness of will my boyfriend or girlfriend accept me if my parents are gay? What happens if you have even a very young child who is uncomfortable in that type of home situation; what happens if the child, as they say, “gets religion” and feels wrong living in what’s supposed to be home, a safe place? All of which are big enough burdens for any child, but one who has already had a tough life; maybe the whole picture here is what lies behind the no to gay adoption not just religious rhetoric and homophobia. Has anyone commissioned a study; has anyone talked to children growing up now with gay parents, who have grown up with them and were unhappy? Those speaking out against it may have or be that child all grown up; things the public is less likely to know about because everything gets boiled down to undefined hatred.
Deciding this issue, at least in terms of Proposition 8, was never about determining legally or morally what or who constitutes a person, treating gays and lesbians as second-class citizens, or labeling anyone inferior; it was and is about states rights, which are given to each individual state in areas not dictated otherwise by the constitution. Voters in California were given a choice to allow same sex marriage, or more accurately call same sex unions marriage, and they said no; they attempted to define what a marriage was, at least in their state, seeing as neither the constitution of the United States, nor California’s state equivalent carried such a definition. And every culture defines marriage and familial bonds in some way; however, in America, marriage being between 1 man and 1 woman has been the understood, implied definition only challenged in less than the last half century. Which brings us to issue of supposed denial of rights to gays and lesbians, California is a state that allows domestic partnerships, legal contacts that for all intents and purposes provide the same protections as marriage, with few discrepancies. Truth be told, domestic partnerships, in their current format, seem remarkably like a compromise to give homosexual couples identical legal rights. Put in such a context there is no civil rights violation as one lawyer claimed; in fact, the battle over gay marriage, particularly in this state, seems redundant and meant more to cause political upheaval than to gain rights for any group of people.
In actuality there are many ways for homosexual couples to have and enjoy the same lives as heterosexuals; in vitro fertilization can give lesbians the child they so desperately want. Surrogacy is an option for gay men, both alternatives to adoption. Ironically the same methods used by single women who want a child or by heterosexual couples who cannot conceive or carry one on their own. Domestic partnership affords the same access to spousal healthcare, the right to make medical decisions for your partner as well as other rights enjoyed by married individuals. But it seems gay and lesbian couples, along with other potential and current voters, are ignorant of California law; other states have civil unions, still others recognize common law marriage situations. Again options utilized by heterosexual couples who do not want the stereotypical expectations, psychological baggage that come with the word marriage accompanied by the pressure of societies ideas on what marriage should be also present in heterosexual relationships. Even in states that do not have the same provisions available, there are things same sex partners can do to make sure their wishes are followed in medical and other dire situations; giving them power of attorney, having a living will, if there are children involved, using that will to dictate your preferences on custody. Once more tactics heterosexual individuals, couples and even those bound by marriage are advised to employ in order to avoid confusion and legal wrangling.
Perhaps those in favor of gay rights should offer this as a solution in states recognizing none of the above. It would garner the support of people with no religious compunction who simply chafe at calling it marriage. Not to mention taking the fight to a state with no civil unions, no domestic partnerships, not so much as common law marriage recognition, rather than causing an uproar in a state that acknowledges 2 out of 3. Attitudes in the gay and lesbian community could stand to change as well; instead of seeing it as something less than, something that sets them apart from others in a bad way, they could view it as something created mainly for them, a legal bond as unique as they are, push for civil unions and domestic partnerships to be legal and recognized in all states instead of appearing to shout to the world, it must be marriage or we don’t want it.