Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Hollow Case Wins

Proposition 8's narrow win in California is a defeat for basic equality, which is more than just a political issue: it's a theological one.  Jesus' vision for the new community that he called "the kingdom of heaven" was fundamentally about breaking down the walls of separation often defined by un-equal treatment. Martin Luther King, Jr., captured this essential piece of Christian theology when he popularized "the beloved community" as a vision of God's future for the human family and all of creation.

Speaking as an American citizen, Prop 8 represents a sorry collision between the democratic ideals of the referendum process and the obligation of the judiciary in a democracy to uphold the basic rights of minorities -- over and against the potential tyranny of the majority.  The irreconcilable conflict of rights now written in the California state constitution will be the subject of many court battles to come, and rightly so. However much the Prop 8 proponents may cheer at their victory this day, I take hope that their success has far less margin than the referendum vote of only a few years ago -- one that they argued they were defending.

And what were they defending?

Those of us who live in communities where gay and lesbian couples are openly sharing covenanted relationships -- yes, that's what I and many other Christians call marriage -- and some of them raising families. . . Well, we see no threat whatsoever to heterosexual marriages. Indeed, my marriage has been strengthened by their witness.

Prop 8 rode a dubious, hollow case that somehow its rejection would mean gay and lesbian marriage would be taught in schools. State educators made it clear this was not at all true. Another spurious claim was that clergy would be forced by the state to marry same-sex couples. This is as naked a red herring as there ever was.  Then there's the idea that traditional marriage, whatever we mean by that, needs to be "protected." Again, I ask (and I have yet to hear a cogent answer) from what, exactly?

Behind these flimsy arguments are the real questions that need to be addressed, if we listen closely.  Here are only two of them:

Is there truly a threat that same-sex marriages pose to the integrity of the household, Christian or otherwise?  

Do we still dare to believe that people can "catch" homosexuality, as though it's a disease?  

Proposition 8 is a sham and a shame. It enshrines fear and discrimination at the constitutional level in California.  It affirms ignorance over compassionate knowledge.  It throws a thin veil of abstract morality over bigotry and intolerance.  It idolizes gender and sexuality, when true marriage is fundamentally about neither. And contrary to its disciples' assertions, Prop 8 will not save marriage.  Nor will fear.  I wish and pray that many setting out to "save marriage" would stop attempting to do so through fear.  Fear has destroyed many a marriage, after all.  And fear undermines the God-given dignity of the human family. 

I only echo Martin Luther King, Jr.,  by writing this: 

Given the long arc of history in this country, Proposition 8 will not ultimately stand.  Hollow cases built on fear and ignorance cannot remain for long in God's time.  Nor can they, by definition, withstand the light of reason.

My thoughts and prayers are very much with our sisters and brothers who are hurt by this mean proposition.  Their dignity and future security is what is truly threatened, and that of their children.  This is the true offense to morality.  

Long may we defend them: with renewed and prayerful patience, solidarity, and witness to the fruits of covenant already among us.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for this. I'm glad I live in NY and can hope for better results here. Keep up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see, in this country, we're never afraid of moving backward. We will stip people of basic rights so that others are more comfortable. Phew, that was close. People with the gay should never be aloud to marry each other. It offends me that much *end sarcasm*

What a real travesty this was. On a day where more than half of this country came together to elect a good man who happened to be black, who also happened to have the middle name Hussein, and who happened to be the best candidate of the two major parties.

On that same day to actually strip people of a right they already had, put a dark cloud over an otherwise brilliant day. Human rights are as American as it gets. "None of your business, government" is the conservative mantra. It's time Conservatives start studying their own views.

Life or Choice: It's none of your business.

Christian or Muslim (or any other): It's none of your business.

Gay or Straight: It's none of your business.

The governments job is to protect the rights and privacy of the people. Tax when necessary, stay out of people's families. And give a hand up to those who are hurting. "We the people" refers to Americans not Conservatives or Liberals.

I'm a conservative liberal, which means that I believe in conservative values for EVERYONE!!

Jan said...

Thank you. I'm glad I saw this linked at Tobias' blog. I have a gay daughter in a committed and happy relationship; we had hoped that CA would lead the way for WA state.

Daniel Lee said...

Yes the most worrisome long-term impact of this newly voted state constitutional amendment is how it enshrines its Separate But Equal marriage principle, clearly conflicting with other parts of the constitution which embody Equality Period principles.

Of course all this makes exquisite sense inside the conservative religious presuppositional bubble world where only preferred definitions and narratives at all apply to make reality real.

In any case, we now have several vexed constitutional issues. One, the constitutional conflict between two equality principles of the widest and deepest purview - one directing us towards equality period, and the other directing us towards separations that any majority might wish to use to allegedly protect itself from any minority. Another terrible vexation involves who might possibly be the next target over time. Right now, apparently, queer folks in California must be excluded from marriage, so what else must queer folks be denied in order to protect those same majority voters? Are future separate but equal legalities soon to be needed - in laws which circumscribe queer minority separateness in (say) housing, work, parenting, family benefits, healthcare, and what else? Another vexation might involve our wondering just exactly who will next be targeted via this newly voted constitutional principle. What other minority group besides queer folks should properly be next on the list of needed separateness?

It is all very, very, very sad. I do think enough conservatively disposed voters did not think this newly voted constitutional principle through very carefully. They simply responded to the fears stirred up by the Yes on 8 campaigning - strumming old nasty fears that have always claimed how dangerous queer folks were to children.

Alas. Lord have mercy.