The Prop 8 Conundrum

7 Nov

I have to start out by saying that I am 100% pro-gay-marriage.  I don’t think sexual orientation should limit anyone’s access to civic life and marriage is part of a civic life.  I think gay marriage helps communities, and is beneficial to children being raised by gay parents.  I don’t think any law should seperate my rights from those of the LGBT community.

That said, I find the Prop 8 uproar a little confusing.

Marriage, whether we like it or not, is a dual entity.  Part civic reality, part religious blessing, it exists in a bifurcated world.  We have extended marriage rights to those who want to be married outside of a church but for the believers in organized religion, the civic element is supersceded by the religious element.  Meaning that while Ben and I looked to the state to sanction our marriage, others look to the church and see the state as a byproduct of a religious ceremony.

Fifty-one percent of most Californians believe that marriage is religious first and civic second.  Forty-nine percent of that same population believe it is civic first and religious if you want it to be.  That we are seperated by so little says a lot about the dwindling role of religion in our communities.  Not good, not bad, just true.  Almost half the people think individual civil liberties should come before the relgious definitions.  That means we are moving toward a secular America, and I think that only in a truly secular America will there exist civil liberties.  When America is not governed by religion but by a belief in the promise of democracy — that is when we will see real freedom for minorities, including our LGBT friends.

Prop 8 shows us the truth of America.  Not everyone is ready to open up their religious beliefs and accept homosexuality as a norm in our society.  And Prop 8 passed by feeding into latent homophobia.  The people who voted yes on Prop 8 were not, I suspect, gay-bashers.  They simply feared the unknown.  They didn’t understand that they were only voting on their civic life, not their spiritual life.  And the Prop 8 proponents convinced them that they were redefining religion, morality, education, the very fabric of non-secular and secular culture.

So how do we gaurantee that marriage rights will be granted to our friends and family?  We do it by having a cogent argument about the strengths that marriages bring to a civilized society.  We do it by reminding everyone that our culture is better for having expanded its view of what makes a family.  Gay marriage is no more a threat to religious life than single mothers or stay-at-home-fathers.  Opening up our definitions of family to include single mothers and stay-at-home-dads, not to mention single fathers, second-wives, combined families, multi-generational families has only helped America.

Calling the people who voted yes on Prop 8 stupid or bigoted isn’t helping.  Hating them won’t help.  Marching probably won’t help.  Gay marriage is new to our society.  We haven’t seen the strengths it will bring us and the benefits we know it gives to the LGBT community as well as to the larger communities of California.

Give everyone time, give everyone information and most of all, remember that this is a long war, and this is just one battle.  We have to stay focused on equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Anyway, I’m proud to live in California where at least we are having the debate; it is the only way that marriage can be defined appropriately… marriage should be two people creating a new family with each other.  And that family can include kids, or dogs, or cats or whatever.  The truth is, when people stand in front of their community and say “we are bound to each other forever” it makes the community so much stronger.

5 Responses to “The Prop 8 Conundrum”

  1. cody November 26, 2008 at 5:31 pm #

    This is so interesting. I am a conservative Christian, but I was not raised that way. Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t slavery abolished largely as a result of the hard work of many Christian believers? You wrote, “only in a true secular America will there exist civil liberties.” I disagree with that statement. I don’t think that we can legislate morality, and gay marriage may very well become a civil liberty in our society. I wonder….where does our sense of morality come from? What role did a belief in God play in the formation of this nation? What would society look like without any acknowledgement of God. I am not sure it would be very pretty.

  2. bethshax November 26, 2008 at 5:56 pm #

    I guess “America” is the wrong word for it… I actually think American society has benefited from all kinds of religions but I don’t think American law does. I think the real challenge is to separate law making and society making — religion is a vital part of society but laws have to reflect only the secular. Otherwise we don’t really have a chance.

    So I think society has to acknowledge God. But laws can’t. Which really screws us sometimes.

  3. cody November 26, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    I don’t want anyone to be forced into Christianity. However, much of the freedom we enjoy in this country today is a direct result of our Judeo Christian heritage. If we strip it from our legal system what would it look like? Take a look at a place with secular law like China. Churches are shut down and women are sometimes forced to abort their babies. Ironically the church is growing faster there than anywhere else on earth. As far as prop 8 goes, times are changing and it looks like culture rather than religion will win the battle in the end. We have to have balance in the end.

  4. cody November 26, 2008 at 9:25 pm #

    excuse my lack of editing…I’m having a simultaneous conversation with a 3 year old…..cheers…

  5. bethshax November 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm #

    Your editing is awesome!!

    I think China is a great example of dictatorship using enforced secularism as a way to oppress people and I would hate to become that. I hope it didn’t sound like I was advocating for forced secularism. I think that the idea of the United States of America is a growing country that will hopefully allow for secular laws (civil unions) to exist without legal judgment from religion.

    My bigger problem is that marriage, which is a civil institution as well as a religious one is being defined civilly using a religious yardstick. And it sounds like we both want the state to cover the civil unions and religion to cover the rest.
    I totally agree that we have to find balance on both ends. I wrote the blog post because I think that gay marriage advocates (of which I am one) should be focused on the civil debates and not the religious ones. When I see a Mormon get fired from his job for supporting Prop 8 via his church (which happened to the director of the LA Film Festival) I think advocates for same sex marriage have ceded the moral high ground.

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