Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes I am a sore loser

I'm still devastated and baffled by the passing of California Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban.

What is the rationale behind a Yes vote? I cannot believe over half of Californians simply do what their pastor says. Actually, I cannot even believe that half the pastors in California are against gay marriage -- this is not a black and white issue even in religious circles, no matter what some claim the bible says. I'd like to hear from people who voted Yes and can explain their rationale. (So far the only pro-Prop-8 comments I've seen were slogans that fit on a bumper sticker but do not explain anything.)

And how is it possible that something called a state's constitution can be changed with a single, simple majority vote? In fact I would say it's not even a majority since a significant percentage of Californians eligible to vote didn't vote. Does this mean that in two years we can remove that amendment from the Californian constitution (or amend it out of existence) with a new referendum that is also approved by 50% plus one vote? That's not much of a constitution if you ask me! (In contrast, to change the Dutch constitution, both chambers of two successive parliaments must approve of the change, with a two-third majority.)

48 comments:

Marco said...

I thought only here in Italy (where Vatican is more strong than God itself!) were "closed mind" people.
Oh, California!
It seems to be false.

Ross Collins said...

It just sounds like pure and simple fascism to me (from the British perspective). What argument can one possibly give to justify banning same-sex marriages? How can it possibly adversely affect the "Yes" voters?

drew said...

To amend the US constitution requires a 2/3 majority vote in both houses plus approval by 3/4 of the state legislatures.

But the individual states seem to mostly have the stupid 50% + 1 popular vote rules for ratification.

I have read about potential legal challenges to Prop 8 involving CA having two means of changing the constitution and something like Prop 8 requiring a constitutional revision, which requires a 2/3 popular vote, instead of just an amendment.

dguaraglia said...

Man! They are making our babies gay! That's why!

Just kidding, but that's what you are asking for. Most people vote against what they fear, and fear is so easy to create. Remember it was fear that brought the US to Iraq, etc.

What you have is a cynic religious minority that creates lies and half-truths in order to make the gullible vast majority submit to their world view.

The rationales you are likely to receive are:

1) They'll make our children gay, because acceptance brings adoption. Refutation: name a single person that has become black by befriending black people. (I don't give a shiat about the whole "African-American" terminology. I think it's just another way of trying to create a cultural divide for political purposes.)

2) Marriage is a word with religious connotations, it should always be defined as "a union between a man and a woman". Refutation: Marriage is a word, gawdamit. Learn to accept the new meaning and live with it.

3) Gawd say it's bad. Refutation: tough shiat. Gawd also says you shouldn't eat molluscs, and he says you should stone your neighbour to death if he's greedy. Why the cherry-picking?

4) There's a gay agenda to convert us into baby-killing communists party-fairies. Refutation: sure, whatever. Nice straight-jacket you are wearing.

Incredibly enough, 4 is *so* common these days.

toxik said...

Homophobia (from Greek homós: one and the same; phóbos: fear, phobia) is an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality.[1][2][3] Some definitions lack the "irrational" component.[4][5] Homophobic is the adjective form of this term used to describe the qualities of these characteristics, while homophobe is the noun form given as a title to individuals labeled with homophobic characteristics. "Homophobia" was first used with its modern meaning in 1972. It has been criticized as a pejorative against those with differing debatable value positions, with several researchers proposing alternative words to describe prejudice and discrimination against gays and lesbians. The term "internalized homophobia" is used to describe a prejudice against one's own homosexuality.

JT said...

A comment in a blog I read:
"""
Here's a debate I've been having, and I have no idea what the answer is. This is not about gay marriage specifically (though the parallels are deliberate) but what to do with two conflicting viewpoints. Questions posed at the end.

Let's say there's some person (person A) who vehemently thinks that painting the outsides of ziploc bags green is morally wrong. Let's also say person B, person A's brother, really enjoys painting ziploc bags green. Personally, I see nothing wrong with painting ziploc bags green. Who's it harming? Like, person A wouldn't have been upset if they didn't find out, so clearly this is an issue of A not minding their own business, right?

Additionally, lets say person A believes very strongly that they should love others as themselves (especially their brother). If they had no say in the rules regarding ziploc bags, they would simply find themselves presented with the only option of loving person B. On the other hand, let's say A is given the choice of if it should be allowed or not. Now, A loves B, but disagrees with B's choices quite strongly. Which should win out? If A does the thing that B will call loving, it will be voting for the allowance of something they morally can't stand for.

So, in this scenario, what will make person B happy is at odds with what person A feels is morally right.

So, given this set up, here are my questions:
1) Should one vote with their morals at all? If yes, to what degree?
2) Are morals absolute? If so, then isn't one person "wrong" and another "right"?
3) If morals aren't absolute, how do we determine what to implement as law? Democracy? If so, then necessarily some groups will be hurt.

Personally, I'm very upset with the "face of Christ", or lack thereof, the Christian church recently seems to be showing on such divisive issues, such as ziploc bag painting (insert your favorite hot topic here), but I don't know what to do about it. Do I tell church members to vote against their conscience? Or that their conscience is wrong? Maybe it's my conscience? How would I even know? Or is there another option?

Additionally, I'm struck by the Biblical admonition that the world will hate followers of Christ. However, in the particular case of gay marriage, I am certainly not convinced that modern-day homosexuality is any worse biblically than wearing non-woven clothes, or whatever. If woven clothes was specifically the Levitical nitpick, I certainly don't see any complaining about that. So it seems like a lot of Christians are just picking their battles poorly, or wrongly, but who am I to say?

I apologize for the post length. I trend toward monolithic treatise.
"""

Henrik Joreteg said...

The "proposition" system in California is the main problem. Pure, unfettered democracy has never worked historically.

Mobs are not smart. Period.

edcrypt said...

Two words: Mormon's money.
http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/scienceblogs/pharyngula/~3/447442937/mormon_meddlers.php

SEJeff said...

From a Yes on 8 voter:

Homosexual couples should be granted the same legal rights as a married couple. However, marriage is a religious institution and nothing else. It should stay that way.

The govt should have no business in marriage other than power of attorney, name changing, and whatever else kinds of things. These kinds of things actually fit under the term "civil union".

Everyone should be allowed a "civil union" regardless of sexual preference. Then it could be up to a church or some recognized organization to actually "marry" someone. Then the only legal paperwork would be for the civil union.

If a gay church wants to marry gay couples, I'm all for it. But the state shouldn't be meddling with something as fundamental as marriage.

No I'm not going to bicker about this if any other commenter wants to trollbait.

Thats all for now Guido. Does that seem rational from a yes on 8 voter?

brad dunbar said...

I have to agree with this assessment. I am completely floored by these results. It saddens me deeply that people are so unable to sympathize with another's situation.

Even worse, I fear that if California, often described as the most liberal of states, cannot be accepting then how can the rest of the country possibly do so?

While electing a black man president was an enormous step towards tolerance, accepting proposition eight was an equally enormous step backwards. Its a harsh contrast that I cannot seem to reconcile.

Ted Hosmann said...

@SEJeff - your rational only makes sense in a state that does not recognize marriage and only recognizes cival unions (which is none). So to assume that marriage does not exist in CA would make your argument irrational.

9000 said...

One argument I heard is of bumper-sticker "think of the children" variety. AFAICT, a legally married couple can adopt a child, or actually bear it (e.g. in a lesbian marriage). The idea of children being grown in same-sex marriages does irk some people: children will get a wrong world view, will lack a proper father/mother, etc.

While I find this argument shaky to say the least, this is a sort of a rational argument.

Disclaimer: I don't live in CA and I don't think that "legal marriage" is a useful concept at all.

manuelg said...

A relevant post from someone at the nexus of the hurtful consequences of this terrible development:

"The N-bomb is dropped on black passersby at Prop 8 protests"

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=8077

I am sad to admit that I jumped too quickly to the conclusion that Blacks were responsible for the passage of California Proposition 8.

God bless activists like Pam Spaulding to show us the way to our better selves.

On difficult climbs, 2 steps forward can lead to 1 step back. It is predictable. Progress is being made, and society is becoming more humane, for everyone.

cbm said...

I am surprised that only one of these comments, including the original post, seem to grasp reality. That said, JT, excellent post you layout the trouble with the thought process and the tough choices people make.

For those who believe one way and not the other, it's tough to see the other point of view. If prop 8 hadn't passed this post would've showed up somewhere else along with the scathing and amateur comments made. It seems to me the close minded-ness is on both sides after reading these comments.

Welcome to freedom, democracy and a lopsided system of those who get out and vote. It will never be perfect, most likely you'll be a "sore loser" more often than not, but that's why you get involved, do what you can and hope for what you consider good results.

I understand being a sore loser, but the issues you raise are exactly those issues that make democracy and voting what it is, the fact that it can change.

Reading these comments is depressing, whether you agree with the vote or not, people need to learn to respect one another's beliefs, whether they are your own or not (that goes for both sides of this issue).

cbm said...

I should add, that I posted before some of the other conversations were posted... so right after JT above mine was originally intended for.

wtanksley said...

Guido, as a pro-prop 8 voter, I have a few reasons why it passed, including some ideas for how your side can do better next time.

The biggest reason prop 8 passed is evolution, history, and tradition: the husband/wife team has for a long time (perhaps historically always) been the center and source of the family and of the social continuation it provides. Other social constructs are needed and built (adoption, foster care, same-sex unions, etc.) from time to time for other reasons, but although some of them serve similar purposes in some respects, they have not served the same purposes. Calling other social arrangements by the same name isn't historically sound, even if we've concluded that other arrangements need to have the same social incentives. (Personally, I think our society would benefit from a look at what good the marriage incentives actually do. Why do we give inheritance tax breaks to people who have sex with each other? Why not make some other institution? If it's about children, why don't we test for fertility? Should spinster sisters be able to get some subset of "marriage" incentives? How about business partners? I think these questions have good answers, but they won't be heard without respectful discussion.) It makes sense that sex is important, but it seems that purely non-reproductive sex is much less important.

Another reason prop 8 passed was the total failure to explain same-sex marriage. The pro-SSM side simply claimed that opposition was pure bigotry; some people believed that and acted accordingly. Actually, opposition might be ignorant -- but people CAN be ignorant without being evil. People can even be fearful without being evil. The solution to a population-wide ignorance ot fear isn't condescension; it's education.

And finally, a big reason for a lot of lost votes is related to the above: SSM was added to CA law by a tiny group of judges explicitly ruling against a previous proposition AND against the legislature. There's nothing wrong with that, but when you add in conspicuous gloating and demonization, you produced abundant footage for pro-prop-8 commercials.

The lesson: spend some time explaining your case to people. If people aren't evil and your argument has any merit, you'll be able to persuade enough of them to get a new amendment past. Don't demonize and accuse; you'll solidify the opposition.

-Wm

nathany said...

Hi Guido. I am not American, and not that familiar with Proposition 8, but I thought I'd chime in with some thoughts.

In the Bible there is a story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The men of the city wanted to rape the angels God sent, that is how immoral the cities had become. In Genesis 18, you can read a conversation between Abraham and God, where Abraham learns something of God's character. If there were but 10 righteous people in the city, God would have spared everyone. Perhaps some view the destruction of those cities as unfair. Yet, there is mercy present in the story, both from Abraham and from God.

Biblically, homosexuality is a sin, lumped together with fortification (sex before marriage) and other sexual immorality, such as pornography and rape. Condemning a group of people for their sin rather than dealing with our own is not love.

Pointing fingers is only to make oneself feel better, as though ones sin is less. But what good does that do? That is a sin in itself. The truth is that Christians are still growing, still imperfect people, still learning God's heart and how to best represent Him.

I can understand the argument about the children and adoption to some extent. There are many differences between men and women. Yes, ideally children should be raised by a father and a mother. But are two mothers any worse than one?

And I can understand perfectly, if a pastor wants the freedom to not marry two men or two women.

Of course, if I were to vote, I couldn't consciously encourage homosexuality anymore than I could encourage narcotics. I believe God's law is there to guide us into a healthier lifestyle, and that His Spirit empowers those who desire change.

A law by itself is of little value, laws don't change hearts, they only reveal right and wrong. God loves people, but not the sin, that's how I want to be.

Nathan said...

I think nanthy is a great example of why people did what they did. Aside from not understanding the difference between rape and consentual sex, nanthy states that "I couldn't consciously encourage homosexuality anymore than I could encourage narcotics". Totally ignoring the fact that narcotic use is a decision people make and homosexuality isn't, this breaks it down to a moral choice and tries to legislate those morals. I'm not sure I could be angrier or more disappointed in Californians right now.

james-turk said...

I couldn't agree with you more Guido, and just wanted to chime in to say it is refreshing to see a brilliant tech mind like yours not afraid of posting about politics.

The idea prevalent among many of the technologically elite that "politics is for politicians and we'll stick to 1s and 0s" is depressing as it leaves a lot of very smart people out of the process thus robbing a democracy of some very knowledgeable people.

Michael said...

I've been trying to work out the mentality of the pro-8 crowd myself. The best I've come up with is that they believe that gay marriage runs along the same lines as, "I'd like to marry my imaginary friend." They simply can't believe that such a thing makes sense, much less that it deserves a legal status equivalent to an institution they hold sacred. Add in a healthy dose of homophobia, bible-thumping, and money, and it becomes difficult for people to clear that mental hurdle.

kumar said...

I live in Chicago but I grew up in CA. I too am appalled by the Prop. 8 result and knowing how radical and open minded the people I knew in California were, I am quite surprised.

I dug around a little bit and found out that there was a HUGE amount of money tied to campaigning for "yes on Prop 8." Scary amounts of money.

One filthy rich homophobe, Howard F. Ahmanson, had contributed $900,000 : http://www.alternet.org/blogs/democracy/106102/the_man_behind_proposition_8/

!

This to me explains a lot. With such large sums of money these homophobes were probably able to reach out to every bible ridden nook and cranny of rural California and this is how the vote passed. Unfortunately, money means exposure, and no matter what the message is with enough money and exposure it is not hard to convince people to vote a certain way.

There are a lot of legal complications with the decision though, one being that the ban is in direct conflict with other areas of California's constitution. I.E. "equal rights for all." Whoops! So I am hopeful that this will get shot down in court very soon.

iceman12 said...

For the rationale behind the other side see the pro-8 website http://www.protectmarriage.com/. The first time you visit it plays this 4 min video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zbpDe_QhS0&eurl=http://www.protectmarriage.com/

Obviously it has holes in it's logic and also employs scare tactics but I won't go into that now. I don't think religion was the primary reason prop 8 got passed, I think it has to do with the comfort level people have with same-sex partnerships, specially if it's called marriage. They want to 'protect' their children from these ideas that they don't agree with, which is why ads like this one worked: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PgjcgqFYP4.

In the end if people are either not comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage or violently opposed (or anywhere in between) they will find even flawed rationale agreeable.

Also see how different counties voted: http://vote.sos.ca.gov/Returns/props/map190000000008.htm. San Francisco voted overwhelmingly (75%) against prop 8, along with neighboring counties. So if you live in these areas you might be surprised by the outcome.

Prop 22 which had identical wording (but was a law instead of a constitutional amendment) passed with a much bigger margin in 2000. Also the younger generation voted against prop 8, so I would think prop 8s days are numbered anyway.

nathany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nathany said...

@nathan hi. I wanted to clarify. I understand that there is a difference between consensual sex and rape... and pornography, etc. That is, in terms of how people are impacted, and the laws in our world. I was grouping those together specifically in terms of sins against God.

In Matthew 5:28 it says that every man who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. Other than Jesus, you'll be hard pressed to find a man who hasn't committed that sin! (to the discomfort of many women). So at the heart of the matter, we've all sinned against God. In terms of sin, homosexuality isn't somehow worse than viewing pornography, there's no use pointing fingers.

So then, the reason for the church is not to bring about laws to condemn. The purpose of the church is to share how Christ came to take away our sins, and not only to take them away, but to free us from sin.

Change is possible. And not change just for the sake of change. Rather, to find real meaning in a relationship with our Creator. Something far more valuable than these matters of sexuality.

As far as a matter of choice, perhaps a man finds other men attractive. It's not a sin to see beauty. But I don't buy the argument. Where you put your penis, that is always your choice.

While the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong, I expect iceman12 is onto something. In all likelihood, prop 8 was passed more so due to discomfort than religion.

Guido van Rossum said...

Thanks for all the comments; it was enlightening to hear some arguments instead of a shouting match.

"Homophobia (from Greek homós: one and the same; phóbos: fear, phobia)" -- Methinks it is not directly from Greek ("fear of the same" makes little sense) but a contraction of homosexuality-phobia. I guess I should argue with Wikipedia.

"marriage is a religious institution and nothing else." -- Add, I'm married but no religion was involved.

"If a gay church wants to marry gay couples, I'm all for it. But the state shouldn't be meddling with [...] marriage." -- And yet, the constitutional amendment does exactly that.

"...painting the outsides of ziploc bags green is morally wrong." -- I think detaching the discussion from the specific issue doesn't actually help. There are lots of things that the majority of religions abhor -- e.g. premarital sex, adultery, jealousy -- for which no majority could be found to amend the constitution. So I am still stuck with the question why the Christian religion (we can ignore other religions since they don't have significant influence in this case) is so obsessed with homosexuality that they want to amend secular law to draw a line in the sand (or get a toe in the door, depending on you view) about this issue.

"Calling other social arrangements by the same name isn't historically sound." -- Well, things change, don't they? Equal rights for women aren't historically sound either if you are going to use that kind of argument.

"people CAN be ignorant without being evil." -- This is a theory to my own heart, much more so than blaming the mormons or the catholics. It means there is hope.

nathany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nathany said...

Why "so obsessed with homosexuality that they [Christians] want to amend secular law?"

That is a very good question, I wonder why as well.

"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." - 1 Corinthians 5:12

Brendan Miller said...

I'm disappointed by the ruling, but not at all surprised.

It's true, San Francisco, one of the country's most liberals cities is in California and something of cultural center for liberals, is in California.

You know what else is in California? 33 million people who don't live in San Francisco.

America is a bunch of gems of wealth, education, culture, and industry scattered over a vast wasteland that holds none of the same.

Most people get the kind of education from our public school system that leaves them:
1. Literate, in the sense that they can read pulp fiction. Not in the sense that they can write competently.
2. Capable of doing simple arithmetic.
3. Vaguely aware that we live in a democracy and are supposed to be "free." Most people can't correctly answer concrete questions about their civil rights or the principles of the founders. For instance to a good fraction of people the first amendment means the "freedom to worship God in your own way."
4. With some underdeveloped critical thinking skills and no clear idea on what science is.

kumar said...

Another interesting fact is that 70% of African Americans who voted in the election voted yes on the Prop 8 gay marriage ban. This election saw an overwhelming amount of African American voter turnout, several probably first time voters. I'm not sure if there's anything to make of these stats myself but this article does some analysis: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gayblack8-2008nov08,0,1601616.story

In summary, it suggests there is generally more religious influence in the lives of black voters and it talks about robo calls to Democrats that were twisting around words from Obama himself in order to persuade yes on Prop 8 votes.

wikiwikiman said...

Perhaps the wording of Prop.8 plays a role: having to vote NO when you're in favour of legal gay marriage isn't exactly self-evident...

wtanksley said...

Guido said:

"There are lots of things that the majority of religions abhor -- e.g. premarital sex, adultery, jealousy -- for which no majority could be found to amend the constitution. So I am still stuck with the question why the Christian religion (we can ignore other religions since they don't have significant influence in this case) is so obsessed with homosexuality that they want to amend secular law to draw a line in the sand (or get a toe in the door, depending on you view) about this issue."

Prop 8 isn't primarily about amending law, though; to an enormous extent, it's about supporting existing law. The CA constitution and statutes were drawn at a time when male/female marriage were definitional; they were written with masculine and feminine gender (although the genders were removed in a more recent change). Prop 22 was the law of the the land. The court's reasoning appeared to many people (according to the vote, MOST people) to be invalid, since it took the Constitution to be saying something that its own writers would disagree with, in order to override a recent law with overwhelming popular agreement.

Again, prop 8, in most people's mind, wasn't about amending law; it was about restoring law.

It also wasn't about restricting the free exercise of homosexuality; it wasn't actually about homosexuality at all. All the same acts are legal that were before. Nor does it restrict the rights of gays to enjoy a solemnized wedding; they may celebrate that, and may have it recognized by people who wish to do so. It doesn't even restrict the privileges given to committed couples (through the civil union law), and I would expect those privileges to be expanded in some way in the near future (I'm not sure that civil unions are truly equitable, and I'm quite willing to see a change to make them so).

What prop 8 does change is that people who didn't recognize same-sex marriage before won't be required by law to recognize it now.

As I said before, though, I'd like to see less talk about fairness and more talk about why we grant special privileges to "marriages" and "civil unions" anyhow. Marriage (and civil unions) aren't about fairness; they're exclusive unions, such that my marriage and your marriage are entirely different things. Why give an inheritance tax break in law? Is there a reason why bachelor business partners shouldn't enter into a civil union so that they don't have to worry about inheritance taxes? Is that something we don't want to encourage? Is there some reason, aside from tax policy, that we don't allow polygamy? (I'm not bringing a charge of "slippery slope" here; I'm just listing one of the many things that I think has to be considered.) Does tax policy override the "right to marry"? Why does genetic policy override the "right to marry" in one way (incest), and not in another (same-sex)? Should the possibility of procreation create additional requirements for marriage? Should that possibility be tested, or just assumed as the common case? How do the benefits and restrictions of the legal institution of marriage encourage and discourage the formation of stable unions? Does this stability benefit society and government?

These are, I think, profound questions. They're fundamental to the establishment of decent public policy. They're not religious.

Guido van Rossum said...

"not about amending the law", "MOST people", "not about homosexuality" -- now that I call seriously twisting reality.

wtanksley said...

""not about amending the law", "MOST people", "not about homosexuality" -- now that I call seriously twisting reality."

Can you respond to the arguments I made or the evidence I offered? Or offer any counterarguments? My words were nuanced and supported; all you've done is offer an unsupported claim.

Please recognize that you asked for the rationale behind a "yes" vote. You're free to argue that the rationale is irrational; but you're not entitled to claim that it's not actually a rationale. You don't know that; you didn't possess it.

I can certify that these are rationales because I actually possessed them and even voted according to them. Furthermore, I can show that these rationales were brought up in public; if you watch the ads you'll see them.

"Not about amending the law" - Yes, prop 8 was about supporting existing law (previously passed as prop 22). I grant that prop 22 was repealed by a court shortly after prop 8 was proposed; but even ignoring the technicality (that prop 22 was still the law when prop 8 was drafted), you can't possibly ignore the immense focus of the pro-8 ad campaigns saying that the law must be set back to how it was. The MEANS to set the law was indeed an amendment -- but it was an amendment that exactly matched existing law, and then when the judges changed existing law, it was explained and advertised as codifying the will of the people beyond the easy reach of judges.

"MOST people" - Yes, the majority voted yes on 8; that's why I said "most people"; but that's not my main point, and in fact I bring it up only because it's support for my claim that "many" people believe that prop 8 made sense.

"not about homosexuality" - I'll just have to refer you to my extensive arguments. It's true; this law doesn't address in its words or implications who you can like, have sex with, or commit to.

Marriage is considered by society (I don't know about the law) to be the primary foundation of the continuance of society; civil unions are largely an agreement between couples, helpful for current social stability but not long-term continuance. I asked a ton of questions above as to whether we should draw a distinction in civil law... It seems to me that we should, but it's not clear to me that the difference we're drawing is big enough to care about.

If there's no functional difference, or little enough difference that it's not worth maintaining two institutions, then perhaps what others have suggested is correct, and marriage should be relegated to the status of social convention, without support of law; and civil union be the only legally recognized status.

Again, I refer to my above questions for more detail.

jurjen said...

The "real" reasons are neatly summed up by the Onion:
http://www.theonion.com/content/infograph/california_passes_anti_gay

kumar said...

Very moving commentary by Keith Olberman (MSNBC) : http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/keith-olbermann-on-gay-marriage?w=1

Among many good points he says consider that in 1967 blacks were not allowed to marry whites in 1/3rd of the states in the US. And in many states marriages between slaves were not recognized.

YourHumbleHost said...

The rationale for voting "Yes" on prop 8 boils down to this...

Most people don't care what other people do, much, so long as it does not affect them.

However, by permitting Gay marriage, the word "marriage" is being re-defined. Many of the same people that don't care what others do, nevertheless find homosexuality abhorrent. In redefining the word, the abhorrence is being tied to something they themselves hold sacred, their marriages.

In other words, by defending gay marriage, the movement is implicitly and, perhaps, explicitly offending many people that otherwise would not stand in the way of gay rights. Call it domestic partnership, call it civil union, call it anything but "marriage" and prop 8 never would have passed.

MrTact said...

So you're saying the gays should have a separate institution that is functionally equal to marriage?

wtanksley said...

MrTact: no, they can have the exact same institution with the exact same name and functions. The problem is that this isn't what they want, because they're not attracted to the opposite sex.
They need something different -- and it's perfectly reasonable to give different things a different name and treatment.

I simply don't see how this falls into the "separate but equal" category; marriage isn't a shared building that people are being included or excluded from. Nobody is given special treatment. (Although before civil unions were legal, married couples certainly did have privileges witheld from other couples.)

YourHumbleHost said...

@mrtact : Not exactly. I didn't say what I thought should be. I only laid out what I thought was the thinking of the crucial people who determined that prop 8 should pass. These crucial people are swayable so long as the movement does not, unintentionally or otherwise, offend them. Right or wrong, if the movement insists on calling homosexual unions "marriage", I believe it will have a much longer, more unpleasant road to otherwise achieving the rights gays and lesbians desire.

The word is exactly that important to that crucial voting block. Need it be so important to gays and lesbians that they lose all the other rights they seek and otherwise could have?

jurjen said...

Oops.
My post got cut off, and I only just realized.
The Onion, supposedly funny but all too often close to the truth, gives its analysis in:
http://www.theonion.com/
content/infograph/california_passes_anti_gay


Hope you like it.

sky said...

@wtanksley:

Your first argument amounts to an irrational preference
for what the law has been in the past.

"It also wasn't about restricting the free exercise of homosexuality."
Sure it is. Only marriage offers federal benefits and protections.
According to the federal government's General Accounting Office (GAO),
more than 1,100 rights and protections are conferred to U.S. citizens
upon marriage.

"Is there a reason why bachelor business partners shouldn't enter
into a civil union so that they don't have to worry about inheritance
taxes?"

If you think this is fair, then why shouldn't they gain the benefits
co-ed business partners could enjoy?
But this would be very unwise for the partners involved considering the
power-of-attorney spouses entertain in certain circumstances, among other
things.

Reducing tax benefits of marriage, in general, is fine, but wholly
unrelated to Prop 8.

"How do the benefits and restrictions of the legal institution
of marriage encourage and discourage the formation of stable unions?
Does this stability benefit society and government?"

A philosophical question, but no where in it is there a reasoning
for differentiating between hetero and homosexual couples.

wtanksley said...

@sky:

Your first argument amounts to an irrational preference for what the law has been in the past.

No, I was responding to (and quoting) a person who said "they want to amend secular law to draw a line in the sand..." That person was concerned about maintaining consistency with old law; I pointed out that prop 8 was in no way an amendment to old law, but rather a simple promotion of it such that it couldn't get overturned without a majority vote.

I'd also question your assumption of "irrational". Guido isn't being irrational; he's simply incorrect about a minor detail of history. Nor is a preference for legal continuity irrational on its face; the rationality of continuity depends on the rationality of the law. And that's what we're trying to discuss; assuming that it's irrational is begging the question.

"It also wasn't about restricting the free exercise of homosexuality."
Sure it is. Only marriage offers federal benefits and protections.


That has nothing to do with restricting the free exercise of homosexuality. It has to do (at most) with incentivising marriage. And then we enter into some of the questions I asked -- why do we incentivize the unions to which marriage currently applies? Do the same reasons apply to same-sex unions?

It seems to me that the answer is a qualified yes -- not all the reasons apply, but some do.

According to the federal government's General Accounting Office (GAO), more than 1,100 rights and protections are conferred to U.S. citizens
upon marriage.


This is an excellent reason to discuss which of them are appropriate within arrangements other than marriage. It's a silly reason to demand that something else be called marriage.

"Is there a reason why bachelor business partners shouldn't enter into a civil union so that they don't have to worry about inheritance taxes?"
If you think this is fair, then why shouldn't they gain the benefits co-ed business partners could enjoy?


That's not what I meant -- I'm not arguing there against SSM. I'm just asking whether there are privileges specific to marriage that should actually be available elsewhere.

Reducing tax benefits of marriage, in general, is fine, but wholly unrelated to Prop 8.

Not wholly unrelated.

"How do the benefits and restrictions of the legal institution
of marriage encourage and discourage the formation of stable unions?
Does this stability benefit society and government?"
A philosophical question, but no where in it is there a reasoning
for differentiating between hetero and homosexual couples.


Nope, it was constructed in order to NOT differentiate. Stability is certainly a goal that society should reasonably pursue in both cases, with no differentiation.

There are, however, societal goals in which there IS differentiation, such as connecting childbearing to childrearing.

It seems to me that many of the incentives for marriage grow out of the inconveniences it imposes. Marriage is hard to get out of, and can be very costly.

Noah Gift said...

I think it speaks volumes when Churches spend money, time, and energy to "ban" the rights of people. Perhaps this could be addressed in the future by taking away the tax exempt status of these Churches, that contribute money to political causes.

The saddest thing about this situation, is in 50 years, our society will look back on this and be as equally embarrassed as we were about segregation in the South. All of the churches and religious people that voted Prop 8, will then have that on their record and conscience.

Voting prop 8 is akin to wanting to put scarlet "H"'s on all of those "dirty homos".

google said...

Hi Guido -

I was thrilled to be able to meet you at the 2004 PyCon in DC. I bumped into this post while looking for your latest Python blog. Would you believe that someone like me who favors traditional marriage would even have enough brains to program a computer? :) Actually, I appreciate your refreshing attitude that you asked for our rationale in favoring prop. 8, giving us the benefit of the doubt that we even have one. Most pro-SSM folks on the internet just assume we're all bigots and fools.

Disclaimer: I'm not a California resident. But I am a US resident, and would have voted for prop. 8 if I could have.

First, about the statement that pro-prop. 8 voters "simply do what their pastor says." You can't choose your parents, you can't choose your siblings, but you can choose your church and your pastor. Really, we thought for ourselves and made up our own minds about prop. 8. And yes, we and our like-minded friends have the right to campaign for political causes, even if we're religious people.

The traditional definition of marriage has been around for thousands of years. There is no need to change it. It wasn't violating anyone's rights. But the courts usurping their bounds, taking it upon themselves to change society by judicial fiat, circumventing the democratic process -- that is not acceptable. That was a gross abuse of power. Redefining words like marriage is so Orwellian. Ever read 1984?

Proposition 8 is intended to correct the injustice committed by the courts and restore the democratic balance of power. If such a radical change as SSM is to become the law of the land, it must be done by the will of the people, not a few elite judges. That alone is rationale enough for prop. 8 in my mind.

If I objected to the government re-labeling tobacco as "health food" and putting it on the school lunch menu, you would understand. I consider SSM to be at least as harmful as tobacco. You consider SSM harmless. Do I have the right to think otherwise? Or has Orwell's vision come true and the thought-police have arrived? Why must my children be indoctrinated contrary to my wishes as a parent, in ways that I believe are harmful? And just like I'm not bigoted against smokers nor am I a "tobacco hater", I'm not a homophobe either. I just love my children and want the best for them.

I'm not convinced that traditional marriage violates anyone's rights. We were all doing just fine without SSM. Elton John agrees with that last point: http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2008-11-12-elton-john_N.htm

Frankly, we (speaking for supporters of traditional marriage) would have been very happy to leave the "definition" of marriage in the realm to which it belongs - common sense and long-accustomed usage. It was activists and agenda-driven judges that forced us into the constitutional amendment route, both in California and the 29 other states that have passed such amendments so far. The fact that so many states have adopted such amendments indicates the very broad support for traditional marriage in America.

I keep running into this quote on the internet: "India is the most religious nation and Sweden is the least. The U.S. is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes." Guido, I suppose you and most of your techno-elite friends sympathize more with the Swedes than with the Indians here. But I do appreciate you making at least an effort to understand us.

MrTact said...

google: "The traditional definition of marriage has been around for thousands of years. There is no need to change it."

YOU see no need to change it. Clearly you are not a gay person that wants to be married to the person you love, who happens to be the same gender as you. If you were, you might see such a need.

"It wasn't violating anyone's rights."

Obviously, because by definition no one can violate a right you do not possess.

"Proposition 8 is intended to correct the injustice committed by the courts and restore the democratic balance of power."

I think you may not be familiar with the history of this issue in California. Originally, there was a ballot initiative (Prop 22) to modify the California civil code to define marriage as only valid between a man and a woman. The legislature twice passed bills legalizing gay marriage; Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed both on the grounds that there was an ongoing challenge to the constitutionality of Prop 22 pending in the CA Supreme Court.

In other words, when the CSC decided that Prop 22 was unconstitutional, they were doing exactly what they were supposed to -- not legislating from the bench. That's just sour grapes.

"Frankly, we (speaking for supporters of traditional marriage) would have been very happy to leave the "definition" of marriage in the realm to which it belongs - common sense and long-accustomed usage."

Of course you are. People of privilege never regard it as inconvenient to deny other people the same privilege.

Guido van Rossum said...

@google: It's kind of hard to read a claim that you've met me in person while you're posting anonymously.

@all: I've heard enough from both sides, I doubt that there's much more that can be added without being a repeat.

Alex said...

Though I am unhappy with the prop-8 vote, I'm equally unhappy at the myopia and hatred it's engendered among those who opposed it. Social norms are arbitrary. Sometimes groups within a society end up with conflicting norms and there's really no objective reason for one group to be more right than another. For example, I think a lot of people who support gay marriage would not support polygamous marriages. Despite their arbitrariness, norms are still important. Many people just don't have it in their emotional register to accept two fathers as constituting a family. This is not because they are ignorant or fearful or whatever. It's just not their culture. You can try to change other people's perspective but there's no need to belittle or demonize them if you fail.

Rob Kohr said...

I forget the exact difference, but I think they won by less than 5% of the vote.

I suspect that percentage of people didn't grasp the negative nature of the the proposition.

Vote yes if you are not for gay marriage. Vote no if you are for gay marriage.

Some people made their decision and found out about the issue at the polling station, and perhaps did not carefully think about it. Maybe they just voted yes for gay marriage (which would be the opposite of their intention) and moved on to the next question (they were on question 8 at the time, and were exhausted).

Ok, that is my theory.