Friday, October 24, 2008

Every Major Newspaper in California Opposes Prop 8

So far as I can tell, every major newspaper in California has come out against Prop 8. Not just the supposedly liberal "big city" papers, but in more Republican strongholds like Orange County, San Diego and Contra Costa County, and in the inland cities like Fresno, Stockton, Redding, Bakersfield, and Tracy. I have yet to find a newspaper anywhere in California that has come out in favor of Prop 8.
  • "Fundamental rights are exactly that. They should neither wait for popular acceptance, nor be revoked because it is lacking."
    Los Angeles Times endorses NO on Prop 8
  • "it is only fair that it afford equal protection to all who choose to make loving lifelong commitments to one another. We recommend a "no" vote on Prop. 8."
    Orange County Register
  • "Should we use the state constitution to take the right to marry from a particular group of people? We believe that notion is wrong, and recommend a "no" vote on Proposition 8."
    Fresno Bee
  • "To approve Proposition 8 is to codify discrimination. Californians cannot let that happen."
    Stockton Record
  • "Californians need to move beyond the divisiveness that Prop. 8 has engendered and embrace tolerance and reconciliation. Live and let live. We recommend a NO vote on Prop. 8."
    Bakersfield Californian
  • "Just as an individual's sexual orientation is not a legitimate basis on which to deny housing or a job, it is not a legitimate basis on which to deny individuals the right to marry. Californians should reject the call to amend the state constitution to exclude some people from marriage. That would be a black mark on the constitution, just as past exclusionary acts remain a stain on California's history."
    Sacramento Bee
  • "Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same dignity and respect in marriage that heterosexual couples have long enjoyed. We urge a No vote on Proposition 8."
    San Diego Union-Tribune
  • "We strongly urge voters to carefully consider the harm Prop. 8 would do not just to gays, but to all Californians, and reject the initiative. "
    Contra Costa Times
  • "The idea of using a ballot measure to single out a certain group of Californians for denial of individual rights - based on their sexual orientation - would represent an ugly distortion of the very purpose of a constitution. ... Californians should reject Proposition 8."
    San Francisco Chronicle
  • "The state constitution should never be amended to limit Californians' right to their own personal and religious beliefs. It should scrupulously uphold equal rights under the law. That is what it now does, based on a state Supreme Court ruling this year affirming a right to same-sex marriage. Voters should not take the extraordinary step of amending the constitution to take a right away. They should reject Proposition 8."
    San Jose Mercury News
  • "The Star urges a "no" vote on Proposition 8, which would embed discrimination in the California Constitution."
    Ventura County Star
  • "Same-sex vows cause no harm to our families. The reasons given for Proposition 8 just don’t stand up to scrutiny."
    Redding Record Searchlight
  • "The decision to marry is those couples' business, and no one else's. There is no compelling public policy reason to reverse that arrangement, and voters should say no to Prop. 8."
    Riverside Press-Enterprise
  • "In our view, Proposition 8 is a misguided and unconstitutional proposal. We urge voters to reject Proposition 8."
    Napa Valley Register
  • "Same-sex marriage does not diminish marriage between a man and a woman. It's a basic civil right that everyone - regardless of gender - should have. The time has come. Therefore, we oppose Proposition 8."
    Palm Springs Desert Sun
  • "The freedom to marry is fundamental in our society, just like the freedoms of religion and speech. Our laws should treat everyone equally. No on 8."
    Tracy Press
  • "Even people with reservations about same-sex marriage should consider the import of voting against a legal right. We support the right under California law for gays and lesbians to marry. Vote no on Proposition 8."
    Santa Cruz Sentinel
  • "All loving, committed couples should have the right to marry, with all the benefits and obligations that relationship incurs. That's the law now in California, and it should remain the law."
    Merced Sun Star
  • "The arguments against same-sex marriages seem close to arguments against mixed-race marriages you'd hear back in the '60s. Hopefully we'll get beyond all that some day. Vote no on Proposition 8."
    Chico Enterprise-Record
  • "The California Supreme Court has quite rationally decreed that the state has no power to take away anyone's right to marry the partner of her or his choice. We agree. Vote "no" on Proposition 8 on Nov. 4."
    San Gabriel Valley Tribune
  • "Advocates of Proposition 8 offer several arguments, but none of them stand up to close scrutiny."
    Santa Rosa Press Democrat
  • "No sea aceptable imponer estas creencias a toda la sociedad y, mucho menos, cambiar la Constitución de California. Estamos con el NO a la Proposición 8."
    La Opinión
  • "Vote NO on Proposition 8"
    La Prensa San Diego
  • "8 NO. Our California Constitution guarantees the same freedoms and rights to everyone - no one group should be singled out or treated differently."
    Asian Week
  • "Reject Proposition 8. California is better than that."
    LA Daily News
  • "Who gets to define marriage? If it is the state, then constitutionally, we all must be treated the same."
    The Daily Breeze
  • "It is morally deficient to codify intolerance, and wrong to deprive certain citizens of basic rights on no higher grounds than the prejudice of others. But the presence among Prop. 8 detractors of major California companies like PG&E, AT&T, Google and Levi Strauss illustrates that this issue speaks to economics as well, if somewhat more quietly than to equity and civil liberty. Prop. 8 fails this test, too, pointing California toward a less promising future."
    San Francisco Business Times
  • "NO, NO, NO"
    San Francisco Bay Guardian

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Conservative, Virtue-Based Path to Same-Sex Marriage

The following was originally written as a letter in response to someone who felt that same-sex marriage was only about the selfish indulgence of base inclinations, while traditional marriage was modeled on the Christ-like virtues of self-sacrifice and selfless love of another.

I appreciated your thoughts about the purpose of marriage. I agree that marriage ought not to be about the fulfillment of selfish desires, but about the cultivation and practice of the virtues of altruism, serving others, and love (the "agape" kind as famously described in 1 Corinthians 13). Ideally, of course, we should be altruistic, loving and of service to all others, but being the fallible imperfect humans that we are, we can best only strive to come close to that in the context of one other person we devote our life to in marriage, and hope that the altruistic and loving tendencies that we practice within our own family might spill over a little bit into the rest of the people around us. Theologically, as you have expressed, a marriage of two fallible people should be a symbol and an imperfect reflection of the perfect love of God for his creation. God by his grace working through such marriages can inspire others and spread his grace.

The way I was raised, these ideas weren't spoken of much outside of the officiant's remarks at weddings, but I think I absorbed them more strongly by my parents' living example. I grew up with a picture in my head of what my life should be like, and there was no question that it should be centered around a marriage. Thus, at age 20, when I discovered that I was gay, the most difficult part was that my picture I'd always had, of what my life should be, seemed irreparably shattered, and there was nothing but an empty dark unknown in its place. Over time, blessed by the strong support of loving friends and family, I was able to integrate a new picture, one that preserved all of the essential values that I was raised with, but put together in a new way, in the kind of a life I would be able to live with integrity. That new picture also centered around a marriage, with all the same core values I was raised with, except that it involved two men rather than a man and a woman.

I realize that's a radical idea for you. It was a radical idea for me at one time too. But try to imagine my experience. You'll note I said I discovered that I was gay. It's certainly not something I chose. I was raised, like everybody else, thinking I was straight. I was shocked and resistant when I first realized that I wasn't straight. But I know now that being gay is profoundly who I am, and I know that I was created this way. Given that realization, there are four basic paths I could have taken:
(1) live a life of selfish hedonism
(2) marry a woman anyway, and force myself to live a "straight lifestyle"
(3) live a celibate life of monkish asceticism
(4) marry a man, and live in a completely traditional marriage aside from the gender of my spouse

Let's dismiss option 1. Hedonism would be completely untrue to who I am and the values I was raised with. I think we can agree it's not a good option.

Option number 2 is the naive solution, but we've seen too much wreckage from people who have tried that path. Marriage is challenging enough when our instinctive attractions are harnessed in the same direction as our higher goals. To lack that part of the "glue" in a marriage at the same time as attractions are pulling you in a different direction is an invitation for failure. Moreover, that choice is in conflict with the value of self-integrity (I would always being lying to myself and to others at some level), not to mention the value of putting my spouse before myself. How would that ever be fair to the woman involved, since there would always be some part of me I can't fully give her in the way she deserves, and she would be denied the opportunity to have a man who could love her in every dimension? That type of marriage is built on a rotten foundation.

Some would recommend option 3, celibacy, but that's a sad option for someone who finds themselves capable of loving commitment, to have every channel for expressing it with fidelity and integrity prohibited by legalistic moralists. I by no means wish to disparage those who find themselves called to a life of celibacy, which can be noble and rewarding. But it's frankly cruel and misguided to urge that life on those who are not called to it. I was created with a rare capacity to love another man, in the way that most men love women. None of us knows why. But wouldn't it be blasphemous to claim that God made a mistake in his creation, or that God were unable to work his grace through me as I am? I firmly believe that my capacity to love is something that can be used for good purposes, in ways that God would bless, and that it is a kind of blasphemy to squander God's gifts by letting them wither in us unused. Which leads me to option 4.

In thinking about marriage (and believe me, I have thought about it a great deal), I came to realize that there was nothing in the essential concept of it that two men couldn't undertake. Two men are as capable as a man and woman of exchanging vows of lifelong loving commitment, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and faithfully living out those vows. Two men are as capable as a man and woman of striving within their marriage to put the other first, striving to copy the example of our parents' faithful marriages, striving to be a good example for the younger generation. Two men as are capable as a man and woman of being a symbol and a vessel for God's grace.

That's the kind of marriage that George and I had in mind when we exchanged our marriage vows, and that we have been endeavoring to practice in the seven years so far that we've been living out those promises. The vows we exchanged were the same in content as yours or as any married couple, and equally solemn. Our marriage is no more a selfish indulgence in physical attractions than yours is. We're striving toward the same marriage ideal that you are, as best each of us can with the particular gifts and limitations with which God created us.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Prop 8 Myths: Teaching Same-Sex Marriage in Schools

Myth: If same-sex marriage isn't overturned, public schools will be forced to teach kids about same-sex marriage

There are only a couple of places where marriage is even mentioned in the statutes regarding curriculum. Section 51890 of the Calif. Education Code outlines "comprehensive health education programs", in which "pupils will receive instruction to aid them in making decisions in matters of personal, family, and community health." Subjects include "family health and child development, including the legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood." In Section 51933, which outlines sexual health education curriculum, the specifications include the following:
  • Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships.
  • Instruction and materials shall be appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities.
  • Instruction and materials shall be age appropriate.
  • All factual information presented shall be medically accurate and objective.
  • Instruction and materials shall encourage a pupil to communicate with his or her parents or guardians about human sexuality.
That's the law as it stands now, and there's no reason that this curriculum would change regardless of whether Prop 8 passes or fails. Teaching respect for marriage and committed relationships, and teaching about the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood are good lessons for students regardless of sexual orientation. As the LA Times editorial board said, in urging a NO on 8 vote, "Assertions that it would require schools to promote gay marriage are utter nonsense."

Meghan Daum had an excellent op-ed piece in the LA Times about teaching marriage in schools. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here's the punchline:
And that's why students need marriage-ed. They need it because we're being taught to associate marriage not with permanent commitment but with social status, diamond rings, gifts, throwing a big party and, for women, wearing a dress that doesn't necessarily fit through the door. As a result, many teens of all sexual orientations (and many adults too) not only confuse sex with love, they confuse the long-term implications of marriage with the short-term gratification of wedding and honeymoon planning.

No matter what happens with Proposition 8, the way the education code is worded, it's unlikely that a lot of classroom time will ever get devoted to thinking deeply about marriage of any brand. That's a shame, because what students desperately need to be steered toward is not straight marriage or gay marriage but grown-up marriage. Now that would be radical.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

FILM: Rachel Getting Married

I've been struggling with what to say about the film Rachel Getting Married. Anne Hathaway's performance was truly remarkable. And the film was very authentic, perhaps too authentic. It showed the life of a family as messy, struggling to be functional in the wake of a devastating tragedy that has left one family member an obvious wreck, and other family members with deep but less obvious scars. The film felt very real in conveying that. I'm just not sure that's what I want from a film. I like being rapt in a good story, or inspired by great characters, or transported to another place and time. This was more like watching someone else's home movies, if they were filmed by a videographer who occasionally opened up a door and walked in on a scene not meant to be seen, went unnoticed, and didn't turn away. In one part of the film, wedding guests fidget awkwardly as a sister's toast to the bride turns into disfunctional 12-step confessional. I felt that same kind of discomfort throughout the entire film, sometimes stronger, sometimes subtler, but never fully letting up. I can recall one awkward out-loud laugh (really more of a "she did not just say that, did she?" snort), but not really any comic relief. I suppose it would have been a different film if they'd gone for more traditional drama with moments of comic relief, but I think they were going for more of a cinéma vérité feel. The handheld camerawork gave it that feel, but was also a bit nauseous at times (especially those odd shots looking up from hip level). Hathaway was very convincing, and Bill Irwin and Rosemarie DeWitt give strong performances too. While I was watching it, I found Rachel's character a bit disjointed (she loves her sister, she hates her sister, she loves her again), although on reflection I suppose real life can be like that, especially in the inner lives of families. The film, in its authentic, unhurried and haphazard pace, reveals some powerful emotional history in the family. There are some great dramatic moments (in amidst the wedding "home movie"). And it feels very emotionally authentic. But I also wonder what it has to say to people who are experiencing difficult recoveries, but don't have as crucial and concise an emotional backstory to explain themselves. If you'd like to see a realistic view of a disfunctional family over an eventful weekend (a glimpse of what "reality TV" might be like if it weren't so heavily manipulated), then this is a great film. I'm just not sure it's what I want on a Saturday night.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Prop 8 Myths: Churches and Same-Sex Marriage

Myth: If legal same-sex marriage is allowed to stand, churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

This fear is unfounded. Freedom of religion is a bedrock principle of our nation, protected in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and in Article I, section 4 of the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court was explicit on this point in their decision. Here is a quote from the Supreme Court's opinion:
Finally, affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs. [Ca. Sup. Ct., S147999 (2008), p. 117]
I would add that just as freedom of religion is still in effect, so too is freedom of speech. Churches continue to have full freedom to make their own decisions about whether to perform same-sex marriages, and to give voice to their own beliefs about the morality or immorality of same-sex marriage.

Myth: Churches may lose their tax-exempt status if they don't perform same-sex marriages, or if they advocate against it.

Some churches are nervous these days because the IRS has been investigating whether they have crossed a line into political advocacy, which would jeopardize their tax-exempt status. A recent organized protest called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" had a few dozen pastors around the country endorsing presidential candidates from the pulpit. But the federal law is clear on what churches may and may not do in the political arena, while keeping their tax-exempt status. Churches and their leaders may speak freely on issues of public policy, even on specific legislation, and may encourage their members to support or oppose specific legislation, so long as they are not supporting a particular political party or candidate for office. They may spend an "insubstantial" (typically taken to mean less than 10%) amount of their funds on issue advocacy. The law strikes a reasonable balance, giving churches wide latitude to speak out on issues that they believe have moral or religious ramifications, while keeping them out of full-throated politics. (And also remember that churches are free to embrace full-throated politics if they wish, just not with a taxpayer subsidy for their donations.) Thus, no church or religious group will have their tax status penalized for advocating for or against same-sex marriage, or for supporting or opposing a particular proposition.

Given that churches are free to advocate against same-sex marriage while remaining tax-exempt, they are certainly not going to lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to perform same-sex marriages, if that is their belief.

It should also be noted that tax-exempt status is a matter of federal law, determined by the IRS. Thus, changes in California state law regarding same-sex marriage could not possibly have any relevance to the federal matter of tax-exempt status.

Myth: A legal policy of recognizing same-sex marriage is an assault on religious beliefs.

Some people feel that California's recognition of same-sex marriage imposes a redefinition of a religious principle, and thus is interfering in religion. However, it must be recognized that the term "marriage" has been used for a religious ceremony and a legal status, which may be related, but are not the same thing. It's possible to go to city hall and get married legally but not religiously. It's also possible to have a religious marriage but not get a state license (elderly couples remarrying later in life sometimes do this to avoid the legal complications). It's also possible for a marriage to end at different times in the eyes of the church and the state. For example, the Catholic church does not recognize divorce, so Catholic couples may get a legal divorce, but still be married in the view of their church. The state has its definition of marriage, and the churches have their definitions, and they're not always completely in synch. But it's a workable arrangement for a pluralistic society like ours. Thus, the state is defining marriage for the state's own purposes, while the churches are free to define marriage in their own way. The state's recognition of same-sex marriage is not imposed on churches any more than the state's provision for divorce is imposed on churches that don't believe in divorce.

It also must be said that not all churches oppose same-sex marriage. Some churches perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, and welcome and affirm same-sex couples. National denominations including United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Church, Reform Judaism and others bless same-sex marriages as a matter of denominational policy. Other denominations, including the Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, and Conservative Judaism, while lacking national consensus, have some churches and some clergy who have blessed same-sex marriages. Thus, a legal policy that would outlaw same-sex marriage is a disparagement to those religious institutions. Why should those religious marriages not merit equal recognition to all other marriages?

Further, it should be noted that even some religious leaders who oppose religious same-sex marriage also oppose unequal legal treatment for same-sex couples. California's top Episcopal bishops (who are themselves divided on whether their church should actually perform same-sex marriages) all came out in opposition to Proposition 8. And while the Adventist General Conference opposes same-sex marriage, a petition of Adventists opposing Prop 8 on the principle of religious liberty (something Adventists are quite sensitive to) has drawn endorsements from many pastors, professors, and other Adventist leaders.

UPDATE: There is a good discussion of the "scary" court cases being hyped out of context by Prop 8 supporters, as well as Q&A about concerns from a Christian perspective on the website for Adventists Against Prop 8.