Thursday, May 28, 2009

Voting Maybe, Kinda on Prop 8

As I was reading about the recent California Supreme Court decision to uphold Proposition 8, it reminded me of a line from one of my favorite films, A Man for All Seasons. This is a wonderful story about the life of Sir Thomas More, one-time friend of Henry VIII, eventually executed for treason.

More: After all... I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Wait... shit, sorry. Wrong movie.

HERE we go. This is a brief conversation between More and his future son-in-law about the rule of law:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of
law!

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's. And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Tough words, and many scholars feel that More's belief in the law is what led to his downfall. Others think he was pissed because his daughter was in love with a man who looked like a cross between Prince Valiant and Jesus.

But the rule of law is why the California court decision was not the huge setback that it appeared to be at first, and why it might ultimately be a problem for Proposition 8 supporters.

For those of you who don't know me well, I am a huge advocate of gay rights. Proposition 8 is a terrible ruling, just like all the similar rulings that some states have adopted. (Really, Nevada? You legalize prostitution and gambling and Elvis impersonations, but think gay marriage is too much? Who has made more of a mockery of marriage: George Takei marrying his long-time partner in California, or Britney Spears getting married for a weekend in one of the drive-through wedding chapels in Las Vegas?)

But this ruling isn't really about that. All it said was that the vote last November to add Proposition 8 to the state constitution was legal and valid, and there was no cause to simply overturn it. While we might have hoped to hear differently -- it would have been awesome to learn that the Prop 8 backers had cheated and the whole thing tossed out -- I don't think anyone expected anything that simple. Indeed, if that had happened, it would have just started up again next election cycle.

Now the court has refreshed the lines on the playing field. Gay rights advocates know for sure what it'll take to undo Proposition 8, and when that happens, the anti-gay-rights bunch will not have a legal leg to stand on. It will be tossed away as legally as it was added in the first place.

Not that it makes the initial vote in November any less embarrassing. To me, on the other side of the country, it looks like the gay rights folks took California for granted. At some level, I think they forgot that California is more than the stretch of beach between San Francisco and San Diego. Cali has long been known as a bastion of the Loony Left, and everyone thought that would work in favor of Gay Rights when the voting came along. Certainly all the celebrities I follow on Twitter who live out there are shocked and appalled.

As an aside, isn't it odd that Californians can change their constituion with a simple majority vote? And they're only on Proposition 8? Is that 8 shorthand for 800,000? There are some real pieces of work out there, so you would expect to see Proposition 4752: Recognition of Vegetable Pain Act, demanding acknowledgement that your wheat grass smoothies audibly sob when they go in the blender. Or Proposition 577: Official Feng Shui Day. Proposition 1993: Gasoline is made illegal, and cars must be constructed to run on love.

Anyway. The courts didn't give a quick fix, but they showed they will obey the law as set down in the state constitution, or wherever California keeps their laws. Inside the Scientology HQ building, maybe, or deep inside Arnold Schwartzenegger. This is the same court that voted to make gay marriage legal in the first place. So we know they can be gay-friendly and that they'll play by the rules. In the long run, this is for the best.

And gay marriage will become legal in the next few years. The younger generations are much more comfortable with the idea than their parents and grandparents, and eventually they'll log off MySpace long enough to vote. (I kid the younger generation! If I had the same web apps when I was a teenager, I would have been no different.)

Cheer up! Regroup. Plan the next move. It'll be that much sweeter when it's granted in a way that can never be taken back.

3 comments:

Artful Dodger said...

Having grown up and lived in CA for many decades before finally escaping, let me clarify a point. Their numbering system on ballot measures is the epitome of recycling. Think Prop 13 from several decades ago (you know, the one that started this whole "I don't need a fireman today, so why should I have to pay for one?" thingie).

More importantly, the issue of gay marriage, IMHO, is being approached bass-ackwardly. It should not be a matter of "gay rights" "animal rights" or "vegetable rights." The issue should be of separation of church and state. If two people want to form an alliance, they should be able to do so. Done. Period.Over. If those two people want to be recognized by the state, a vehicle of recognition should be available. Let's call it Union. If you want to be recognized by the state as United, then you should follow certain steps, such as getting a license (how else can they charge a fee?), recording public notice, etc. There should be no distinction made between the pious, the non-believing, the "straight" or the gay make-up of the participants.

If you want to engage in a religious ceremony, go for it. Let's call that ceremony Holy Matrimony. Having someone in a funny outfit mumble words of assurance over you in an ornately-decorated edifice is your right! However, if the proprietors of that edifice don't want to perform that ceremony because you don't agree with what they stand for, so be it. Likewise, if you do not agree with the standards I set for who my life-long partner might be, do not feel forced to "Marry" someone just like him/her. Don't like gays? Don't feel compelled to marry one. Society will not hold that against you. Don't like blonds? Ditto.

BUT! Government does not need to be in the Holy Matrimony business and churches don't need to be in the licensed Unitedness business.

Too simple?

The Man Version said...

Oh sure. You go giving everyone THAT kind of freedom, and pretty soon you have people having polygamist marriages with their cats. How is immigration gonna deal with THAT?

BTW, I'm all about gay rights, but I'll be long dead before I give rights to rutabagas.

Artful Dodger said...

Are you saying you distinguish between fruits and vegetables?