Thursday, August 21, 2008

proposition w8 - think before you vote

[My first skywatch post last Friday brought several new visitors to my blog. Maybe this post will attract some attention as well...]

I have a tendency to keep quiet about controversial topics, especially political issues, but I just can't ignore this one any longer.

I confess: before I moved to California I didn't know what "Proposition 8" was. Not that I didn't know what was going on; it's just that it wasn't exactly a buzzword where I was living just a few weeks ago.

I quickly caught on, and just as quickly I became perturbed.

And I have been struggling to sort out my thoughts about it.

Now, I could pretty easily sidestep the issue and avoid taking a position at all: because I am not a California resident, I will not be able vote on Proposition 8 anyway, so there is no direct impact on the law effected by my unofficial "yes" or "no." But that doesn't mean that I am not affected. It doesn't mean that I do not care.

So what is it that sets me off about proposition 8? It is the context in which I have been bombarded with cries from supporters, many of whom are uninformed.

First things first: I don't want to create any hurtful misunderstandings here, so let me make it clear that I love my church and I respect my church leaders. In fact, being a part of the church has been a great blessing especially since I have moved to San Francisco, where I have found myself instantly embraced by a supportive social network. Read: great way to make new friends when you're new in town. It was at a church-group gathering on a Monday evening, just three days after I moved to the city, that I made some new friends and re-connected with someone I had met years ago, who just happens to live here in town. It was at that same gathering that I first heard of the Protect Marriage Coalition, an interfaith group dedicated to garnering support for proposition 8. I have no problem with a person's support of and participation in this group: it is their democratic right to choose a position and to act upon it as they see fit. I do have concerns about a person's
uninformed support of this or any politically-purposed group.

The pattern goes like this: A announces that he's become aware of the Coalition, he thinks that we might be interested, and he encourages us to make donations. B and C think that's great and they take forms home so that they can send their money off to this cause that must be good because A thinks it is. Then D over here asks a simple question: 'how are the funds used?' And A does not know. It's a classic case of being caught not having done your homework. A is not the only one. I dare to say that we have all, at some point or another, made a similar mistake, being caught up in the moment, speaking out too soon, before we are adequately prepared to support whatever it is we think we're supporting. The question is: do we learn from those mistakes? I am worried that we do not; and worse, that many go on silently, blindly, deceptively sure of their positions, when they really have no idea what the implications of their hasty decisions may be.

I feel very uneasy about the dangerous mingling of church and state going on here. A perfectly harmless Facebook announcement for a Bay Area YSA party takes on a sour aftertaste with an addendum noting that they will be collecting donations for the Coalition. The attendance roll is passed around in relief society, and on the facing page is a sign-up sheet for a 'precinct walk for prop 8,' unaccompanied by any telling information about what one's participation in such an event might mean.

It is important to remember that just because a particular behavior is sanctioned by law does not necessarily mean that it is sanctioned by God. We may accept the church's position on the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, but that does not mean that we must deny the right to a legally-binding contract (read: sanctioned and protected by the state, not the church) between two men or between two women. And again, supporting a law does not necessarily mean that you personally condone what the law allows.

What we as Latter-Day Saints believe we must do and what the law of the land allows are not mutually exclusive. Legal same-sex marriage does not mean illegal heterosexual marriage. If by some freak chain of events the U.S. came to a point where there was to be a vote on a law that would criminalize heterosexual marriage, then yes, I would have a problem with that. But if our nation came to such a wild improbability, my guess is that we would have lots of other problems to worry about, too.

I had other thoughts, beginnings of thoughts, here in draft form, but they were not yet fully formed, and I would still like to do some more research. So I have chosen not to publish here something that I am likely to later regret and/or recognize as foolish. In a less-public forum, however, I would be happy to discuss and learn more about the nuances of the issue.

It is a difficult decision. All I ask is that people really think about it, and consider the possible consequences of both outcomes, before they vote on it.

A few resources to get started:
proposition 8 on ballotpedia
lds newsroom
protect marriage coalition
mormons for marriage


FoxyJ said...

Someone told us the other day that we are able to register to vote here even without having changed our drivers' licenses yet. I haven't fully investigated, but registering to vote is usually fairly simple. Unless you want to maintain residency in another state for some reason.

After two weeks I'm also tired of hearing about it at church. Our ward is really in a fervor about things, and I feel extremely awkward stepping out of discussions without going into the whole "um my husband is gay and so are many of our friends and I feel really conflicted about this and I don't have any money and I don't really want to donate right now..." speech. Sigh. I can't wait until church gets back to normal...

Chino Blanco said...

I appreciate your thoughtfulness and so I'd like to share a few thoughts with you.

I understand the importance of strengthening marriage and family (my wife of 12 years and our two kids are #1 in my life).

But Prop 8 is not about my family, it’s about families that I’ll most likely never meet, like Richard’s:

Just for the record, here in a northern California county, on January 27th, my beloved husband died. We were registered Domestic Partners with the Secretary of State. Had been since 2001. But Domestic Partners really is 2nd class - no it really is no class here.

He died at home so the Deputy Sheriff acted as Coroner. He refused to recognize me as next of kin. He insisted we call a blood relative in New York State to choose a funeral home etc. He wanted to remove all of my beloved’s possesions from our home and ship them back East … including his wedding ring. It was a Sunday night so I could not get the County judge or attorney to set things right (as I did on Monday) I had to lie and weasle to keep our stuff in our home. Because I did not count at all. Our family did not count. We were 2nd class - no class. Because we were not married.

Don’t tell me that Domestic Partnership is just as good as marriage. And don’t tell me that I was not married in my heart AND in my church to my husband. The Court just recognized what is a fact … he and I were married … and it is a civil right.

You have no idea how much it hurt … still hurts … that in 2008, in California, my family was ignored when I needed it to be recognized the most.

This is a political issue, not a moral one. Religious freedom is very well-protected in our country and nothing about Prop 8 either enhances or threatens that freedom.

Richard pays taxes just like you and me, but couldn’t get a marriage license. As a matter of fairness and equality before the law, that kind of discrimination is just plain unAmerican.

It saddens me that so many in the LDS church leadership are leading the members to believe that Prop 8 is about defending straight rights and straight marriages. Frankly speaking, nothing could be further from the truth.

Tom said...

I'll add another true story to give you some of the impact of marriage inequality on real people's lives:

I had an uncle-in-law who was a gay man. A descendant of handcart pioneers, he lived with his partner for more than 35 years. They were a loving, committed couple. They worked hard, they paid taxes, they did lots of volunteer work. They treated their nieces and nephews very well and were “favorite uncles.” He even used to play the organ at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake. (When he was a young man.)

He and his partner also did all they could legally to formalize their relationship, but of course they could not marry.

When my uncle-in-law died of lung cancer, his surviving partner did not receive Social Security survivor benefits — as they would have if they had been married.

In addition, the surviving partner had to pay a hefty inheritance tax on the 50% share of their house my uncle-in-law had bequeathed to him. Legally married spouses are exempt from this tax.

Finally, the property tax basis on the house rose dramatically — again, something that wouldn’t have happened if they had been able to marry.

These three things combined made it impossible for his surviving partner to be able to afford to stay in the home they had shared for more than three decades.

Does this seem fair, or equitable to you?

Get registered and vote NO on 8!

Chino Blanco said...

Hey there,

Thanks for dropping by my place.

Everyone who does automatically qualifies for my favorite Heber J. Grant quote:

Many of the Latter-day Saints have surrendered their independence; they have surrendered their free thought, politically, and we have got to get back to where we are not surrendering the right.

I know that all Mormons are not prejudiced against gays, and I know that many do not support Prop 8.

The challenge in all this is that there is so much political naïveté within the church's ranks that it makes it hard to explain what's wrong with Prop 8 without members becoming suspicious.

Anyway, you know all that. Me venting is just my way of saying hello.

emily said...

Hm, I'll have to look into registering in California. It's not like I have any reason to keep up my status in Utah.

Thanks, chino, for your thoughts and your respect. And that is a great quote from Heber J. Grant. Very telling and worrisome, but somewhat hopeful at the same time. If only more people would listen...

Nocturne said...

em, you know I think similarly. thanks for posting it.

Chino Blanco said...

Just a heads up: Mike Huckabee recently gave an interview in which he holds Mitt Romney responsible for implementing gay marriage in Massachusetts.


Welcome to the coalition.

I wish that more rank and file members of the LDS (Mormon) church would realize: the anti-gay coalition they've joined in California is one that includes folks who - given the chance - would vote their church out of existence.

Folks like Mike Huckabee and his Evangelical buddies.