Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Tragic Irony of Prop 8

Many people in the U.S. and Canada had their hopes dashed and their elation deflated yesterday with the news that, in all likelihood, California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage had passed.

The blow was made worse not only by the closeness of the vote (a smaller margin than Obama won by), but by the tragic irony that it happened on the same night that America elected a man whose parents would have found their own marriage deemed illegal in many states before 1967.

Worse - it was apparently the black community who voted in favour of Prop 8 in the greatest numbers and are credited with pushing it over the top.

(UPDATE: I would like to amend that last statement in light of the arguments and numbers presented in this excellent DailyKos diary. Yes, African-Americans voted in favour of Prop 8 by a high percentage, but given the relatively low number of black voters in California, that was not nearly enough to account for the final result even with the higher turnout. I apologize for perpetuating this unsubstantiated conclusion.)

This business of state-by-state rulings must stop. The U.S. needs a federal Supreme Court ruling to decide this once and for all, and with a few more progressive appointments to the bench it could happen during this new administration. My hope is that, even though Barack Obama stopped short of publicly supporting same-sex marriage during the election, he will do what Paul Martin did - put aside his personal religious misgivings and support what is right and fair for all.

I cannot think of a more fitting legacy.

"No brutality, no infamy, no degradation in all the years of southern slavery, possessed such villainious character and such atrocious qualities as the provision of the laws of Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states which allow the marriage of the negro, Jack Johnson, to a woman of Caucasian strain. [applause]. Gentleman, I offer this resolution ... that the States of the Union may have an opportunity to ratifty it. ... Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant to the very principles of Saxon government. It is subversive of social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery of white women to black beasts will bring this nation a conflict as fatal as ever reddened the soil of Virginia or crimsoned the mountain paths of Pennsylvania. ... Let us uproot and exterminate now this debasing, ultra-demoralizing, un-American and inhuman leprosy"

- Rep. Seaborn Roddenbery (D), 1912

"Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs."

- Hannah Arendt, 1958

"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

"I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

- Mildred Loving, 2007

UPDATE: And one more...

"Slavery could not be compromised in the 19th century because slavery was finally understood as a moral issue. Homosexuality cannot be compromised in the 21st century because it too is a moral issue. To the threats of parts of the Christian Church to leave if homosexual people are welcomed fully without any distinction, the body of Christ must be prepared to say, "That is your choice but we do not compromise truth to comfort you in your prejudice. The Church's doors will be open when your consciousness is finally formed and you decide to return, but we will not reject homosexuals now to avoid offending you. If the essence of our Christ is summed up in words that John's Gospel attributes to him, "I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly," then the choice is clear. Homophobia diminishes life; it does not make it more abundant. It must be ended; it cannot be tolerated even by making it kinder and gentler."

- Bishop John Spong

(H/T to Montreal Simon for the photo and the outrage)


  1. Hi Jennifer....thanks for the link.It is tragic isn't it? Black homophobia is a touchy subject,as is white gay racism, but sadly it's real so it has to be addressed. All people who have known oppression have a duty to work together for a better more tolerant world. PERIOD...

  2. Odd coincidence: Among the trailers shown before Passchendaele tonight at the theatre I went to...was Milk.

    As in Harvey Milk.

    Or is it not so odd, nor so coincidental, perhaps?

  3. Simon - Yeah, I made the mistake of cross posting this on DailyKos and it's already started a fight.

    Dwight - I saw that trailer too, and I can't wait to see it (Sean Penn!!!!). Too bad the movie didn't come out before the election, though. Maybe it would have changed a few minds.

  4. With all due respect, most Americans outside California and New York and maybe Miami don't support gay marriage.

    You so called progressives gotta get your head outta your asses.

    The people decide what they want their country to look like.

    Not the 1% of people in the USA that are actually homosexual.

    In Canada, liberal judges and politicians shove laws down everyones throat. The people in Candada have no say about nothing.

    1 vote every 4 years does nothing and proves nothing other than Canada being 1 vote away from a full blown dictatorship.

    In the USA, people decide what they want. Not left wing judges or radical progressive politicians.

    The USA is the real deal while Canada is a dictatorship.

  5. Sigh. Do you really need the Civics 101 lesson here? Do you really need me to explain to you why civil rights issues cannot and should not ever be decided by popular vote? Do you really need me to remind you that the majority of Americans continued to oppose inter-racial marriage until 1991? Do you truly fail to comprehend that the rights of minorities are never recognized or respected by the majority unless they are protected by laws and constitutions?

    And BTW, 64% of Canadians with an opinion on the matter now support gay marriage - but only after Bill C-38 allowed it to happen and people suddenly realized that their own marriages were not affected in the least and the world hadn't come to an end.

    Looks like you're in the minority now, bucko.

  6. Agreed that the timing of the release of that movie could have been better for a lot of people, Jennifer. Our neighbour Johnathan here to name but one, apparently.

    May it be in time for some of the people looking to protest the performance of The Laramie Project in Vancouver.