Thursday, October 23, 2008

California Proposition 8, the real issue.

Wow, this election cycle is one of the most heated I've ever experienced. Leaving aside the national election for a moment, we have an increasingly heated election here in California and the issue fast rising to the top of the heap is an old one. . . gay marriage. Yes, this issue has managed to become the barn burner in California during an election cycle that features the total melt down of our financial situation and continuing wars on two fronts with others threatened. I won't even go into some of the cynical motivations for placing this topic on the ballot, you can fill in the reasons for yourself. In this space I just want to address the core of the issue itself.

This isn't about children being taught about gay marriage in schools. There's nothing in current law that requires this or that marriage be taught at all, though the yes on 8 crowd propagates these fictions.

This is also not about freedom of religion or religious speech. Members of churches and temples of all stripes will continue to be permitted to preach whatever they believe about this contentious issue. Remember, not all churches are against homosexuality! There are some that feature gay priests, pastors and even bishops!!! Both proponents and opponents will be able to continue arguing their viewpoint and hurling insults from pulpit to pulpit.

No, and the issue is also not about the sacredness of marriage. We're dealing with the issue of a marriage contract between people and the state. There is nothing in any law that forces churches to marry gays or lesbians. Some do, some don't and that will continue. My marriage of 21 years to my, first and only, wife is not threatened by the marriage of two men or two women just as it isn't threatened by the marriages of so many couples who have since divorced or the teenage marriage of Governor Palin's daughter and her boyfriend.

The real issue here is the attempt to write discrimination into the California state constitution!

I was just listening to my favorite radio station for call in programs on one of our local NPR (yeah, no surprise there, right?) stations, KPCC. They were discussing prop 8 and one of the callers cut right to the chase. I didn't have time to quote this perfectly but I'll paraphrase as accurately as I can. he said: It's not about formal instruction of gay marriage in schools . . . I don't want my 5 year old exposed to this kind of lifestyle and asking their teacher, "can a boy marry a boy?", and the teacher telling them that this is legal.

That sound harmless enough, doesn't it? But the caller was making none too subtle a point. He doesn't want his son or daughter to hear about things in the culture that he doesn't agree with. Is that really something upon which we can base a law, much less a constitutional law?

Where does that sentiment stop? I don't like my kids exposed to religious proselytizing. I don't want the LDS or Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door and trying to convert my kids. Can we write that into the constitution please? What is it that bother's you and can we write that into the constitution? Let's restrict your rights under law because you might do something that someone or some group is personally opposed to.

This is the issue. We should be extremely careful about any modifications to our constitution particularly modifications that codify restrictions of rights or discrimination of any single groups access to those rights. If one has not infringed on the rights of another (i.e. as in committing a crime against them) then they should not have their rights circumscribed.

It is up to each of us to instruct our children on our beliefs and to see that they have the filters we consider essential at each stage of their development. But we and our children do not exist in a homogenous and sanitized society and culture and they will be exposed to people with different lifestyles, religions, races and even sexual orientation than our own. Depriving others of their rights is not an acceptable way to deal with this fact. If you believe that it is then I am prepared to call you a bigot.

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