Thoughts on Proposition 8

© VanBuskirk
© VanBuskirk

As many of you know, Proposition 8 was a successful ballot measure that amended the California State constitution to exclude gay couples from civil marriage. I don’t usually talk about general political things on this blog, but I responded to a comment from russketeer with enough detail that I thought it might be worth it’s own post.

These are the thoughts I’ve been sharing with my friends anyway. And seeing as I consider you all my friends, I thought perhaps you’d be interested.

russketeer wrote:


And I responded:

Yes. It does. It blows my mind that a 52% vote can amend our constitution here in California to make it fundamentally less fair to a minority. There is a book I read in college that left a huge impression on me — Taking Rights Seriously by Ronald Dworkin. In it, he wisely argues that in order for “rights” to mean anything — to be something different than a regular law — that they had to be a special claim against the majority, meaning (for, say, Freedom of Speech) that even if the majority wants you to shut up, you are still allowed to speak and publish. We are a country founded on rights and not just laws because there are some freedoms so important they deserve to be protected from tyrants — both foreign kings and the “Tyrant of 51%”.

Ordinarily, I would find challenging a successful referendum in court to be not only sour grapes, but a futile exercise. And, in truth, I looked at the current challenges against Prop 8 in our courts (with the help of the ACLU and others) to be a waste of time — until yesterday when I really looked at what they were arguing. Apparently, the California constitutional amendment process isn’t as crazy as I thought it was and that there are at least some safeguards in place when fundamental rights are involved, so as to prevent, say, all the men of California passing a referendum to restrict freedom of speech to just themselves and not to women. Those looking to overturn this referendum are arguing that this more stringent process (which requires a legislative vote before the matter is put before the people) should have been used in this case and thus a simple majority vote was not enough to take away the fundamental rights of a minority. It’s an argument I’m sympathetic to — we’ll see how it plays out in the courts. And we’ll see if even the current form of it gets overturned, whether something similar doesn’t find it’s way onto our ballots in the next few years. I don’t think we’ll have heard the last of it.

That said… (quoting from Russketeer again:)

Gay marriage will happen in our lifetime. It’s just a matter of time…

Slowly but surely.

Yes, I think so too. As a kid, I would never have believed we would have come so far with this issue, so soon, but despite our recent losses, it feels like those who selfishly want to reserve the institution of marriage all to themselves are merely delaying the inevitable.

A year back or so, I saw something that really opened my eyes to this. Jon Stewart was interviewing a conservative commentator on The Daily Show (I don’t remember who) and the subject of gay marriage bans came up (which the conservative commentator was lobbying for). And John Stewart asked him a rare serious question — “So, do you really think you’re going to win this?” — and was as surprised as I was by the commentator’s candid response “Oh, no. Gay marriage will be the law of the land. I’m sure of that. It’s inevitable.” After Mr. Stewart picked up his jaw from the floor, he asked “So… why are you fighting so hard against it?” And I think the commentator responded (don’t 100% remember): “Because it’s what I believe is right.”

Now, I bow to that commentator fighting for what he believes is right. But what’s important was that even he had to admit that he is shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Levy whatever criticisms you want, throughout its history, the United States has seen a steady progress of becoming more fair to all its citizens. When I’m feeling particularly cynical, it’s important for me to remember that less than 100 years ago, women didn’t even have the vote in this country — and now that seems utterly crazy.

Yes, we have a long way to go before we live in a truly fair society. But I truly believe we will get there — and, as a signpost on the way to that, yes I think we will see nationwide gay marriage in our lifetime…

Peace out, friends… 😀

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  1. OH wow. Hear! Hear!

    As in, “hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!” You have said my opinion as well!

    I’ve got another browser window open, searching out that book you referred to (“Taking Rights Seriously”) as I type!

    Thanks for sharing, Alex!

  2. @russiantrevor

    I really do think it's just a matter of time. Dress them up in the whatever religious cloth you'd like, these amendments are fundamentally unfair and selfish. They are immoral and go against the trend of increasing fairness that is the history of the United States. They won't stand forever — and hopefully, won't stand long.

    Congratulations on your marriage — I wish you much happiness. 🙂

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