An excellent submission from
Having participated in several "discussions" of news stories about California's Proposition 8 and the subsequent fallout, I've cataloged many of the ideas behind the gay rights responses. (I use the quote marks on "discussions" because the usual responses mostly contain religion bashers and gay bashers who call each other names.) In this article, I'll list the gay marriage idea, then direct quotes from some of the folks commenting on the bulletin boards, and then explain the idea and offer my response to it. I've copied and pasted the bulletin board quotes directly from the discussion pages following news stories written by the AP and by the LA Times, including original spelling and language.
Idea 1: Gay marriage is a civil right.
"Proposition 8... is itself unconstitutional because it deprives a minority group of a fundamental right."
"Some of you ding dongs really need to take some time and actually read the Consitution before commenting on things you obviously know nothing about."
Commentary: There are two classes of rights, often confused with each other: the unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence and the civil rights granted by the US and state constitutions. As the Declaration of Independence states, the unalienable rights are endowed by our Creator and include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (I find it interesting that every discussion I've read online conveniently ignores that the rights in the Declaration of Independence are attributed to deity.) Federal civil rights are enumerated in the first ten amendments of the US Constitution (known as The Bill of Rights) and within several other amendments. These rights include things like free expression of religion, the right to carry guns, and the right to a fair trial.
In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court threw out the same sex marriage law of 2000 stating that it violated, not the civil rights of gays, but the "fundamental right to marry." What this did, upsetting a good selection of California citizens, was to equate marriage with the unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence. In essence, a few judges in California created a brand new fundamental right. Those opposed to gay marriage rallied and got a definition of marriage ballot initiative to amend the state constitution.
Others argue that marriage is a civil right. The civil right most applicable to the idea of gay marriage is found in the 14th amendment. Within the amendment: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
This is the crux of the matter. Federal court decisions have found in the past that these civil rights weren't extended to Blacks or to women and laws, such as Jim Crow laws, have been declared unconstitutional. The question with gays becomes the question of whether or not that particular group is a protected class, one that needs equal protection under the US Constitution. The courts up to this point have basically said yes, gays as a class are protected. As an example, in a controversial majority opinion, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that a Texas sodomy law was unconstitutional stating that "gays are entitled to respect for their private lives."
The question now is whether or not gays have a civil right to marriage. The answer to this question is not yet settled. The questions are: Is marriage a civil right? Is it a fundamental right (of the pursuit of happiness)? Can states define marriage (as 30 out of 50 have) as only between a man and a woman?
Idea 2: Rights are established by the Constitution and the courts, not by the will of the people.
"[Euripedes], you are complete moron.
1. The Constitution is the SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND.
2. The PEOPLE CANNOT change the Constitution."
Commentary: I found this comment funny, especially since it was directed at me personally. This person said this after I had written that California's Attorney General, Jerry Brown, had overstepped his authority by filing an opinion to the California Supreme Court to get rid of Proposition 8.
The question is valid, however. Can the people change the Constitution and create or change civil liberties? The answer, of course, is yes. In the US Constitution, the 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery. In 1919, the 18th amendment was ratified that disallowed the manufacture and transportation of alcohol (known as Prohibition). Another amendment repealed the 18th. With reference to marriage in California, the state constitution limits marriage to 18 year-olds, to people of sound mind, and prohibits marriage between more than one man and woman. (Interestingly, in the California state constitution, marriage is implicit between a man and a woman.)
All of these changes to the two constitutions were validated by vote, not by the courts. So, by extension, Proposition 8 is a valid means of creating or limiting a civil right. The question with the California Supreme Court remains, however, whether the court will accept or reject Proposition 8 as an expression of civil rights, or as an expression of some made up, fundamental right to marriage.
Idea 3: Those opposed to gay marriage are a bunch of religious nuts.
Commentary: These types of comments are the most common on bulletin board threads having to do with gay marriage. On one such thread, I counted comments against religion outweighed pro-religion comments about seven to one.
"Don't HETEROSEXUAL bible-thumpers have anything better to do than to worry about gay marriage? Surely there are more serious problems to focus on."
"Only people who pray to the imaginary man in the sky are against homosexuality. Religious texts are the ONLY REASON to be against homosexuality. What other reason would lead you to conclude that it's bad, except that it says so in the Bible? It surely isn't logic. LOGIC and RELIGION are mutually exclusive."
"well my god loves every body and says that if two people love each other and want ot commit themselves to each other to love and support each other then that's all good with my god. You see my God is about love and acceptance and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. My God believes that all the creatures God created have the right to live their lives in peace and love even if you don't think you could love the person they do."
"OF COURSE I have a grudge against religion, because all religions are CULTS, demanding that you follow their inflexible rules instead of thinking for yourself."
There are several things going on here. One is the obvious connection with evangelical atheism. These are people who live with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may actually believe in God. They reject any biblical reference against homosexual sex outright, rejecting the validity of the Bible as a moral guide. They view Christianity, and by extension, Judaism as the greatest evil in the world. Many feel that world history would somehow have been less violent without Christianity in it.
There are those who profess a belief in God, but have to change the Christian God into something else, in order to fit in with their particular world view. Many of these adopt a God made in the image of equality and fairness. Many accept Buddhism or other religions that coincide more closely with their own views of morality.
An underlying thread of the anti-religionists is the idea of separation of church and state. I do not have the time and space today to comment in depth on this topic. The problem arises, however, with the basic ideals behind the separation of church and state. Many people in the US view this as meaning that religion has no part in our secular government. Others, like me, view this as a problem with government interfering with the establishment of religion or interfering with its free exercise. Most of those who argue in favor of the separation of church and state have a limited view of the free exercise clause. The free exercise of religion, however, is a civil liberty granted in the 1st amendment of the US Constitution. Religious people have every civil right to express their views in this country.
Religious people do indeed express dislike of gay sex and the idea of gay marriage. Religious values (unless redefined) threaten the gay community, so the gay community turns against religion as an "enemy of civil rights."
Idea 4: Gay rights and gay marriage is a matter of tolerance and love.
Commentary: As I've written before, intolerance is a double-edged sword. I think most will agree that tolerance is a moral value that should be embraced by society. The problem lies not with the ideal of tolerance, but with the double standard of intolerance expressed by the gay community. I've commented in a previous post about the intolerance of the gay rights activists: Go Away So We Can Be Inclusive.
"I firmly believe it goes both ways and in a civil society, tolerance of ALL people is the key ingredient... without it, there is nothing but anarchy and unjust behavior. It is not a question of whether we "want" to tolerate ignorance and low class behavior, it is just something we need to do to live our lives without hate and bitterness, just as we tolerate the bad driver, or the dog barking next door, or the rude shopper next to us in the store, etc... unfortunately, the ignorant must also have a place in society."
"I would have no tollerance for someone trying to deny me my due rights either! I call that being an American."
The gay rights activists view the California vote for Proposition 8 as an act of intolerance. Much of the uproar after the vote was directed against religion, another act of intolerance.
James Madison, one of the founders of the US Constitution and one of those who wrote the Federalist Papers, notes that there are two ways of dealing with factions (such as gay rights activists and religious people). One way to deal with factions was to remove them, making all the people in a society think the same way. Since this is antithetical to democracy, Madison rejected the idea out of hand. We see, however, more and more people in the US arguing in favor of homogenizing everyone to one, common ideal. We call this homogenization "political correctness" and see examples of its use and abuse every day. (See my own article Holidays Are Against My Religion where I poke fun at atheists and at political correctness.)
Madison's solution, by the way, was to argue in favor of the Republic - the system of government that we now have - to balance out the factions within society. Factions need to be controlled, not done away with. He understood that intolerance was a simple fact of the splits within society itself. So the question of gay marriage doesn't really hinge on the concept of tolerance, rather it hinges on whether gay marriage can prevail within the political system we have.
Idea 5: Gay marriage is a private matter and is none of your business.
"It is none of anyones business what I do in my bed."
Commentary: This is another, very common thread within the gay marriage discussion. While gay sex may be a private matter, marriage, including the idea of gay marriage is a public matter. Many who argue in favor of gay marriage don't seem to be able to differentiate between the private and the public concerns. I've talked about private and public concerns in my article Are Families Measured in Family Units?
As an additional comment, the California state constitution clearly shows the public aspect of marriage. It states "Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. Consent alone does not constitute marriage. Consent must be followed by the issuance of a license and solemnization as authorized by this division..." (FAMILY.CODE Section 300). The civil contract makes the difference. Marriage isn't simply the consent of adults in the privacy of their own bed.
Conclusions: I've found these arguments to be the bulk of those expressed by gay rights activists and by those who post on the news bulletin boards. I've excluded arguments about gays themselves (for example, whether or not being gay is a choice). I've excluded the gays raising children arguments.
I've found, in writing and responding to the pro-gay crowd on these bulletin boards, that they respond to my reason and arguments with hatred and intolerance. I've been called everything from an idiot to [unprintable], all for expressing my views against the idea of gay marriage. I also find it interesting that these folks universally condemn me as a religious bigot, even though I have never written from a religious viewpoint any argument against gay marriage.
As Ghandi put it: "Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding."