Don't you hate it when your parade gets rained on? It's like quietly hiking a remote canyon in Goblin Valley and just when the solace—the pristine magnificence—is cleansing your deflated, urban-pummeled soul, you stumble upon cigarette butts in the backcountry. Or like when you're driving down the street so completely content that you're actually driving under the posted speed limit—maybe you're even daydreaming a little bit—when the ass-face in the Raphael's Party Rentals van in front of you curve-balls his soda-and-ice filled McDonald's cup out the window onto the street.
Or like when you're still positively shivering at the glory and justness of the California Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage, and you're extra goose-bumpley because most of the news lately has blunted your nerve endings so severely that you didn't know you could still make goose-bumples, and this fantastic news makes you want to tongue-kiss strangers and throw back cosmos and get sweaty with the boys at Rich's for old time's sake. But then some milquetoast politician trying to have it both ways decides he's going to excuse any deputized county employees from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies if the workers “cite religious or moral objections.”
[Wah, wah, wah.]
County Recorder Gregory Smith plated up this shiny public endorsement of institutional bigotry at the end of last week and killed my buzz. Not that I'm surprised. But still.
My gut reaction—or one of them, anyway—is tough titties! If your job requires the completion of tasks you find to be unpalatable, how, exactly, is this so abnormal? I have to do stuff—tedious, objectionable, sometimes personally offensive crap—every day at my job and I do it with a genuine smile on my face. You get poked at work and you gotta suck it up. I believe that's why it's called “work.” If it were called “do whatever aligns with your belief system,” then I'd get paid an SDSU head football coach's salary to sleep until noon, read The New York Times cover to cover, sip Bailey's and coffee and then, later, a chilly Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale straight from the bottle. I'd have early-, mid- and late-afternoon sex—the gay kind, just to piss of the tighty-righties—and I'd watch fiery sunsets from the veranda of my modest, cliff-perched retreat overlooking the Aegean Sea.
But it's called “work” and so, instead, we dot i's and cross t's and surf the Internets and, if we're lucky, we have a job to complain about at the end of each day. If we're not so lucky, we look for a job to complain about at the end of each day, even one in which we do things we don't like to do.
These are tough times we're living in, and if a few folks down at the County Administration building don't want to perform their jobs, there are plenty of people who would happily accept such gainful employment. I think Smith's underlings with “religious or moral objections” to (ahem!) the law, should not work in positions requiring that they uphold it. Instead, they should walk the walk. Preferably on water. I'd like to see that.
Live your ideology right out in the open, people, and find employment more agreeable to your religious and moral beliefs. Apply for a position with the Save the Cross Coalition; put that bigotry into action and work for the Minutemen; I hear The Army of God is always looking for a few good people to bomb abortion clinics. My point is: Be a mensch. Let someone more enlightened and less straddled with pent-up issues take your spot convincing couples that they simply must pony up the extra 50 bucks for that commemorative marital pen.
Smith told the Union-Tribune that he's “trying to strike a balance” with this policy. It is his declared intention to “show dignity and respect to my staff and equally I want to show dignity and respect to the couples who want to get married.” A good friend of mine who likes to give all people the benefit of a doubt suggested that perhaps Smith himself doesn't believe this is the right thing to do but is instead getting political pressure to toe the line. If she's right and this is true—and since I'm not as generous with my doubt benefits—then Smith's public stance is all the more shameful. By permitting his employees to openly display prejudice, he's as much of the problem as the zealots who work for him.
What I want to know is, how is Smith showing dignity and respect by letting someone be a bigot on the taxpayer's dime? Is it dignity and respect to allow employees to point to their religious rights as justification for denying other folks their civil rights? What if “cited religious or moral objections” includes an unwillingness to officiate over the civil union of a black man and white woman? Does that employee, whose salary I help pay, get a hall pass, too? How are the two scenarios any different? Moreover, what is religious about the civil ceremony that takes place in the tiered building on Pacific Coast Highway? Nothing. That's what. End of argument.
With his Policy of Balance, Smith is pretending to spread his dignity and respect equally, but such equality is mandated and protected by the state Constitution. I understand he wants to ensure gay couples a positive interaction with those city employees who will sign off on marriage licenses. Certainly, any gay couple shackling themselves to the ball and chain from the Downtown balcony overlooking the bay deserves to be treated with the same begrudging politeness all citizens get when dealing with a governmental bureaucracy. Oh joy.
But what same-sex couples are seeking is a public recognition of their commitment—the piece of paper that somehow legitimizes a family and is required for two people in love to share health insurance, survivor benefits, hospital visitation rights, etc., etc. If Smith's employees can't politely and respectfully slam the I-now-pronounce-you-civilly-unionized stamp on that piece of paper? Well then. Those employees should be let go, not given the choice to opt out.
The state Supreme Court has ruled that every person has the right “to establish a legally recognized family with a person of one's choice.” And if you're hired by the county to sign documents that create a legally recognized family, then you do that fucking job with a smile on your face—forced or otherwise—and save your bigotry and religiosity and superior morality for the Sunday confessional.