It's hard to imagine a campaign more despicable than John McCain's presidential bid, what with its attempts to convince enough voters that Barack Obama is an Arab / Muslim / terrorist (as if two of those things are worthy of our fear and scorn). But, as they say, California often leads the nation, and here we've done the near-impossible—we're home to one of the more malodorous dung heaps in recent history: the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign.
You've probably seen the TV commercial with the sweet, impressionable little girl running excitedly into the kitchen to tell her mother what she learned in school: “A prince can marry a prince, and I can marry a princess!” Mom is horror-stricken at first, then dumbfounded, as law professor Richard Peterson of Pepperdine University (which, by the way, is almost puritanical in its religious orthodoxy) enters the picture to scare the blood right out of the faces of Californians who don't realize or can't accept that they have gay friends, relatives and colleagues. Peterson tells us, essentially, that unless we pass Prop. 8, those unmoored perverts from the California Teachers Association will be teaching Johnny how to fall in love with and marry Jimmy.
The message from the Yes on 8 campaign couldn't be more overt: Our innocent, sponge-like children must be protected from the depravity of homosexuality. Taken together with the Yes on Prop. 4 anti-abortion campaign, the religious right's strategy is clear: When all else fails, rant hysterically about the slobbering sex fiends who are coming for the children.
Say what you want about the homophobes—at least their commercials are up front with the bigotry. So, it's ironic that the foot soldiers in the campaign, the people who comment on blog posts and whatnot, play a childish, nonsensical game of political “I know you are, but what am I?” When their critics call out their bigotry, these minions invariably attempt to turn the tables, labeling us liberals as hateful, mean and intolerant of people who simply want to protect the sacred, time-honored institution of mixed-gender marriage, with its birds, flowers, unicorns and promise of the magical wonder of human reproduction.
Pardon us while we vomit all over the 40-percent-plus divorce rate and evidence of widespread rotten parenting.
Arguments with these people tend to become frustrating exercises in disconnected discourse. It's clear that not all of them understand what Prop. 8 would do. Oh, they know that it would make it so gay couples can't marry, but the whole constitutional-law thing gets lost in translation.
To recap: Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the law created by 2000's Prop. 22—which said that only mixed-gender marriages would be recognized—is unconstitutional. That means it violates one of our state's (and our nation's) overarching legal principles, the right to equal treatment under the law. We Americans are a libertarian bunch—we tend not to take rights away from people. But that's what Prop. 8 would do; it would eliminate gay Californians' right to equal treatment when it comes to marriage.
The pro-8 people dismiss those facts, arguing that marriage has always been limited to one man and one woman, and here come the homos, armed with their nefarious “agenda,” trying to ruin the whole concept of marriage (not to mention turn our kids queer).
First of all, attempts to point out that allowing gay people to marry has absolutely zero effect on anyone's heterosexual marriage wind up fruitless—Yes on 8ers seem impervious to that logic. Secondly, they don't seem to realize that throughout the centuries and across cultures, the institution of marriage has been subject to legal evolution.
What's mind-blowing about all this is that we're even entertaining this initiative here in 2008, more than 40 years after those activist justices on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage once and for all.
None of us at CityBeat remember those battles, but we suspect there was talk of marriage being protected then, too.The good news is that young people are overwhelmingly supportive of gay-marriage rights, so it's just a matter of time before these purveyors of sickening rhetoric are pushed into the fringes of society, where they can wallow in their bitterness along with the racists. It's funny—even their fear-mongering TV ad unwittingly bears a sweet nugget of truth and optimism: You know the little girl who so excitedly rushes to tell Mom what she learned in school? Look how radiantly happy she is about the discovery of a new possibility.