Thursday, October 30, 2008

Defeat the last acceptable form of gay-bashing: vote "no" on Proposition 102

It has become evident in the four years since Massachusetts began allowing same-sex couples to marry that the practice is harmless. Heterosexual couples are not splitting up because the gays are getting married. Both the institution of marriage and the nuclear family are as strong if not stronger than they were before the change.

Why, then, amend Arizona's constitution to effectively make Clause C of ARS 25-101, which prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex, a new, one-sentence Article 30? Two reasons present themselves: irrationality and confusion, or hatred. It is no longer acceptable to beat up homosexuals, call them names, or generally treat them nastily, not even in private life; prohibiting them to marry is the last way for louts and bigots to stick it to the gays. A great many of those supporting a Constitutional ban on gay marriage do it because it's the next best thing to mandating that there simply be no gays.

And then there are the confused. While in California last weekend I saw "Yes on Prop 8" sign-wavers waving pieces of posterboard with the slogan "Prop 8 is Religious Freedom". Gun book publisher Alan Korwin, in a recently e-mailed newsletter, said "the correct term is Holy Matrimony." In a similar vein, a correspondent, on learning of my position on this measure, e-mailed to ask "Do you believe churches should be required by law to marry all couples if legal marriages are performed at all on their private property?" The First Amendment to the US Constitution, and the corresponding provision of the Arizona Constitution, already prohibit the state to interfere in the marriage rites of religions. No amendment to the State constitution is needed to prevent the State from mandating that any religious organization marry homosexuals, just as none is required to prevent the State from mandating that Jewish temples marry Hindu couples. (Curiously, we do not hear the opposite complaint from these people, that the failure to recognize as civil marriage the religious marriage of e.g. homosexual Unitarian Universalist couples is an interference with religion.)

Confusion runs deeper, still. Many in the Ron Paul Mouse Army believe that the matter is mere Culture War and that gays can simply draw up a contract and be married. There is no possible private contract in our current legal order that carries with it the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Still others see this as an acceptable legislatively-sponsored compromise when compared to 2006's Proposition 107 initiative. Proposition 107, which would have forbid the State or any subdivision thereof to recognize both gay marriage and civil unions or domestic partnerships, was definitively defeated by the voters.

Unlike 2006's Proposition 107, Prop 102 leaves the "civil union" option open, but "civil unions" are but a second class "civil marriage". They are not portable between the states, they often (due to inertia) do not carry the same weight with employer-based insurance plans (yet another reason to move away from employer-based insurance!), they do not put homosexual couples on equal footing with heterosexuals for income tax purposes, nor for inheritance purposes, nor for immigration purposes. Civil unions and domestic partnerships can't even reliably prevent malicious outsiders from interfering with hospital visitation.

Even if we defeat Prop. 102, homosexual couples will still not be afforded equal rights in Arizona. But the defeat of Proposition 102 leaves the option open, for the next Legislature or some future, more humane Legislature to grant equal rights to homosexual couples. I strongly encourage you to vote it down and to advertise publicly, to your friends and co-workers, on your own 'blog, or on Facebook, that you are voting it down.

While you're at it, if you live in Congressional District 8, vote for one of the opponents of Tim Bee, a co-sponsor of this legislatively-referred constitutional amendment (LRCA). Incumbent Gabrielle Giffords is alright, but has shown that she is no Jim Kolbe. Coffee-shop owner and longshot Libertarian candidate Paul Davis could, on the other hand, fill Kolbe's shoes if given the chance, and deserves even a symbolic show of support.

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