October 20, 2008

why are they so scared?

Over the weekend, my wife acquired a half dozen "No on 8" signs. We have never put a political sign in our yard before, but when we saw a "Yes on 8" sign in a yard up our street recently, we could not hold back any longer.

California's proposition 8, if you aren't aware, would amend California's constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. It is not about the sanctity of marriage; at its core, it is about codifying discrimination. It is about fear and bigotry. It is about denying a certain minority population from enjoying the rights and freedoms afforded to the mainstream. In short, it exists to outlaw homosexual marriage.

The family with the "Yes on 8" sign recently moved to California from Oregon and intend to leave California after two years. But while they're here, they are taking a stand. My assumption is that they are part of the Mormon Church's coordinated support of prop 8 since they have a BYU sticker on their car. (NO. I'm not suggesting they moved here just for this proposition. That would be absurd.)

My family had a spirited discussion of this proposition last night. My mother-in-law described a TV ad that is run on channels she watches (I mostly stick to football and soccer, which means I see a lot of beer ads). In this ad, a little girl comes home from school with a book about two boy frog princes that get married, and she proudly squeals to her very concerned mom, "I can marry a princess!"

The implication is, of course, that without this constitutional amendment, our schoolteachers will be legally obligated to turn our children gay.

First, the proposition does not impact school curriculum, free speech, censorship of ideas, or the widely accepted ethic of teachers not to impose personal ideology, religion, lifestyle, or politics on other people's children. The proposition simply outlaws gay marriage. Teachers will still be free to present the same book. Whether they do or not will still be based on all the same criteria they use currently. The ad implies that this amendment would give parents legal backing to ban such books. Not true.

Second, this ad clearly demonstrates that this proposition is not about the sanctity of marriage. It's about the terror that someone could turn your child into a homosexual.

I have known or know now about 20 openly gay men and women, many of whom have been in long-term, committed, exclusive relationships for longer than many of the heterosexual marriages I've seen fall apart. Not a one of them "chose a gay lifestyle." It's who they are, just like "bald white guy" is who I am. There's no choice about it. No one taught them to be gay. No one taught me to be bald.

Why are these people so scared? When my first son was born, a coworker of a friend had a baby daughter at the same time. Someone remarked, "Oh, they can grow up and get married!" Another friend leaned to me and whispered, "Hold on, we don't even know if he's straight yet." That really made me think. And she was right--we didn't know. And I'm not sure when a child knows. But right then I realized it would not matter to me. I want both my boys to grow up happy, successful, honest, generous, compassionate, and intelligent. They should have the right to pick their own partner and make a public commitment to that partner.

I keep imagining that little girl in the commercial. What if she's homosexual? And what if her mom has voted for a law that aggressively discriminates against her? How could a parent support a law that would reduce her own child's possibility for happiness? Are people so motivated by their own prejudice and fear that they would harm their children's happiness?

Equality for all. If you're in California and are eligible to vote, I urge you to make sure you vote NO on proposition 8. Don't let the bigots codify discrimination.


Maria Dudley said...

Thanks for blogging this -- your intelligent commentary probably does more good than the one sign I put in our yard and the 5 more signs in the back of my car. (Hey, if anyone wants one, I'm giving most of them away in the next couple of days!)

JaneyV said...

Pete - this is such a great post. Not just because it cuts through the BS of discrimination and the politics of fear but because you are such a great example of the way in which we should love and support our children and our fellow human beings.

Thanks ;0)

Blogless Troll said...

The implication is, of course, that without this constitutional amendment, our schoolteachers will be legally obligated to turn our children gay.

That's a great line. The only way to believe that implication is through fear and ignorance. Even if it were true, how could someone possibly think it would work? Turning our children smart is a big enough challenge for schoolteachers.

There is already a law against same sex marriage in Florida, but we've got the same type amendment on the ballot this year too. I don't know how it works in CA, but in Florida constitutional amendments now require 60% to pass. BUT, if an amendment does pass, the courts can't overturn it and the only way to get rid of it is with another amendment. So since it's already illegal, this is just an extra big Fuck You to gay people. And it's exactly what you said it is: codifying discrimination.

(NO. I'm not suggesting they moved here just for this proposition. That would be absurd.)

That never crossed my mind until you didn't suggest it. But now that you're not suggesting it, it wouldn't surprise me at all if that's what they weren't, er, were doing.

Anyway, Sarah posted about this a while back and like I told her, I'll be voting NO. Probably several times.

Great post!

writtenwyrdd said...

Prejudice keeps raising its ugly head.

I lived in SF for 12 years and between there and here in Maine more of the gay and lesbian couples I know have surpassed the 10-year mark, some working on 20 or more years together. I managed 5 with my marriage.

Anonymous said...

A blogger you would like - I found him through Sarah Laurenson's blog:


Phoenix Sullivan said...

Well, Pete, after that post, I think I may have to take your blog off my Google Reader list. I mean, you hide it so well, what with the hats and all. I mean, sure, you're a great dad, a good writer, and an all-around righteous dude in every other respect. But you say it like it doesn't matter. And, you know, it does. I just can't be having a bald guy for a blogging bud. Sheesh, next you'll want special privileges, like tax deductions for your baseball caps. Or you'll want me to boycot Rogaine. Sorry. Maybe if you tried just a little harder to not be bald. Then I could continue to read your blog. Until then, I'm afraid--

Well, I'm just afraid.

Sarah Laurenson said...

From the bottom of our hearts, my wife and I thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just an honest question...feel free to delete or ignore:

You parse the ad smartly and take a strong stand against Prop 8. Given your position, though, what do you think about the Boy Scouts and their policies?

PJD said...

Anon, that's a terrific question and one about which I am, quite honestly, conflicted.

I abhor the policy of the Boy Scouts regarding gays. I don't mind saying that to anyone at any time, even when I'm wearing my cub scout leader uniform.

On the other hand, I see so much good available to my children in the scouts. They and I have both learned a tremendous amount about so many things over the past few years that I would hate to throw out all those babies with the single tub of bath water.

What I have found locally, also, is that the discriminatory policy stated so clearly and unequivocally on the BSA web site is pretty much ignored. I know that if a gay boy wanted to join my den, I would welcome him. I think the other leaders would as well. There is a gay single father in my neighborhood, and if he wanted to be a scout leader, I would welcome him.

Our society is filled with situations that are self-conflicting. Just ask Dick Cheney about his gay daughter, or the Catholic priest who is voting for Obama.

So yes, I'm conflicted about being a leader in an organization that has a written anti-gay policy. But I prefer to take all the good BSA does and reject that policy. If they strip me of my leader status, that's their right as a private organization. But I don't support completely boycotting an organization on a single issue... even one as important as discrimination.

(BSA also has an anti-athiest policy--to be a scout or leader, you must profess a belief in "God." I have a difficult time with this policy as well as it pretty clearly states that I should not be a uniformed leader as I don't profess a belief in one God.)

pacatrue said...

Well said.

Stacy said...

Great post, Pete. Makes me wish I was already in L.A. so I could help vote this thing down. Alas, it's two years away.

bluesugarpoet said...

One note about Boy Scouts - it's easier to make change from the inside out and not the other way around. That's one reason why I teach. but that's just my opinion...

I think that people who are afraid of gay people probably don't know any gay people. It's one thing to have differing opinions regarding how a person ought to live his or her life, but it's something else entirely to make that belief into a law.