Why You Should Care About Proposition 8

10 years ago

Hi, I'm just your average straight woman living across the United States in suburban Maryland and I care about California's Proposition 8. Enough to write about it, enough to donate money to help ensure that it doesn't pass, enough to ask you to do the same.

Why?

Because it's not truly about watering down the definition of marriage or what they may or may not teach in schools or same-sex relationships. This is about discrimination against a group of people.

For 2 1/2 years on my blog, I've played with the word inclusivity. Did you know this word came into the lexicon in 1939? I can't think of a less inclusive time in world history. How many dozens of countries participated in a war which at one root was about the desire to discriminate? And yet we created this word--inclusivity: the quality or state of being inclusive. It probably won't surprise you when you consider humanity's long and sordid history of discrimination to discover that the word exclusivity was invented first thirteen years earlier in 1926.

I strive for inclusivity because I can. Because I'm a human being and I can choose how I treat other people. We've taught our twins, "we want you to be kind because you can be and not mean because you can be." Because the power is always in their hands--how they'll treat another person, how they'll make another person feel, and how they'll give respect to all people and animals.

What do we teach our children with Proposition 8? That it's okay to change the Constitution if you feel like discriminating?

Proposition 8 is an initiative on the California ballot which is titled: "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." The goal of the proposition is to change California's Constitution to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry and state that the only marriages recognized occur between a man and a woman. Yes, progressive California, the same state that struck down a 1948 law that would ban interracial marriage (the first time this was ever done in the US) is now moving to remove rights and ban same-sex marriages.

Why now? Well, this has been an ongoing battle in California, but the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 (remember that one, back from 2000?) was unconstitutional this past May. Proposition 22 stated that a marriage is between a man and a woman and the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the equal protection clause in the Constitution. In other words, the California Supreme Court whose job it is to uphold the Constitution of the state looked at the fact that a group was being singled out and having laws created that removed their rights and they said that it didn't honour the rules and principles decided upon by the people of California.

Here's the thing: you can't say you don't want discrimination and then have discrimination.

So, the point of this amendment is to change what the Constitution says. If it passes, the first Article will have a line that goes between the equal protection clause and the nondiscrimination in business clause that would read:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

 
In other words, pay no attention to that part in the Constitution that states: "A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens." Or to the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution that states on the Federal level:

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.

Frankly, this vote in California scares me.

Because once you start down that slippery slope of saying a group isn't protected under the Constitution, it opens the door for other groups to be discriminated against. And people have fought too long and too hard to have equal rights given to all citizens in America to move backwards towards restricting rights.

But what about civil unions? Why does it have to be marriage?

I'm glad you asked.

Marriage is recognized across state lines. In other words, even if my state has these marriage laws and your state has those marriage laws, our states have both agreed to recognize the rights afforded by the other state.

Civil unions are not recognized across state lines. Any rights that a married couple would have are not extended to those with civil unions once they leave their state. Civil unions also have different guidelines for dissolution, they have no sponsorship abilities when it comes to immigration, and civil union couples cannot file taxes jointly. You also, of course, can't get any of the tax benefits afforded to married couples. Or many of the benefits that are given to married couples for that matter: family insurance, sick leave to care for a family member, visitation rights in the hospital, or Social Security benefits.

Which is why I don't support civil unions and why I do support marriage. After all, it would definitely suck if someone told me tomorrow that I couldn't be married but they'd offer me a nice civil union instead.

This argument, of course, isn't about whether marriage should exist at all or whether those married should get more benefits than those who choose never to enter into marriage. This is simply about leaving the door open to everyone who wants to step through it.

I never want my rights removed which is why I don't remove the same rights from others.

But why does it have to be marriage? Well, I think you know the answer. Because how would you feel if someone told you that that they're not going to count your love and commitment? If your children were counted as a non-family? If you didn't have the option to get insurance as a family? If you didn't have any rights to your child? Because this is the fate that same-sex couples in California are currently staring in the face. And it's scary. And it's disheartening to think that lawmakers believe that the way to strength families and marriage is to deny that people have a family or marriage.

But you don't have to listen to a straight woman in suburban Maryland. There is a myriad of bloggers out there all speaking out against Proposition 8. Lesbian Dad has been providing a roundup of posts, information, and fundraising to help defeat Proposition 8. Her online fundraising is only $2,000 away from her goal of $10,000.

Goal Thermometer

Why a fundraising effort? Because 9% of Californians are still undecided on this issue and you better believe the sponsors of this bill are working long and hard to present their side. Those opposing Proposition 8 need to be given the means to present their case to that undecided 9% who will be deciding the fate of the California Constitution.

Lesbian Dad writes:

Up and down the state, for the next two weeks, parents like me — as well as our friends, family, and allies — are staying up late, calling and writing everyone we know, begging them to write everyone they know. Vote! Don’t forget about us when Obama is called the winner before the California polls close!...“Please, I’m begging you,” we say. And we mean it...Because it feels like a war. When religion is used to turn people from other people, which it has been Sunday after Sunday, from pulpit after pulpit in this state, I call that unholy.

Whiskey in my Sippy Cup has a gorgeous post with the refrain: "THIS IS THE TIME FOR LOVE TO STEP UP AND SHOW HATE HOW TO DANCE." Queen of Spain writes: "I’m seeing YES ON PROP 8 signs in my neighborhood and I have half a mind to knock on their doors and ask them why they think bigotry is ok. Why they think denying rights to others is ok. Why they think their family is better than any other family."

Badgermama tells her child: "In fact, I didn't have a good explanation for Moomin as to why anyone would fight against other people's rights, other than, 'privilege' - they have it, and they want to keep it, and that means, they have to take it away from someone else." Count Mockula wrote of a sign defacing that turned out to be a thank you note.

When I started this post, I thought about how it's much easier for me to write about family building as the infertility and adoption contributing editor at BlogHer. I didn't know if I could find the words to express why this is important to me. And why it's important to me is contained inside a Grace Paley essay that she wrote about the parent's heart and how it is obtained long before someone is actually a parent.

Part of the story is Paley's ride from New York to Miami Beach in 1943. Paley is sitting in the last seat in the white section. An African-American woman gets on the bus, holding a sleeping child. All of the white men in the white section let this woman and child stand. Paley offers the woman her seat but the woman demurs. Finally, Paley tells her that she'll hold the baby. And the woman, from sheer exhaustion, gives Paley her child and continues to stand next to her.

I was at a reading when Paley read this story and we were a few months into starting treatments. And I couldn't breathe when she talked about holding this child. "I liked holding him, aligning him along my twenty-year-old young woman's shape. I thought ahead to that holding, that breathing together that would happen in my life if this war would ever end."

As she held the baby, one of the white men leans forward and says, "Lady, I wouldn't of touched that thing with a meat hook."

And I started sobbing, not just from disgust, but from this idea that I didn't know how I could live in a world where someone couldn't appreciate a child. Where I wanted to parent so badly and would have done anything to hold any child. And this man would speak about that child like that.

And that is exactly how I feel about Proposition 8. I just cannot believe that I live in a world where lawmakers can place one child (because you better believe this is about children as well), family, love over another.

Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of more than 1500 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is also an editor at Bridges, the awareness consortium. The next IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week) opens on November 1st.

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