Thursday, May 28, 2009

California Supreme Court Upholds Prop 8

Discrimination Against Gays and Mormon-Bashing Equally Distasteful

West Steps

It was a hot Sacramento day in the late spring of 2009, when the California state Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold a the discriminatory Proposition 8, voted into law in 2008, invalidating same-sex marriages. But the demonstrators gathered on the Capitol building’s west steps seemed less drained than energized by the heat – as if our skin were made of photovoltaic cells.

The large crowd marched from the Gay and Lesbian center on L Streets with signs reading “ImaginEquality,” “Second Class Citizen,” “Trash 8,” and “‘I Do’ Support the Freedom to Marry.’” We shouted, chanted, sang, cheered, and showed our solidarity. We were addressed by the flamboyant and hilarious State Assembly member Tom Ammiano, couples married after the 2008 Supreme Court decision gave them that right, reverends, and organizers.

Sweat dripped into our eyes, and a thin woman wrapped in a rainbow flag grinned. Couples held hands.

Across the street, a small group – noticeably reduced in size since the rallies following the election – held pro-Prop 8 signs and chanted, “Celebrate Prop 8!”

I didn’t see much to celebrate. We were there because we were incensed by the court ruling… Nonetheless, we also gathered in a spirit of solidarity, love, and levity.

A temporary setback is what yesterday was.

“The arc of history is long,” a speaker quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “but it bends toward justice.”

Quit Mormon-Bashing, Friends.

I realize there are many issues surrounding Proposition 8, ranging from our electoral system and constitution to the debate surrounding the institution of marriage itself… but the one in particular I want to address is this recent bout of Mormon bashing.

I don’t like it.

First and foremost, why make hypocrites of ourselves by stooping to the level of those whose points we disagree with by using their tools - i.e. thoughtless vitriol, broad-brush painting, and bigotry? These are the very acts we disparage.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t boycott select businesses that supported Prop 8. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strongly voice our values and perspectives. But I am saying we don’t need to be jerks about it.

My second point is: it's not just the Mormons, folks. Plenty of other groups and individuals voted for Prop 8. And perhaps in that way, we supporters of same-sex marriage, religious and non-religious alike, should take a long, hard look at our approach. How can we better work with religious and other communities to show them our perspective?

Among the fallacies passed off as truth by pro-Prop 8 advertisements during the campaign season was the idea that schools would be forced to teach same-sex marriage to students. The fear played upon was that same-sex couples would be “forcing their lifestyle” upon the general population. Interestingly enough, most same-sex couples would argue that not allowing them to marry is, in effect, discriminating against them by forcing a mainstream idea – a straight lifestyle – upon them. This is a perfect instance in which simple grassroots efforts can be effective. Both debunking the forcible teaching of same-sex marriage myth and talking to your neighbors about basic rights is a simple way to plant seeds of new ideas.

Finally, I want to state that alienating ourselves from other people is never the way to build a revolution, win an election, gain friends, or influence people. Dr. King spoke of using “an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind” as a tool to find common ground among all people:

“This oft-misunderstood concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions [and read: peaceful revolutions] have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

Pretty much every group of people has been discriminated against at one point or another – including Mormons themselves, who were historically persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices… including their marriages! Maybe at this point you’re thinking, “then they are being hypocrites!” Possibly. But instead of being pompous about it, let those of us who hold the banner of love, justice and equality, not also succumb to the base emotion of hatred or the shameful tendency to “other” those we disagree with. Instead, let us use the tools of love to find common humanity and open a dialog with anyone who might initially disagree with you with regard to Prop 8.

I know it’s cliché, but some of my best, dearest friends are Mormon, or disagree with me for some other reason about Prop 8. It is my sincere hope that they will someday see that love is love in any form, and that my hypothetical marriage to a woman would be just as valid as my hypothetical marriage to a man. But they are much more likely to see my point of view if I present it with love instead of with anger.


  1. I think to myself often why do some fear the thought of a same sex couple's being married and is it there single minded fear or the fear of not being accepted by there fellow peers. I had my internal battle and God has already carried me once in acceptance for who I am. Some follow like sheep to hold us back from becoming one and some do it because what a blow it would be to the Man meaning "medical insurance and IRS" if more people where able to become one.

    Somtimes it is OK to be angry but it isn't OK to let that anger turn into ugliness which is hard to do when all you want is to be recognized. I think the most frustrating thing that does make me angry is that the words used to support prop 8 make zero since and hold no trueness, yet they continue to use them even when it is clear that there judgement has been clouded over with fear of not wanting to let there church or fellow KKK members down.

    My favorite sign at the May 26th rally was


  2. About six months ago I had a friend on facebook who was vocally in favor of prop 8, though he doesn't live in California. He's Catholic. He and I ended up dissolving our friendship over prop 8. This has made me think a lot about what it means to be open-minded. I have almost zero friends who favor prop 8, and does this make me closed-minded? I guess it does. I prefer the company of people who believe in equality, and I don't think I should intentionally make myself uncomfortable. I don't feel tough enough for that--if I were an activist, I would want to interact with people of all different kinds of opinions and learn how to argue and feel good about bringing my views to the world. As for now, I use my zines to get my opinions out into the world in a safe, non-confrontational way.

    The way I feel about religion and religions is complicated. I harbor prejudices against certain religions, including Mormonism, but I don't know that I would bash it. I guess I don't know what bash really means. Also, it's hard to know what's a prejudice and what's a fair judgment. I think a lot of liberal atheists and liberal agnostics secretly or not so secretly consider religious people of all kinds to be irrational nuts, and sometimes I feel that way too despite my religious leanings. I don't believe that all religions are equal. I do think some are better than others, better for the world, producing more love and less hate. I guess I'm a bad or at least ignorant person for this. My mom runs a Christian preschool affiliated with a conservative Christian church, and they had a huge yellow sign out front in favor of prop 8. I hate that they have the land and power to put up such a sign and that the members of their congregation would continue to support them. I also hate that my mom supports that church with her tithing money, so in a way, she put up their sign--she's on the side of those who want to deny me the right to marry a woman. That's a difficult thing for me. But I would never say that all Christians are stupid, and I wouldn't take blue spray paint and vandalize their property the way some people did.

    What's the different between a prejudice and a rational judgment? Are some religions better than others? I can imagine a religion based on human sacrifice, for example, and should I have to give that religion equal status with all others? Those are some of the questions that have been on my mind lately.

  3. More thoughts from my friend K:

    Mormon religion started polygamy I believe during the Mormon trail. When women where left with out a husband to help raise there children and help take care of them, it is said God told men married or not to take on more than one wife to help those left behind. Once there was no need for this anymore God told the Mormons that this practice was no longer necessary and wrong. This is why you have some that still believe in polygamy and some that don't.

    When it comes to why people blame the Mormon church for prop 8 it is because:

    SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - On Election Day, LDS Church members helped pass the Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban in California.

    But now, a new internal LDS Church document has surfaced, one showing the Church's involvement and strategy going back more than a decade.

    This memo was reportedly sent from a LDS General Authority to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

    It deals with the issue of same-sex marriage and it is dated, March 4, 1997.

    Over half the funding for prop 8 came from LDS organizations which is why people feel the church should be taxed. as follows

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the “Mormon” or LDS Church) has gone too far in promoting the 2008 California Proposition 8, which would claims to amend the California state constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman in order to supersede a state supreme court opinion issued earlier this year. [Whether the proposition was a lawful amendment or a revision that cannot legally be made by a voter initiative remains an open question.]

    Section 501(c)(3) of US Code Title 26, which governs tax-exempt organizations, reads (emphasis added):

    (3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

    (The “otherwise provided” clause does not apply, as the LDS Church, being a church, is a disqualified entity as described in subsection (h).)

    The LDS church, through inciting its members to donate time and means to support Proposition 8 (resulting in millions of dollars of cash contributions from its members and countless volunteer hours), and in-kind campaign contributions to a group that supports Proposition 8, has now made a substantial part of its activities attempting to influence legislation.

    Also people did leave the LDS church after prop 8 because they where disappointed with the church.

    People don't condemn people that are Mormon in this fight they condemn the Mormon organizations.

    My moms best friend for 36 yrs is Mormon and practices it, many of my friends are in SLC where my mom lives and many of my friends are either Mormon or ex Mormons. I do not have a problem with a person that is Mormon but I do have a problem with the Mormon organization.

    I mean do people not get that Joseph Smith was a Freemason and Freemason's are part of the Illuminati.

  4. I am one of Hethre's Mormon friends. It took many years for my views on homosexuality to change, but the positive examples that I saw among members of the GLBT community have had an effect on me. Now I support gay marriage, and I also remain active in my Mormon faith.

    Hethre, I appreciate you taking the time to write this kind and thoughtful post. I want to touch on a couple points you make about Mormonism -- first, the story of Mormon polygamy is complicated; and second, I'm not sure what you mean about the Illuminati bit.

    I hope you continue to find joy in your life and in your love :)