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.