Saturday, November 1, 2008

Letter to the Authors of Proposition 8

Mr. Ron Prentice, President
California Family Council
1107 9th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

Ms. Rosemarie Avila
Santa Ana Unified School District
1601 East Chestnut Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92701-6322

Bishop George McKinney
St. Stephen's Cathedral COGIC
5825 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, CA 92114

November 1, 2008

Dear Mr. Prentice, Ms. Avila, Bishop McKinney:

In less than 72 hours now, California Voters will go to the polls to decide, among other things, whether to take away the rights of a number of California citizens granted to them by the California Constitution. This move is opposed by California’s Republican governor, by the probable next president, Barack Obama, and vice-president, Joe Biden, by former president Clinton, by both of California’s Senators, Feinstein and Boxer, by dozens of religious organizations, the California NAACP, the California Teachers’ Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Labor Federation, the United Farm Workers, the California Psychiatric Association, the California Psychological Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Black Justice Coalition, the mayors of its biggest cities, and by virtually all of California’s major newspapers.

You, on the other hand, are the voice of Proposition 8.

In reading what you put forward in argument for your case in the California General Election Official Voter Information Guide, I found myself increasingly incredulous line by line as I read what you had to say.

Because I believe you are people of sincerity, I hope you will read what I have to say in response to your comments. This is a terribly important issue. If there is even the slightest chance of a dialogue between us, I would not want to pass up the opportunity to talk with you across the divide.

Here is my understanding of the weaknesses I believe I have found in your argument. I have reproduced your words in boldface, and added my comments.

Proposition 8 is simple and straightforward. It contains the same 14 words that were previously approved in 2000 by over 61% of California voters: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
The California Supreme Court found that ruling unconstitutional, and unconstitutional it would be if 99% of the voters had supported it. Secondly, it cannot have escaped your attention that this Prop. 8 race is running neck and neck, and that the 61% figure has not represented California opinion for some time now. ABC News reported in May that the number of supporters of gay marriage had risen to 51%.
How people will vote on November 4th still remains to be seen, but, win or lose, if you want to impress us with numbers, the 61% number is way out of date.

And, dare I ask, if it is the will of the California voter that is your concern, why are you seeking and getting so much support from the good people of Utah?

Because four activist judges in San Francisco wrongly overturned the people’s vote, we need to pass this measure as a constitutional amendment to RESTORE THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE as a man and a woman (sic).
What, exactly, do you mean by “activist” judges? The Supreme Court has the duty to review legislative and judicial decisions and determine whether they are in tune with the Constitution. That’s their job. That’s why we have three branches of government, each put in place to maintain checks and balances. For a judge to rule badly, he or she would have to violate the constitution, ignore precedent, or show a consistent lack of judicial restraint (i.e., overturn an excessive number of laws passed by the legislature). None of this applies in the May 15 ruling, or to any of the judges in question, and that suggests your notion of an “activist judge” is little more than a judge whose decision you do not agree with. Wrongly overturned the people’s vote? You have not demonstrated that at all.

As for “restore the definition of marriage,” marriage remains what it always has been – a joining of two people, traditionally a man and a woman, but increasingly in modern times (starting in the Netherlands in 2001) extended to same-sex couples. As the Supreme Court indicated, it is not the state’s responsibility to define marriage, but it is its responsibility to assure the rights of its citizens.

Proposition 8 is about preserving marriage; it’s not an attack on the gay lifestyle. Proposition 8 doesn’t take away any rights or benefits of gay or lesbian domestic partnerships. (Details in next three sentences deleted.)
To preserve means to keep. Marriage isn’t being lost. On the contrary, it is being embraced by a much larger number of people than before. “Gay lifestyle” is a phrase gay people find both stupid and offensive. Imagine a “Jewish lifestyle,” an “African-American lifestyle.” It dismisses a highly complex population, including doctors, lawyers, senators, airplane pilots, farmers, priests, PTA parents and rocket scientists and reduces us all to people who spend all our time in bars seeking sex, eating brunch or decorating other people's apartments. It is a term which reveals an unkindness on your part and a lack of information.

As for not taking away any rights, if that were true, then there would be no harm in removing your right to marry, and replacing it with a legal contract limited to property rights. If that were to happen (if you were no longer allowed to marry) you would find a number of your rights had slipped away, including the following (and the list is not exhaustive):
  1. Your relationship would not be recognized outside your home state. If you were to move to another state, you could not dissolve that union without returning to your home state;
  2. If you created a domestic partnership with a foreign national, that person would not acquire the right to immigrate to the U.S., as he or she would if the two of you were marrying;
  3. You could not file a joint income tax with the federal government;
  4. You would not acquire social security benefits from your partner’s social security, even if you lived together and shared a domestic economy for fifty years, with your breadwinner partner paying into the system.
If you wanted to share tax breaks, insurance policies, the right to visit your dying partner in the hospital and make the decision to pull the plug, you might get these rights by having a lawyer draw up a contract, but married people get them automatically without having to pay the thousands of dollars domestic partners have to pay for the same thing. You are simply wrong in stating there is no difference between marriage and domestic partnerships.

YES on Proposition 8 does three simple things:

It restores the definition of marriage to what the vast majority of California voters already approved and human history has understood marriage to be.
Human history? For much of American history women were subject to the coverture law, often described this way: “Husband and wife were one person as far as the law was concerned, and that person was the husband.” Each time you cite history, you open the door to all sorts of examples of patriarchal abuse in marriage. Marriage is what any given society says it is at any given time; the institution of marriage, as any social historian can tell you, has never been a single set of practices throughout all the ages. I’ve already addressed the “vast majority” part.

It overturns the outrageous decision of four activist Supreme Court judges who ignored the will of the people.
You said that before. Outrageous? Many of us danced and drank champagne. We do not all go to the same church, eat the same rice and beans, support the same causes. America’s strength is its diversity. The majority of Californians did not find the decision outrageous.

It protects our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage.”
Lots of non-Catholic kids go to Catholic schools nowadays, because of the generally high quality education. When little Rachel comes home from school and says Sister St. Paul of the Cross told her Jesus died for her sins, Rachel’s Jewish mother can say, “We don’t believe that, dear.” Anybody living in a pluralist society (do you not want to live in a pluralist society?) needs to know how many different ways people have of arranging their lives. Keeping information from your children is not protecting them. It is keeping them unaware and uninformed. Having a teacher reveal to your child that the law allows two people of the same sex to marry in California (or elsewhere) is not the same thing as saying, “And you must approve of these marriages.” Do you also not want your child to know that people of the same sex are allowed to marry in Canada, just across the border? If not, why not?

Proposition 8 protects marriage as an essential institution of society. While death, divorce, or other circumstances may prevent the ideal, the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father.
That may be true; it may not be true. In either case, it is not relevant here. What is at stake here is the civil right of a California citizen to marry the person of his or her choice. Every citizen now has that right. You would take it away from one group and allow it to remain for another. If you have your way, children will still be raised in single parent families, in gay families with two mothers or two fathers (plus virtually always a considerable number of other relatives and friends who provide care and education for the children), and in abusive heterosexual parent families, as well as in families you might consider ideal. This law would take away rights without helping children one bit.

The narrow decision of the California Supreme Court isn’t just about “live and let live.” State law may require teachers to instruct children as young as kindergarteners about marriage. (Education Code § 51890.) If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, TEACHERS COULD BE REQUIRED to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage.
We should not accept a court decision that may result in public schools teaching our kids that gay marriage is okay. That is an issue for parents to discuss with their children according to their own values and beliefs. It shouldn’t be forced on us against our will.
There is nothing in the education code that requires children in kindergarten or any other class to be taught anything about health and family issues without their parents’ permission. Parents may review class content at any time and remove children from instruction they disapprove of. As for teaching “no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage,” you clearly mean you want your children to learn gay marriage is wrong. If that’s what you want, you are free to teach them that, just as you can teach them that playing with “African-American/Arab/Catholic/Jewish children” is wrong or speaking Spanish is wrong, if that is your belief. Your children, like anybody else’s children, will learn from their peers that there are different ways of looking at the world. There are two obvious differences between gay marriage and what you call “traditional marriage” – the sexes are different, and gay marriage reflects a change in attitude toward gay people. Kids already know that and talk freely about it. Withholding information from them accomplishes absolutely nothing. You need to talk with your children and tell them what you think about these changes, not pretend they are not happening.
This is a civil rights issue.. We are making an effort to keep rights intact that have been found in the Constitution. These are ideas. Nobody is forcing you to do or say or believe anything against your will. It is you who would force us to live as second-class citizens again, as we did when homophobia was the rule, and not a dying prejudice.

Some will try to tell you that Proposition 8 takes away legal rights of gay domestic partnerships. That is false. Proposition 8 DOES NOT take away any of those rights and does not interfere with gays living the lifestyle they choose. However, while gays have the right to their private lives, they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.
In the American legal tradition, that which is not expressly forbidden is allowed. You say we have no rights here. Where in the Constitution (or anywhere else) is that right to define forbidden?

CALIFORNIANS HAVE NEVER VOTED FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. If gay activists want to legalize gay marriage, they should put it on the ballot. Instead, they have gone behind the backs of voters and convinced four activist judges in San Francisco to redefine marriage for the rest of society. That is the wrong approach.
Californians have not had to vote for same-sex marriage. It was people like you who were opposed to same-sex marriage that put the issue to a referendum that led to the decision in 2000 which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional. Gone behind the backs of voters? Convinced four activist judges? Nobody went behind anybody’s back. The Supreme Court took up the issue and listened to lawyers on both sides debate the issue as they debate any issue, in public, with thousands of people looking on. Their probing questions revealed the scope of their thinking. They invited and read dozens of amicus briefs, listened to three hours of legal reasoning citing legal precedent, and then took three months to reach their decision. To suggest that four Supreme Court judges would all allow themselves to subvert the law or be “convinced” by gay activists to ignore the law might just well be the greatest insult these honorable (majority Republican, by the way) men and women have ever been subjected to. You have no reason to fault any part of their decision other than the fact you do not agree with their decision.

This is the second time you mention San Francisco. Why? Is there something wrong with San Francisco? San Francisco is where the Supreme Court is located. Where else would they meet?

Voting YES on Proposition 9 RESTORES the definition of marriage that was approved by over 61% of voters. Voting YES overturns the decision of four activist judges. Voting YES protects our children.
Please vote YES on Proposition 9 to RESTORE the meaning of marriage.
The definition of marriage will remain the same. The benefits of marriage will remain the same if Proposition 8 loses. If Proposition 8 passes, those benefits will be taken away from people who now enjoy the benefits of marriage.

Your children are not at risk. The only thing at risk is the right of adult California citizens to marry. Shame on you for using children as a tool to gain your ends.

Yours sincerely,

Alan J. McCornick

No comments: