Thursday, August 5, 2010

First Reactions to Proposition 8

My initial reactions on court ruling in California overturning proposition 8 as unconstitutional are feelings of disappointment. Profoundly, this ruling has potentially larger consequences that extend beyond the borders of California affecting every state who has already passed bans on homosexual marriage, bans that the federal courts have now deemed unconstitutional.

I do not want to get into the tricky debate about whether we should equate gay and straight marriage. But let me suggest that this is not and should not be an easy debate. The problem I have with most political discussions (and I'm guilty of this too) is that we never pause to consider the other side. I think the conservative point of view shares some blame in this. If you scream too loud and too long and make thoughtless assumptions about the other side, resorting too quickly to ad hominum attacks, don't be surprised to see these tactics returned.

I guess my biggest worry is that those on the left side of this debate will try to make the case that the case for gay marriage is exactly the same as the case for interracial marriage back in the day. Which follows that churches and other institutions and individuals against gay marriage are making the same bad mistakes as those who made the case against interracial marriages in the past.

I would hope that its obvious or at least that you consider it may be obvious to some that the differences between gender is far more different than the differences of skin color.

And if we start making laws from the bench effectively removing these discussions from the public discourse (no matter how messy or hard the latter course may be) it hurts both sides of this and other issues. You lose trust and you sabotage what a democracy should be all about.

This was the fundamental tragedy of Roe v. Wade, in my opinion. Abortion is a very tough issue, involving tricky, religious arguments about when life begins, when the baby has a claim on civil and constitutional protections. When the courts made this issue all about the woman's rights, it ripped this issue out of the public discourse and actually made it more polarizing not less.

This is different than the civil rights cases, some of which were decided by courts because those were legitimate violations of constitutional rights. Now, how many churches out there ban interracial marriages? Maybe they exist, but they are widely scorned and marginalized.

But many churches do have strong and legitimate religious reasons for being against gay marriage. Does this mean that state and federal law should follow certain church beliefs on this issue? No. But it would be much better if this issue could be decided in a democratic forum and not dictated by judicial fiat.

The judicial ruling needs to be overturned. Lets continue the discussions recognizing that both sides of the issue have legitimate points of view.

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