Getting it Wrong on Prop 8

This weekend, a number of dear friends, some straight, some gay, will be picketing in front of Los Angeles City Hall, venting their anger at an empty building. The protesters are furious about the passage of Proposition 8, which amends the California Constitution to permit holy matrimony solely between a man and a woman. Prop 8 is a baleful, mean-spirited blow to egalitarianism, and I voted against it, since I believe that homosexuals ought to have the opportunity to be as miserable as most heterosexuals.

California is allegedly the most progressive, reliably liberal state in the country. That voters here have approved government-sanctioned discrimination is both disheartening and puzzling — at least until one investigates the fiduciary forces supporting Prop 8, which attracted $74 million in political contributions. One of the main backers of the measure was the Church of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormons, a group whose relationship with the sacred tradition of marriage has been, shall we say, somewhat colorful and entertaining. The Catholics, who haven’t yet been bankrupted by the pedophiles in their midst, got their money in the pot, too, as did an astonishing number of African-American Christian congregants, whose capacity for irony reached new heights (or depths), as they managed to replace decades of institutional racism with sexual discrimination in one historic election.

Now that the insidious threat to “traditional marriage” is safe from queers, the defenders of virtue can get back to business. And there’s the rub: Prop 8 foes have refused to go quietly. In addition to the picketing of government offices, furious Prop 8 opponents are organizing boycotts of businesses who contributed to the “Yes” cause. The managing director of a theatre company was “outed” and forced to resign when an analysis of public records revealed that he had given $1,000 to exclude homos from saying “I do.” The hostess of a popular Hollywood Mexican restaurant was reduced to tears and subsequently fled town. A chain of health food stores, a car dealership, a real estate company –all have felt the wrath of folks who are offended by the unequal distribution of liberty.

A Mr. Ron Prentice, from, which, sadly, hasn’t yet figured out how to stop 50% of divorce-crazy heteros from debasing the blessed sacrament, complained to the newspapers that boycotters were “unabashedly trampling on the rights of others.” (He, like his African-American brothers and sisters, is blissfully immune Two old ladies in lovefrom the whole irony concept.) Prentice said, “No matter your opinion of Proposition 8, we should all agree that it is wrong to intimidate and harass churches, businesses, and individuals for participating in the democratic process.”

Actually, he’s wrong. When one group successfully relegates another to 2nd Class Citizenry, there’s an implicit declaration of Us versus Them, the privileged and the disenfranchised, and it is imperative for the oppressed group to identify and resist those who would attempt to marginalize them. Americans vote with their wallets. Prop 8 passed, in large measure, because a well-funded group of bigots spent a staggering amount of money to influence and activate like-minded bigots. Withholding money from those who withhold equal rights is the easiest and most effective way of demonstrating just how wide and intractable the gulf is between Them and Us.

Opponents of Prop 8 are wrong, too. The election, from all accounts, was a fair one, devoid of chicanery. The voters voted, and 52% of them, a clear majority, wanted to exclude gays from having husbands and wives. To demand that the legislature invalidate the results would be as undemocratic as a bunch of rednecks lobbying the Supreme Court to overturn the election of President Obama. (OK, bad example; they sort of did such a thing in 2004, in Florida.) The righteous fury we’re seeing this weekend in the picket lines needed to be harnessed and exploited a month ago, when it mattered, before the November 4 balloting. Now, the massive group wailing against a valid election is like a psychiatric Gestalt scream: it makes the patient feel a little better, but his childhood will still be lacking Mom and Dad’s love.

Discrimination, it’s been said, is bred from ignorance. Instead of flashing signs and brandishing megaphones at symbolic edifices, those who oppose Prop 8 should focus their energy on educating their fellow citizens, including the zealots of all religious persuasions who have been led to believe that God loves some folks more than others. When enough Americans understand that homosexuality is not a choice, that fags and dykes can love as passionately as straights, that the concept of till death do us part appeals to romantics of every sexual preference, then the prospect of marriage for adults of every imaginable demographic will seem as reasonable and natural as a “colored” man serving as President of the United States.

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