Alex Blaze

I know you are but what am I

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 19, 2010 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, David Boies, gay marriage, LGBT, marriage, Prop 8 trial, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, supreme court, theordore olson, violence

The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting article up about a bizarre argument Republicans of all stripes (fundies and gay Republicans alike) have been using lately that made its way into the federal Prop 8 trial. It goes something like this:

A witness at the trial of the California initiative banning same-sex marriage was testifying that such measures reflect moral disapproval of gays and lesbians when a lawyer for Proposition 8's sponsors confronted him with the words of Barack Obama.

Marriage, the future president declared in writings and campaign appearances, is for a man and a woman.

"Is it possible for someone to have the position that he advocates and not morally disapprove of gays and lesbians?" asked attorney David Thompson.

Yes, replied George Chauncey, a Yale University historian, although he maintained that Obama clearly believed same-sex relationships to be inferior to opposite-sex unions.

Thompson's point was that Obama, and the 7 million Californians who voted for Prop. 8 in November 2008, could oppose same-sex marriage for reasons other than bigotry.

So Republicans and conservatives think that if Obama believes something, then it's got to be good? Is there any other issue where they think that?

It is possible to be against marriage generally and not be homophobic. There's a perfectly respectable position there that more people would do well to get acquainted with. It's also theoretically possible to just be against same-sex couples marrying and not "morally disapprove of gays and lesbians," although that theoretical person would have to have some other, non-morality problem with same-sex couples because making that division inherently preferences heterosexual couples over homosexual ones.

And it's entirely possible that someone who "morally disapproves of gays and lesbians" could be elected president. If the Prop 8 backers had their way, every president would morally disapprove of us.

The idea, though, is to show that they weren't motivated by prejudice. Instead, they were just motivated by their need to protect the definition of marriage. They're not haters, just dictionary fans.

If the president of the US believes something, then it can't be motivated by animosity, according to them. Personally, I don't have a hard time at all believing that a politician could be motivated by animosity towards a minority or pander to that animosity to try to win an office. It happens all the time.

It's going to be an uphill battle convincing Judge Walker, who seems to be a reasonable person, that they were only concerned that the law wouldn't follow the definition, and that all their efforts and millions of dollars were spent in California for nothing other than to protect the sanctity of the English language. Especially with stuff like this:

Their prime example has been William Tam, a San Francisco chemical engineer who was one of five official proponents of the ballot measure.

Tam, who heads the Traditional Family Coalition, sent a letter to churchgoing supporters in the Asian American community during the campaign warning that "other states would fall into Satan's hands" if Prop. 8 lost.

San Francisco's government, "under the rule of homosexuals," would legalize sex with children and prostitution, and "more children would become homosexual," Tam wrote.

At a deposition that was videotaped and played in court, Tam said he was concerned that every child would "grow up thinking whether he would marry John or Jane" if same-sex marriage were legalized. His own daughter, he said, told him "her classmates chose to become lesbians and experiment with it" after hearing about same-sex marriage.

Sounds like a fun school!

And it wasn't just Tam. It was the entire Yes on 8 campaign that was all about fear-mongering voters with "Gay marriage will mean your kids will be turned gay in school." It's laughable that they think they can convince reasonable people that they weren't motivated by bias against LGBT people.

But the case won't ultimately be decided by Judge Vaughn Walker. If he does rule that Prop 8 is invalid and that same-sex marriage is legal in California, the case will make it to the Supreme Court. And those justices have shown a propensity for buying into the dumbest right-wing arguments:

In a 17-page opinion, to which no justice's name was attached as author, the majority indicated its decision was based--not on the merits of whether this trial should be made available for public viewing, but rather because--"it appears the courts below did not follow the appropriate procedures set forth in federal law before changing their rules to allow such broadcasting."

Nevertheless, the majority recounts that Prop 8 "advocates claim that they have been subject to harassment as a result of public disclosure of their support," including death threats and boycotts. And it stated that proponents of Prop 8 "have demonstrated that irreparable harm would likely result from the District Court's actions" to make the proceedings viewable by the public.[...]

Lambda's Pizer called the Supreme Court's involvement in "extra-procedural micro meddling" over courtroom cameras and its decision to hear the Referendum 71 petitions dispute makes it "hard not to draw a bigger, bleaker conclusion" about the high court's motives. In both cases, she said, anti-gay activists are making "absurd claims" in order to secure "special protection" from the government.

"Their claims would be comical," said Pizer, "if they weren't falling on such distressingly receptive high court ears."

It is ridiculous, if we assume that fair, impartial, law-deciding robots were sitting at the Supreme Court. The claims of death threats were exaggerated, their examples of violence by gays against homophobes were oddly never followed up by police, and people not wanting to spend their money on your business shouldn't justify closing off part of the government to people who'll be able to read what the witnesses said anyway.

But if we assume that the Court is stacked with rightwing ideologues who probably watch Fox News every night, it becomes easier to understand their fears of the big bad gays. While Sotomayor came under fire for stating the obvious, that a judge's experiences do affect their decisions, the right has never shied from doing the same. Only their experiences don't count as bias because they're normal.

These are the people Boies and Olson will be asking to find a right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution. I don't have much hope.

(But Prop 8 trial might just get YouTubed anyway.)


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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 19, 2010 4:43 PM

Maybe the key word here is what the term "morally" means when talking about reasons for preferring heterosexual marriage other than "bigotry" against gays and lesbians.....but I know any number of folks who sincerely believe my partner and I should have all the rights, obligations and benefits of marriage but are just hung up on "the M word". If they are homophobic, they've hidden it under many layers, and if it stems from religious views, that isn't all that apparent anyway.

Maybe it's just a subliminal long-term conditioning brought on by wedding cake tops and the whole procreation thing. Maybe that constitutes moral disaproval, but I have a hard time seeing it a lot of people I know.