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Web Letter

Massachusetts voters have had no opportunity to express their approval or dissent respecting same-gender marriages. The Massachusetts Supreme Court required same sex marriage in the Commonwealth in lieu of the following interpretation of the state constitution: "Barred access to the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law."

Since the same constitution prohibits ballot initiatives which contradict it, Massachusetts voters, unlike those in , for example, California, cannot vote to overturn the Supreme Court's interpretation thereof. Hence, notwithstanding that Massachusetts voters have passed petitions seeking to address the legitimacy of same-gender marriage by ballot, this has been prohibited.

Massachusetts voters' "perspective" on same-gender marriage remains unknown, notwithstanding the attempt at clairvoyance by Charles Jackson of Atlanta.

Moreover, since California civil unions provide the precise same civil rights as California civil marriage, the issue before California voters was not the civil rights of same-gender couples as Neighbor House's Jacobsen implies but the granting of the semantic, and so social/religious, approbation, normalization and sanction of same-sex unions as marriages.

There is no civil rights benefit in the transition of a California civil union to the designation of civil marriage, only a financial benefit insofar as civil union fiscal benefits are subject to federal taxation.

As racism legally sanctions the restricting or rescinding of civil rights for a particular race but Proposition 8 does not restrict or rescind civil rights for same-gender couples or, more broadly, homosexuals, support of Proposition 8 cannot be equated with racism, without culpable diminution of racism's civil and moral violations. Respect for civil justice requires distinguishing the tragic trespass of civil rights from the mere refusal to categorize as a "marriage" the full civil rights afforded in civil unions.

To equate a mild pecuniary penalty with racism's travesty of social implosion is to invite the latter, as the rising bigotry against religiously motivated voters portends.

Andrew Magni

Boston , MA

Nov 15 2008 - 12:00am

Web Letter

There is a complexity to this issue that seems continuously overlooked by authors and writers from both sides of the fence.

In America, marriage is a blend of church and state. The institution has never been distinct, insofar as the faith aspect is seen as the genesis point of the marital union and the state benefits provided are seen as state recognition of that genesis.

What this means is that to the common voter an endorsement of state gay marriage rights is a faith-based endorsement of homosexuality by virtue of their own church's participation. It has less to do with intolerance of homosexuals and more to do with a belief that this encroaches on the personal faith of those who are religiously uncertain or against the practice.

This alone explains Proposition 8. A liberal state with a powerful liberal voting base says no, not because of basic homophobia but because in an uncertain battle between personal faith and more general tolerance, faith trumps.

Andre Schmeichel

Madison, WI

Nov 13 2008 - 8:45am

Web Letter

I take issue with Richard Kim's assetion that "racial pandering" won voters for Prop 8. Don't forget, there was an African-American among those who wrote the rebuttal in favor of Prop 8 in California's voter manual. Additionally, a San Diego minister and newspaper editor was likewise against Prop 8, and believe me, he is no member of the Christian right. Perhaps one of the issues is that homosexuality continues to be, at least in the United States of America, a white, upper-class social phenomonon? (Have you ever seen a gay man or woman asking for help at a freeway exit?) Maybe president-elect Barack Obama needs to take a closer look at his "base," because all the strait-jacket ideological sloganeering in the world by a loud few cannot overturn centuries of culture and history.

John Nava

Chula Vista, CA

Nov 12 2008 - 5:49pm

Web Letter

I want to thank Richard Kim for this thoughtful contribution to the public response to the California election. It seems to me, however, that the strategic failure of the No on 8 campaigns extends far beyond the limitations of its advertising.

If LGBT rights activists and organizers want our messages to resonate with other minority communities, we need to do more than show them images of same-sex couples. We must craft an agenda that speaks across identity categories. There are many African-American, Asian and Latino/a families whose rights were lost to this ballot measure. Indeed, some policy scholars argue that the lack of relationship recognition imposes more burdens on minority LGBT Americans (who are less likely to own their homes and more likely to be raising children) than their white counterparts. Where were the efforts to engage communities of color in the initial planning of the resistance to this measure?

LGBT organizations must join forces with communities of color to both expand our ideas of what liberties are worth fighting for and to broaden our sense of who it is we ought to be fighting with. We must also acknowledge openly that there are people who may not even want to get married but who have families and relationships worth protecting, as well. Everyone, not only same-sex committed partners, deserves protection from ballot measures that seek to inscribe second-class status to a particular minority group on the most fundamental of documents meant to enshrine individual liberty--the Constitution.

Tey Meadow

Brooklyn, NY

Nov 12 2008 - 1:41pm

Web Letter

Why is it dangerous or easy to think that homophobia led to the victory of Prop 8? Is it not more dangerous and easy to do as Richard Kim does and blame gay people themselves for defeating their own civil rights, while dismissing without real comment the fact that 70 percent of African-American voters in Californian voted to keep gays separate and unequal. Let's not make excuses for it, but see it for what is is--homophobia. Is homophobia unique to the African-American community? Certainly not! Whether or not better organization, outreach and education could have overcome the homophobia that defeated gay marriage is a valid question, but blaming the victims is unacceptable.

Leigh Welper

Richland Center, WI

Nov 10 2008 - 10:14pm

Web Letter

If Prop 8 had only the votes from bigots, it would have lost by a wide margin.

One of the self-imposed political handicaps among the opposition seems to be an inability to deal with the actual structure of those who are strongly principled for traditional marriage, yet do not have any hatred or animosity toward gays as people.

Accused of being bigots, some will react by shifting to a less moderate position on what is truly a wide spectrum of opinions.

Note: Today's protest is another example in which the "culture wars" issues are being raised not by conservatives or Republicans but from the left.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Nov 10 2008 - 8:25am

Web Letter

When Prop 8 first passed in 2000, it was known as the Knight Amendment or Knight Initiative. It passed by a very large margin: 62 percent to 38 percent.

When it passed again this month after being overturned in the courts this spring, it was by a much smaller margin, 52 percent to 48 percent.

In other words, while the Mormons still won, it was a much harder fight. The climate had changed enough in eight short years to make it much harder for them to pass it. If the forces of sanity keep fighting, do better outreach, and do better at getting out the vote (San Francisco had only 53 percent turnout, outrageously low considering what was at stake), an amendment repealing Prop 8 will succeed.

Tamara Baker

St. Paul, MN

Nov 7 2008 - 8:04pm

Web Letter

The election of Barack Obama to the office of president demonstrates that we, the people, have come to doubt the false virtues of supply-side capitalism. The victory of Proposition 8 demonstrates that many of us have not yet rediscovered our true virtues, including respect toward people who, through no fault of their own, look or live differently from the rest of us. Our crisis of faith in our false virtues has yet to lead us to embrace our true ones.

The success of Proposition 8 against gay marriage mirrors the successes of similarly reactionary initiatives against affirmative action. This demonstrates, to my mind, that homophobia and racism are more or less equally entrenched. It also suggests to me that we will never win against either kind of bigotry unless we can attack both together. That sounds like a hard task, and I have no doubt that it is.

The path of progress is long and crooked. But if there's any consolation at this crossroads, it is that the forces of ignorance and bigotry had to spend huge sums of money to turn the calendar back to last May. And their task was easy: simply affirm prejudices and fears that people already have. They have also had to resort to lies, and as this slowly becomes common knowledge, their victory will slowly turn into a disgrace.

In the meantime, the LGBT community can take inspiration in the brave examples of people who are both non-white and non-straight: our living, heroic Obamas, some of whom Richard Kim has mentioned in his article. I can add that there are many equally inspiring religious people who believe, like me, that Jesus was not a homophobe, and that some of us are gay because God (in her usual, roundabout evolutionary way) made us this way. Every ideological weapon in the anti-gay arsenal is weakening. It takes a lot of money to disguise this fact.

Eric Paul Jacobsen

Neighborhood House<br />West Saint Paul, MN

Nov 7 2008 - 11:00am

Web Letter

Get over it. The California result is no different than the results in other states--no to same-sex marriage.

This issue has appeared on state ballots thirty times in the past few years and defeated thirty times by voters--by wide margins--with African-Americans accounting for a large part of those saying no.

Apparently, voters in those states that have said no have a different perspective than do those in, say, Massachusetts. So be it... it's called states' rights (Tenth Amendment to the Constitution).

Charles Jackson

Atlanta, GA

Nov 7 2008 - 7:23am

Web Letter

I live in a small agricultural town in a liberal county in the Sacramento Valley, populated by many Catholics and a large number of Mormons. Obama won here; Prop 8 lost.

The influence (i.e., money) of the Mormon church cannot be underestimated in this effort.

One of the classic, if utterly absurd, slippery-slope arguments used in the attack on gay rights is that if we permit people to marry others of the same sex, we'll next have to let them marry their dogs or marry multiple partners. The Mormon church is poised to become a dominant force in this country, and in order to do this they need to be "more traditional than thou" in the eyes of the public. What better way to show that they are not those scary polygamists than to spearhead this anti-gay movement?

The other piece of the puzzle is the ambition of Mitt Romney to challenge Obama in 2012. Part of his failure to win the nomination in this cycle was his Mormonism: too weird, too unknown, too far out of the mainstream. Not any more. Prop 8 is the trophy that proves that members of the LDS are "just like everybody else"--only more so.

I have no doubt that at the individual level, the people I know here who supported Prop 8 were motivated by sincere belief, even if they failed to understand that if they proscribe somebody else's rights today, someone will take theirs away tomorrow. But I also have no doubt that much larger political ambitions motivated those who manipulated them with fear and dishonesty into being so vocal and emotional in their willingness to blur the line between civil and religious rights.

Debbie Hemenway

Winters, CA

Nov 6 2008 - 10:20am

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