June 03, 2008

Anti-Marriage Amendment Proposal Will Be on California Ballot

The moon-faced assassins of joy have achieved a goal on their way to having a say in which consenting monogamous adults can marry which other consenting monogamous adults in California. It may not be exactly the result they were looking for, though.

Initiative to ban gay marriage is on ballot

A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California was placed on the Nov. 4 ballot Monday, kick-starting an election struggle that will have repercussions across the nation.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen's certification of the initiative, which would amend the state Constitution to limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman, comes as no surprise to either side of the same-sex marriage issue.

When backers of the initiative, who needed 694,354 valid signatures to make the ballot, turned in more than 1.1 million signatures, the only question was when the certification would come...

Opponents of same-sex marriage already are arguing that the court should not have overturned the vote of the people on same-sex marriage and have said they are confident that their fall campaign will draw support not only from voters in California but from citizens across the nation...
Not from this one.
A Field Poll released last week showed that for the first time in 30 years of polling on the gay marriage question, a majority of Californians now supports same-sex marriage and a more voters are unwilling to overturn the state Supreme Court decision...
The Field Poll mentioned can be viewed online, and it should be noted that another poll contradicts the reported result. The Field Poll shows the kinds of divisions among respondents that one might expect. Younger respondents were far more likely to support same-sex marriage and oppose the anti-marriage amendment than were those 65 and over. Self-described Born Again Christians overwhelmingly disapprove of same-sex marriage and support was also concentrated in big cities along the coast.

A decisive percentage who oppose amending the state's constitution appear to do so not out of personal support for same-sex marriage but based upon a general leeriness of amending the constitution in the first place. I hope that's a response conditioned at least in some of these people by an opposition to the notion that a constitution should be used to take away rights that a court, in interpreting the constitution in its current form, has said that the targeted minority already possesses. In a democracy, the proper role of a constitution is to ensure that the same rights are guaranteed to all those governed by it, not to carve up the populace into groups that do or don't get equal treatment according to the whims of other groups that seek to reserve those rights to themselves. I have yet to see an explanation of why the state has a compelling interest in insuring that marriage is defined as "one man, one woman" or that personal distaste or religious belief should be allowed a say in the matter of who has what rights. It's not as if allowing the marriage of two adults over the age of majority compels anyone else to enter into such an agreement anymore than allowing two consenting adults to engage in non-procreative sex forces other adults to do so. No one has yet demonstrated any causative principle by which same-sex marriage causes any more or any less harm to others than opposite-sex marriage. As far as I have ever been able to tell, the whole basis for opposition boils down to nothing more than a desire to see personal notions of morality enforced as law.

Part of this, I think, is a bit of desperation on the part of fundamentalist groups. Not that I think all of the people who want to amend California's constitution are religious fundamentalists, but I do think that the organizational infrastructure behind the push is largely, if not entirely, theocratic in nature. There are telling signs that those organizations are losing their ability to mold social norms. They have no candidate in the race for president and have lost much of their grip on Congress. The evangelical movement itself is changing and beginning to split away from a political raison d'être. The theocratic front needs a big win somewhere, somehow to remain viable. I've no doubt that they're going to put a lot of effort into this Californian campaign.

I would still question the wisdom of allowing any constitution to be amended in a manner which, to my mind, subverts the whole purpose of such documents as we know them in this country. Can't a plebiscite result in something unconstitutional being added to a constitution? If an amendment like that proposed here can become law, what's to stop the return of things like miscegenation laws? For that matter, why couldn't an amendment be passed by voters that goes so far as to say who can live in a state, where they are allowed to travel within the state, or what service could be withheld from any group at the state level that the majority might dislike at some point in history?

I suspect that a lot of people are getting sick of religious influence over the law and, after years of seeing the results such an arrangement yields, just don't want to play that game anymore. I could be wrong about that, of course, but it seems like something in the wind these days. I've never been an optimist about it, but I can't help but be a bit more hopeful than usual that the religiously-motivated far right has peaked and is going into the downside of its arc. What happens in California might not be a bad bellwether.

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