Why Proposition 8 Hurts So Much
For the first time in my life, I have been on the winning side of a major election. Everyone around me is jubilant. It’s not just for President-Elect Obama, either – my choices for Governor and Congressman both made it in. I even got 2 out of 3 on my county judicial picks.
Last night was also a great one for public transit. The Puget Sound’s Proposition 1 passed, bringing expanded bus and rail service to the Seattle area, while the car-addled Washington Initiative 985 (aka you will pry our single-occupancy vehicle commutes from our cold dead hands) was soundly walloped. A new high-speed rail line will go from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Citizens in Sacramento, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and northern New Mexico voted to raise their own taxes to improve transit services. I take it as a sign that high gas prices are finally sinking in and prompting real change.
Yet I have not felt such anger and bitterness towards my fellow citizens since they re-elected Bush.
While our first African-American president asked us to embrace a politics of hope and unity, voters in California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas embraced the politics of fear and lies, singling out a different group of Americans for second-class citizenship. Each of those measures stung, but California’s Proposition 8 made me absolutely heartsick. California was my home for 9 years, and is the bluest of blue states, the sort of state one expects to be accepting – but that’s not why I’m so upset.So far, wherever court-ordered same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships have actually been put into effect, rather than immediately pre-empted by panicked legislative efforts, they have not been overturned. In Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, the much-ballyhooed “will of the people” looked at the sky, saw that it was not falling, and elected to preserve those civil rights.
All those other states writing laws and ratifying constitutional amendments to redefine marriage as something that affirms the straight person’s pinnacle in the social hierarchy? Sure, it’s an injustice and a political setback, but it’s easy to see how people can be afraid of the unknown. Once they have a chance to get used to the change, they’ll come ’round.
This summer, Californians looked around them and saw thousands of beaming newlyweds, ecstatic that their relationships were finally recognized as equal under the law. On Tuesday, Californians voted to annihilate that joy.
The vote on Proposition 8 was motivated by ignorance – for example, many supporters were genuinely worried that their churches would be forced to perform same-sex marriages – but not by fear of the unknown. It’s hard to read this as anything other than hatred.