Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh, The Irony!

Although some say the voting on Proposition 8 is still too close to call, with two million late absentee ballots still to be counted, I don't see a path that leads to the defeat of discrimination. I think, for now, we must accept that most Californians believe that our relationships are less deserving than theirs.

While that is a very bitter pill to swallow, I believe that one day we will drink from the cup of true equality. One day people will see the light and realize that love is love and that no one's commitment to care for another person has more value (in a legal sense) than anyone else's.

If Proposition 8 does indeed pass, I lay the blame on two groups: the LDS church and African-Americans. The Mormons donated massive amounts of cash (up to 70% of the bankroll for the Yes on 8 campaign)and African-Americans were the only demographic that voted for discrimination. Unfortunately, I think that neither of these two groups are sufficiently cognizant of the deep irony of their opposition to marriage equality.

The LDS church still suffers from an image of being a church that supported polygamy, a highly alternative view of traditional "one man, one woman" marriage. They were driven from more than one state, their leaders slain, in part because they held a non-traditional view of marriage. Yet today they marshal their not-inconsiderable resources to crush another form of non-traditional marriage.

But at least I can understand where their opposition comes from. And the discrimination against them ended, for all intents and purposes, over a century ago. What I cannot understand is how African-Americans, who still suffer from discrimination, can extend bigoted thinking to any other group of people. Though the spectre of racism still hangs above the heads of African-Americans, their battle for civil rights effectively ended with the election of one of their brothers to the highest office in the land. Yet, after throwing off their chains, instead of melting them down, they wrapped them around us. That I will never understand.


Nate and Jessica said...

Hi Tom--I don't know if you remember me, but I asked you a while ago to not comment on my blog. I have since become more openminded about people commenting on what I have to say. I started a different blog seperate from my family blog so that I can still express my opinions with out my family being involved. Feel free to read it and comment freely.

In the first and so far only post on my new blog I point out that the probable reason for a lot of people supporting prop 8 wasn't the fact that children would be educated about homosexual relationships, but the way that they are educated. Morality is subjective and I think that what the conservatives (or at least conservatives like me) want is for our children to be taught in schools that they should respect every persons culture, gender, sexuality, race, religious beliefs, political beliefs, etc. etc. etc. It should be taught in an environment that is impartial and encourages tolerance for all. The schools systems have gone over-board and make parents feel that when they teach children their beliefs it won't matter because they are taught to celebrate Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Pride day in schools. We do need to be tolerant and loving of all people, but that doesn't mean we should all celebrate it.

Morality is Subjective, therefore, the schools should be neutral. I think if that happened there would be much more support for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Niles said...

Tom -

I know I can't apologize for the bad behavior of my fellow Mormons, but I can encourage you to continue your fight for acceptance. You have every right to be bitter and angry right now, but you obviously see the long term perspective, and perhaps that can help temper your frustration.

It certainly is ironic that two of the most persecuted groups in American history (Mormons and African-Americans) have failed to learn from their own experience. It is even more ironic that they have formed an alliance, when you consider that the LDS Church didn't grant full fellowship to black men until 1978. But the fact is, we eventually came around to seeing the error of our ways regarding black men, and we will eventually come to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

When I was a boy, I was shocked to hear my Mormon grandfather refer to Brazil nuts as "nigger toes." When my Mormon sister married a Mormon Mexican man, she was shocked to hear my Mormon grandmother grumble about having "one of them" in the family. If past is truly prologue, then the day will come when my Mormon children and granchildren will ask me about the culture wars at the turn of the 21st century. I hope not to shock them with my bigotry, but instead to hold my head high as a Mormon who had the integrity to swim against the homophobic currents of his time. It's not fair that I will have to wait until then for vindication of my conscience, just as it's not fair that you will have to wait for society's approval of rights that you shouldn't have to ask for.

I failed to congratulate you on your recent marriage in my previous comments; let me do so now. I wish you both the best of luck in maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship. I hope that the rights you have achieved thus far will not be removed as a result of this misguided amendment.

Tom said...

Niles --

Thanks for your kind words and your congratulations. The fight continues. (And I can only imagine what Christ would think if he returned and saw how much money was spent on eliminating rights when so many children go to bed hungry and so many people are homeless.)

Jessica --

I will respond to your comment on your new blog.

Nate and Jessica said...

Tom-Thanks for commenting on my blog. I hope you do realize that this has been a hard issue for many people. Even though Prop 8 passed last night, it doesn't mean that I feel victorious, or feel like I won. I do believe that someday you will once again enjoy the same rights as every other married couple, but for some reason right now wasn't the right time. I have a firm faith in God, and feel like maybe a few more things need to happen in the world. I truly believe that when the time is right what is meant to be will be. If nothing else, this whole experience has brought many people to the realization that there are many people of the same-sex that love eachother. Even though Prop 8 passed, you still made progress.

Tom said...

Jessica -

Thanks for your comments. I generally agree -- now doesn't seem to be the time for marriage equality. I don't want it to happen via the courts, but I think that's what's going to have to happen here.

We have made progress, and I hope that my husband and I can continue to move our cause forward. It's very hard to realize that as ordinary as we are that many people think relationships like ours are a threat to the institution of marriage.

All my best to you and your family.


What you mention about the Mormons and the Black Community only seems ironic if you view gay marriage as an inalienable right. These two communities do not view it as such.

Not only did the black community vote yes to marriage between a man and a woman in all three states that had it on the ballot (Arizona and Florida, too), but they were enraged by the No on 8 comparing the civil rights movement to the fight for legalizing gay marriage. They simply do not view homosexuality as a right. They view it as a sin. And to fight for someone to be able to sin makes no sense to them. Also note that the Hispanic and Polynesian communities as a whole oppose gay marriage.

As for members of the LDS church, please realize that the Church did not donate any money. It was individual members of the church that paid out of their own pockets who stood strongly for something they believe in. We had a right to do so.

I think it is amazing that the voice of the people was more powerful than all of the multi-million dollar corporations, celebrities, 4 court judges, unions, and biased media. That gives me hope in American democracy and morality.

By the way Niles, I hope you are not suggesting that someday the Mormon church will change its doctrine to say that homosexuality and gay marriage are acceptable. You are incorrect to think that a basic doctrine to the eternal nature of mankind would be frustrated like that. You cannot compare the discontinuance of polygamy or blacks receiving the priesthood to gay marriage because those two "changes" did not change gospel doctrine.


Tom, I have to thank you for always being so candid in your discussions on this issue and what you believe. I have great respect for you because of the way you have kindly and eloquently stated your positions. These discussions have meant a lot to me. I have learned much from you. I appreciate that you have enough respect toward me to value my opinion and to not name call. Thank you! I look forward to reading more about your life in the future. I hope you don't mind!

Tom said...

Jeremy -

You're always welcome here. I enjoy a good debate.

I do understand it was individual church members that made the donations, and not the organization -- that's why I said "Mormons" and not "the Mormon church."

As far as African-Americans go, you make a good point. Many of them -- like you, I imagine -- simply believe you can't support what you see as sin.

And this is where we come to the impenetrable barrier. You believe there is an invisible superbeing that watches over us all and expects us to strictly follow rules established by books of mysterious provenance, filled with stories that would, if found on other pages, be considered "magic." You can always fall back on "God says so" and that will -- for you -- settle any argument.

If we were having an argument where each of us had to back up our points with convincing evidence, you'd have a hard time winning this one -- at least if we were arguing before the Supreme Court or even a college debate judge. That's why Proposition 22 was declared unconstitutional -- because there is no rational reason to treat gay people differently under the law, even when it comes to civil marriage.

Unfortunately, voters don't have to be given rational reasons. They can say to themselves, "God wants it this way" and nothing can be done to sway them from that position. If you can get a majority of people to vote on it, you can do almost anything -- at least until it runs up against the US Constitution. It happened with Proposition 2 in Colorado and could happen with Proposition 8 -- The SCOTUS could overturn it.

I hope we can achieve full equality through a legislative process - but civil rights only very rarely get extended that way. Usually the courts get involved.

In terms of comparing marriage equality to the experience of African-Americans achieving equal civil rights, I have never equated the two -- even as I have drawn comparisons between them. I have always said what African-Americans have faced is of far greater scope and scale than what GLBT people have faced. I have always acknowledged that a black man can't wake up and decide to pass as white, while most of them time, no one has to know I am gay if I don't want them to.

That said, even though I can pass as straight, I don't want to -- nor do I believe I should have to. Just as a left-handed person CAN choose to use their right hands to write or throw a ball or brush their teeth, why should they? It's not natural for them.

In addition, though the scope of persecution has been far greater with African-Americans, we queers have had far more than enough discrimination, violence and mistreatment.

Did you know there are still 31 states where I can be fired from my job simply for being gay -- and have no legal recourse for wrongful dismissal?

Until just five years ago, there were certain states where my intimate, private behavior could have landed me in jail. Years before that, when such laws were more widespread and more routinely enforced, police used to raid gay bars and arrest the men they found there.

We are still beaten and even murdered because someone hates us deeply -- simply because we are attracted to people of the same gender.

We've definitely had our share of hate.

It's even affected me personally. Click on that link for the story of my own, relatively minor experience with a hate crime.

Fortunately, the arc of history always bends toward freedom. Equality finds a way. Rationality -- because it is based on what works, what is actually effective -- ultimately wins. Full marriage equality is coming. I had hoped the time was now. I still hope the time is soon. But I know the time is coming.

Tom said...

And thank you Jeremy (Sarahlynn?), for your kind words. I think it's always good when people can learn from each other.


Thanks Tom. It's me, SarahLynn, that has made most comments on your blog. Jeremy enjoys the discussions, too, and has much respect for you as well.

Just for my own piece of mind I thought I could clarify this previous statement "You cannot compare the discontinuance of polygamy or blacks receiving the priesthood to gay marriage because those two 'changes' did not change gospel doctrine."

By this I mean that in the Bible and Book of Mormon, we read that all things practiced by God's disciples will be restored in the Latter-days, including the priesthood, baptism, temple worship, etc.

Polygamy in previous dispensations was something practiced only by certain people that God called, and for specific reasons- not for the lusts of men. The same was in the latter-days (now). God commanded a select number of people to participate in it for a specific time. (but that's not to say that some probably abused the calling). At any rate, that time ended over 100 years ago. We do not practice polygamy anymore because God told us not to. As you can see the ending of polygamy in our time agrees with what had always been taught about the restoration. Thus, no doctrine was changed.

The priesthood was also restored in the Latter-days. In the Bible and Book of Mormon we are taught that God loves and treats all of his people equally- no matter their race, status, gender, amount of mistakes, etc, and all are able to partake of His blessings when they repent and humble their hearts. Joseph first received the Aaronic priesthood, which is the power to bless the sacrament and baptise. Then after a time, the strength of the members was ready to receive the Melchezadech priesthood (it's spelled wrong, sorry). This priesthood is used to bless and heal the sick and seal families together forever, among other things. After a time, the strength of the members was ready for all men to receive the priesthood. Our beliefs on race never changed before or after the time the priesthood was granted to all men. Thus, no doctrine was changed.

This is why I said that previous statement.

Tom said...

Sarahlynn -

I think you meant to address Niles with your last comment.

Esther said...

I agree with you. As a Jew, I could never vote to discriminate against another group of people. I could never vote to impose my religious beliefs on another group of people. Morality has nothing to do with your sexual orientation, which is something you're born with, not a choice that you make. And my gay and lesbian friends are among the most moral people I know.

The thing that upsets me the most is the implication that the supporters of Proposition 8 were trying to protect their families and children from the supposed threat presented by gay and lesbian couples.

My gay and lesbian friends do not threaten anyone. Their relationships do not harm anyone. They especially do not present a threat or harm to children. To imply that is perilously close to a blood libel.

As a Jew, obviously I know what it's like from history to have lies told about me, how difficult it is to combat those lies. But Martin Luther King once said that no lie can live forever. I deeply hope that he was right.

And if we're really interested in protecting children and families then what about the real threats they face: inadequate health care, crumbling schools in poor neighborhoods, domestic violence. In my humble opinion, letting children live in poverty in this country is the real sin and is truly immoral.

Esther said...

And btw, did you know that Mormons used to baptize Jewish Holocaust victims? I guess it was so they could enjoy the afterlife as happy Christians. They supposedly stopped after Jewish groups found out and protested. But for all I know, they may still do it. And at the risk of violating Godwin's Law, there are allegations that they've baptized an especially infamous historical figure. Talk about reprehensible and immoral behavior!

Tom said...

Esther -- here's the deal: those people are dead, and the baptisms are done in private. Ergo, I could care less. It affects me, or any living person, not a whit.

Their advocacy on Prop 8, however, affected me -- and nearly a million Californians -- quite directly.

I know which action I this is more reprehensible!

Esther said...

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to equate the two. I just wanted to point out that there's a pattern of Mormons disrespecting other groups of people. They apparently have no respect for the separation of church and state or for the rights of anyone who believes differently than they do. I agree, what they've done in leading the charge for the defeat of Prop. 8 is much more reprehensible because we're talking about people's lives, about taking away the legal benefits and protections that marriage affords. They've enshrined their bigotry and their religious beliefs into law. I just wonder who or what they'll go after next.

Esther said...

I mean the passage, obviously. Gosh, this was confusing.

Tom said...

No problem. And I knew you weren't trying to equate the two. I just wanted to clarify that I'm totally down with religious freedom -- but any church's freedom ends when it actively interferes with civil equality.