Racism, Sexism, and now Prop 8

I found out this evening, to my dismay, that my site was littered with “Yes On Prop 8” banners. Now, for those who live outside California and haven’t been following this, Prop 8 is a measure designed to introduce an amendment to the California constitution to ban gay marriage, basically ensuring that certain people would never have the same rights as others in this state.

Now I normally try to stay away from politics on my blog, but I want to talk about two points.

First, I don’t mind banners on my site that are designed to sell a product. People generally understand that an ad for an online web service or a product of some sort is not necessarily endorsed by the site it’s running on. Ads are everywhere and most people generally get that it’s provided by an ad service, and just ignore them.

What bothered me about the Yes On Prop 8 ads is that it felt as if I’m endorsing Prop 8. Somehow, it feels wrong to me. I’m not morally outraged about Sun Microsystems wanting to sell a server system or Microsoft wanting to sell an office suite. I am outraged about Prop 8. Products are fine to advertise on my site. Controversial freedom-limiting propositions I’m completely against are not.

I look back in our history and see that by and large, our generation is regretful of how we’ve mistreated people in the past. Shooting Native Americans used to be fine. Stripping away their rights and making them unequal was socially accepted. It was completely understood that if you’re black, you’re property. If you’re a women, you had no rights to vote and your opinion didn’t matter.

I like to think we’ve come a long way from that. People pride themselves on how we’re more mature now. Black, white, red, men, women. It doesn’t matter. This is the land of the free, the land of equality. So why is it that it’s still okay to discriminate against someone because their love of someone makes you feel uncomfortable?

It’s okay to not feel comfortable with gay marriage. A lot of people don’t. But do you feel more comfortable being part of a group of people that knowingly discriminated against another group, stripped them of certain rights that you yourself enjoy, simply because something you don’t have to deal with on a daily basis makes you feel uncomfortable to think about? Are you going to be okay with the thought of your grandkids or your great-grandkids feeling embarrassed because of how you voted, like how you feel about your great-grandparents’ racism? How much is preventing marriage for two people who love each other, in order to feel less uncomfortable, worth to you?

The Yes On Prop 8 advertisements often show the clip with the mayor of San Francisco saying “It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not!” It’s a good strategic clip for them to have chosen, as it can be interpreted as him saying “you have no say, we’re forcing gay marriage on all of you.”

I see it another way. I see gay marriage being inevitable not as an attack, but as the inevitable rise in tolerance that, over time, we’ve come to develop in this country. As a country, we don’t have the best track record of tolerance to new things, but we always mature in the end. This is not the last time we’ll face such mass intolerance and the limiting of rights of a group of people, just as this will not be the first time that we as a people will overcome our fears and begin to see us all as being equal.

So this is important. It’s not just about your level of comfort with those who live a different lifestyle. It’s about equality. It’s about overcoming personal fears. It’s about making an effort to keep this country on a path of freedom. Because if we start going back to our old ways of discrimination and fear, all we’re doing is regressing and limiting the rights of others out of some fear of the world spiraling into chaos. We’ve worked to abolish racism. We’ve worked to abolish sexism. The world is still here. We can do this again.

Vote no on Prop 8.

26 thoughts on “Racism, Sexism, and now Prop 8

  1. great post — found it via twitter search.

    i just wanted to say thanks for doing your part to spread the word about No On 8. here’s hoping that californians look to the future, and aren’t guided by fear.

  2. Sorry, it’s not about equality. My argument for prop 8 can be summed up rather simply. Tom and Bob’s (or Angie and Betty’s) relationship does not have the same value to society as my relationship with my wife has. Why? Because my relationship with my wife can (and has) produced children. You know, children, the future of our society — without ’em there isn’t one… That’s not to say that all heterosexual couples can and/or will produce children. But at least they have the possibility. A homosexual relationship cannot do that ever without external inputs from a third party (otherwise known as a member of the opposite sex! 🙂

    That said, I’m fine with full rights in every other respect, but I think that marriage as promoted by the state (and the promotion of a heterosexual union above homosexual, polygamous, and any other union you could imagine) should stay exclusive to a man and a woman.

    And on a slight tangent down judicial fiat lane… You may not remember, but prop 22 essentially put this issue to rest a few years back, but the CA Supreme Court decided to cross out a word or two from that amendment to the constitution. I hate legislation from the bench of any kind. That’s the job of the legislatiure and Mark Leno has been trying (bless his heart) to get gay marriage passed for years. It’s getting very close too (it may have passed one or both houses with Ahnold vetoing but my memory is hazy…) While I wouldn’t like the legislation, I would at least respect it…

  3. pjl: What of a couple who tries but cannot get pregnant? It happens, a lot. Due to medical reasons, some people simply cannot have kids. They then contribute just as much to society, as per your definition, as a gay or lesbian couple. Perhaps we should outlaw marriage amongst people who cannot or choose not to have children. The effect is the same.

  4. pjl : and surely you’ll also vote yes on a proposition that dissolves/suspends the marriage of people using permanent/temporary birth control?

  5. It looks like you are using a bad ad provider… it was not all about *contextual* ads? either the ad provider is failing at the contextual part and you have to change it or you may have some content on your site (is that your GNOME blog?) making contextual, so you deserved it.

  6. nicu: I’m using Google AdSense. I have no idea why I’m getting Prop 8 ads. It’s quite disturbing. I’ve blocked them on AdSense, and for now I’ve completely disabled AdSense on my blog.

    This is my GNOME blog. I can’t imagine what would cause Prop 8 ads to be relevant. I found out about this only when I heard others complain of the same thing.

  7. Hæ ChipX86,
    it’s surprisingly nice to see a post like this in your blog. I usually follow you through the planet-gnome. Thanks for just not standing there with crossed arms and mouth shut; it’s just laudable, specially considering the posture you take. I don’t live in CA (not even in USA) but it’s important to learn of our past and or present.
    Keep posting, we’ll keep reading. Greetings.

  8. I suspected you used AdSense, this is why I talked about “contextual”, but wasn’t sure since you already disabled it. I think I have to watch more carefully the ads on my blog too, but so far they were quite accurate.

  9. @pjl: I am married to a wonderful Android engineer, we love each other, but we won’t have children for a variety of reasons. Should our marriage get annulled?

    And what about gay couples from other countries that got married either with the traditional way or via civil unions? What if, like in my case, one of the two members finds a good job in USA and the other one can not follow him/her just because their marriage is not recognized by California — so the other spouse is not allowed to enter the country? How fair is that for the couple’s long term relationship, his/her career opportunity, and the company that actually hired him/her?

  10. @ChipX86: Awesome argument about your descendants being embarrassed in the future. Wish I’d thought of this earlier so I could use it in discussions I’ve had with people about this issue.

    @pjl: beyond the nice ripostes above, I also need to explicitly point out that you’ve ignored adoption. A married gay couple could provide a much better home than many orphanages hordes of kids end up in. If anyone has watched that 30 days episode on gay adoption, you know what I’m talking about. (Though not doing more to call the intolerant lady to task really annoyed me).

    Also, I fail to see why people cannot distinguish between marriage as your particular religion sees it, and marriage as the state sees it. Of course the state does not have the right to force a religion to perform gay marriages. But by the same token, people with particular religious beliefs do not have the right to codify those beliefs in our government’s laws. It’s just plain wrong, and people that are supposedly living their lives with such high morals should be ashamed of themselves for not recognizing the moral turpitude of it.

    FYI, I also saw ads for “yes on prop 8” all over the “fat wallet” site earlier today.
    It’s everywhere. Last second push to convince people to vote for more government infringement on fundamental rights (I for one have had enough of this).

  11. I think that this proposition is simply wrong, I’m also a foreigner for you so I will not vote for neither prop 8 nor for president on your country, but it is my opinion that is unfair for a couple, yes a couple of two men or two women, to live their lives together and when one of them dies all the other one get is a big juridical head ache battle with the other parents.

    As for “they cannot have children”, this is simply absurd. First they are as human as any other, so they can have children, in fact a famous (female) Brazilian rock singer was gay and lived with her wife and she had a kid, she got the help of a friend who inseminated her and have since foregone his rights a father. Second, there are so many children abandoned, and gay couples are as able to adopt then any other, I know that this is far more controversial, for some it is better for a kid to live in dumpster for orphans then to have two father or two mothers I am not of this opinion. And the third and last, is not always true that heterosexual marriages can produce children, even if you take out the cases of people who don’t want for personal reasons like Eugenia above, there are people who have medical problems and are in fact sterile, should those people be forbidden to marry also (*)?

    So I think that there is no reason, beside prejudice, against gay marriages. Marriages for the government is a mere contract, where a family is recognized. If I was “in charge” I would go even father and recognize other types of unions, for why do you even need sex to create a family? Why can’t say friends have a recognition of their union when they live under the same roof, many friendships are stronger than some marriages, and many friends do live together forming a “de facto” family, why should they have the option to formalize some of the details of this kind of union?

    *) At least the catholic church has that opinion, one of the few causes that catholic church allows divorces are in the cases where one of the involved cannot reproduce. I believe that this had to be implemented, for many kingdoms would be in problem if the king could not produce a heir.

  12. “I am married to a wonderful Android engineer, we love each other, but we won’t have children for a variety of reasons. Should our marriage get annulled?”

    Well, you are making a useful contribution to the society by making sure your genes are not passed on. I suppose your marriage can stay as it is 😉

  13. To ChipX86, Bart and Egenia:

    How hard is it to read and comprehend “That’s not to say that all heterosexual couples can and/or will produce children. But at least they have the possibility. A homosexual relationship cannot do that ever without external inputs from a third party (otherwise known as a member of the opposite sex! :-)”? There was nothing in there about needing to produce offspring in order to be married and/or stay married. Nice strawman…. However, look at the numbers and that’s what marriage more often than not does produce — which is a good thing in most cases IMHO.

    Let me state it again in a different way… A heterosexual relationship at least stands a snowball’s chance in hell of producing offspring. A homosexual one doesn’t even stand that chance. Thus, the heterosexual union has (potential) benefite to society above all others. Hey, here’s a novel idea. Let’s continue to call that union between a man and a woman “marriage” in the eyes of the state.

    If the Unitarian Church wants to marry other couple and call it marriage. Cool. If San Francisco wants to marry other couples and call it marriage. Cool. However, in my state (and my city/county) I feel that marriage should be what it’s been for the reasons outline above.

    Eugenia, in answer to your other question (a slight canard IMHO) I’ll answer with a canard of my own by pulling out the polygamyst argument (admittedly only slightly less lame than the “well you’re like Hitler” remark…) Suppose a Saudi with a harem got a job at google and wanted to bring his harem over. Should they all be allowed to come? I mean, they really love each other and that’s what counts, right? Since all countries/religions/creeds/practices are morally equivalent, right? Or is it not okay to say, “Um, hey, we don’t really do the multiple wife thing here.” Is it so hard to fathom that choices have consequences? Another slight canard. Ah-niold cannot become President. That’s a bummer for him since he wasn’t born here. The constitution denies him. Should we let that slide too since it’s exclusionary? And no, I’m not in favor of Ah-nold as president… 🙂

    Finally, once again, I’d like to note that the judiciary caused this mess. If this had been done legislatively we wouldn’t be wasting time on this right now I’m fairly certain…

  14. “Stripping away [American Indians] rights and making them unequal was socially accepted.”

    As if their problems have been solved… this country still has a long way to go before everyone is treated equally. At least California is more likely to do the right thing than my state was, when the issue was put before the voters in my state less than half of the people who voted bothered voting on the issue.

  15. @Pjl”Suppose a Saudi with a harem got a job at google and wanted to bring his harem over. ”

    Thanks for comparing a natural sexual orientation with something totally different; what you’ve described is sexual inequality. Oh, wait a minute; that’s what homosexual’s are suffering at the hands of uneducated moron’s like yourself!

    Marriage is what you make of it. Statistically, straight people haven’t held it with high regard considering the fact that they separate like amoebas within two years. The only argument you’ve got is that marriage is a ‘holy’ act deigned by God which is an outdated, unwelcome and totally destructive self-serving opinion.

  16. pjl: I think ChipX86’s case still applies, think of a person who knows before hand that they can’t have children (either from medical testing or some other way), obviously it’s not possible for that person to have a child (excluding adoption/etc.), so would it be immoral then for them to get married (to someone of the opposite sex)? personally I’d think no (on the other hand I’m in favour of allowing gay marriage personally)

  17. pjl: historically speaking, societies without the concept of marriage have never had any trouble producing children. They have, however, had trouble enforcing a conventional social order.

    Given that in your last post you make it clear that you’re talking specifically about the concept of ‘marriage’ as defined and enforced by the state, this weakens your argument. History tends to suggest that, where the state uses the concept of marriage, it is more to do with social control, stability and hierarchy than the production of children. Hence arguments based on the production of children are not strong ones, when it comes to the state definition of marriage.

  18. @ChipX86: Extremely well-said, Chip. I’d add more to this, but I think you’ve made the point very eloquently and accurately 🙂

    @Pjl: You have said that “It’s not about equality… Tom and Bob’s (or Angie and Betty’s) relationship does not have the same value to society as my relationship with my wife has.” It seems your basis for this is the plausibility of you and your wife producing offspring. The main flaws in your argument are two-fold: you assume both that marriage needs to be sanctioned by “society” in order to have some validity and that producing offspring is the main “point” of marriage. I don’t think either assumption can be supported. (Not sure if Chip really wants continued debate on this here, but I’m certainly willing to discuss it a bit more :-D)

    You also say “Since all countries/religions/creeds/practices are morally equivalent, right? Or is it not okay to say, ‘Um, hey, we don’t really do the multiple wife thing here.’ Is it so hard to fathom that choices have consequences?” I don’t think Chip’s argument in any way relies on any moral equivalence between different societies — his argument is that those who oppose homosexual marriage are actually inconsistent with contemporary American society and law. So too would be your fictional Google employee and his harem. Moreover, I’m not sure what you’re implying about “choices” having consequences. Perhaps you can elaborate on that.

    Regarding Arnold, you’re defeating your own argument — the same constitution that guarantees equality for all individuals (and in turn provides strong support to Chip’s argument) also bars him from running for President. There’s no conflict on the basis of anything being “exclusionary,” since both points are constitutional defensible.

  19. Reece, your arguments seemed to be be best (without ad-hominem stuff unlike MDs — BTW, MD I couldn’t care less what you think of me and I refuse to give you that kind of power over me. You should try it some time especially w.r.t. what society thinks your relationship) so I’ll focus on it. The rest were good too but they all seem to cover similar ground…

    @Reese: “you assume both that marriage needs to be sanctioned by “society” in order to have some validity”

    I make no such assumption. Not sure where you pulled that from. If anything, the “No on 8” people seem to have that view. I do however think that society has benefit sanctioning and encouraging marriage.

    @Resse: “and that producing offspring is the main “point” of marriage”

    Again, not sure where you inferred that from, but I have to confess that I don’t disagree. What I said essentially was that a heterosexual union can produce offspring. A homosexual one never will. I also think that offspring are critical to the continuation of society (we can argue if it’s the most critical or not, but without offsprint I think we can all agree that society will no continue.) Anyhow, over the history of western civilization, what family unit has been the most stable and propagated said civilization? Has it been a homosexual relationship? A polygamous one? No, it’s been a monogamous heterosexual union. How are most (not all) children produced? In wedlock (even if it’s after the fact — aka a shotgun wedding.) So, yeah, I think it’s a safe argument that generally as far as society at large (aka the state) is concerned that producing offspring in a stable environment is something of paramount importance. Heterosexual marriage does that. Homosexual marriage does not (it produces the stability — not the offspring — thus it has IMHO less value and is not worthless.)

    @Reese: “his argument is that those who oppose homosexual marriage are actually inconsistent with contemporary American society and law.”

    I guess we’ll see tomorrow as this becomes part of our constitution about it’s consistency with California society and law…

    @Reese: “Moreover, I’m not sure what you’re implying about “choices” having consequences. Perhaps you can elaborate on that.”

    Sure, the context for it was back in Eugenia’s post where she said “What if, like in my case, one of the two members finds a good job in USA and the other one can not follow him/her just because their marriage is not recognized by California .” Coming to California to work is a choice. The current law of California recognizes gay marriages. The United States government does not. This is not some kind of hidden knowledge. So, the “choice” to work here is just that, a choice. And there are consequences for that choice — the spouse recognized as such by another country isn’t recognized as such by the US government. So, I’ll state it again with context. Choices (moving to America to work) have consequences (your spouse in another country but not recognized as your spouse by America can’t come.)

    @Reese: “the same constitution that guarantees equality for all individuals (and in turn provides strong support to Chip’s argument) also bars him from running for President.”

    If the California constitution defines marriage between a man and a woman, that same equality still exists. You as a man will be able ot marry a woman. Or, as a woman you will be able to marry a man. Marriage is not being defined as “marrying the person you love” although that what most of the people posting here seem to wish it were…

  20. Overheard you talking about a controversial blog post, so I figured I’d check it out. I am pretty pro Prop 8 so I just wanted to give a quick summary of why I am for it. A lot of it is not relevant to those who do not share the same faith as me and some of it is easily misinterpreted without an in-depth discussion, but I figured I would give a couple of them.

    The first reason is that I disagree in principle with the rationale that the state Supreme Court used in striking down the previous law. I think I remember that they cited a 1948 ruling as precedent where they ruled that a ban on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. So right there, I believe that the court was overreaching in declaring that interracial marriage == gay marriage. They are not the same thing and I wish they would have used a stronger reasoning in overruling something the voters overwhelmingly approved of. In just the same way, I don’t believe that the courts ok’ing polygamy would be reasonable given the precedent.

    But overall, the main reason I am pro Prop 8 is just that I don’t believe that gay marriage is by definition marriage. That does not mean that I don’t respect gay people or that I want them to have fewer rights; I am all for removing whatever the 7 differences are between civil unions and marriages so that they both give the same legal benefits. But I just am not comfortable with it being commonly held as marriage, which is the real issue here. Embedded in this discussion is the question of “is gay marriage on the same level as heterosexual marriage”. If that was not true, then we would focus on adding rights to civil unions instead of calling it marriage. But instead, the courts decided for us that gay marriage is a fundamental value that we want to pass on as a culture.

    Again, the point of me posting this is not to offend people. I just want to point out that there are legitimate reasons for people to be pro Prop 8 instead of hatemongering or forcing religious beliefs on others.

  21. @Adam: Fair points.

    I think the thing that most people are looking for is for the state to acknowledge the union. Right now, “marriage” is kind of this shared word between religions and state. What people are looking for, and what I’m really talking about in my post is not the church’s definition of marriage but rather the rights given by the state. I think a lot of “No on 8” people would feel better if these couples had all the state rights that married people had, even if it wasn’t called “marriage.” Maybe I’m wrong in that, but that’s my take.

    The danger is that if we pass Prop 8, we give up that chance. Prop 8 is really about taking away those state rights. Taking away “marriage” is just a side-effect of the real issue. I believe everyone should, in the eyes of the state, be equal, and Prop 8 ensures they won’t be. That’s a dangerous precedent to put into a constitution, especially in a country founded on the idea of equality (even if history hasn’t necessarily matched that at times).

  22. The core of the issue is whether people have equal rights, but I think the only way to do that is to call it the same thing. One of the results from the civil rights movement in the 60’s is that “separate but equal” isn’t truly equal. By granting homosexuals all the same rights as marriage but refusing to allow them to say they’re married, you’re creating second-class citizens.

    I believe the only solution here that makes everyone happy is to remove the word “marriage” from government. Allow all couples, hetero- or homo- to register a “civil union” from the government’s perspective, and allow people’s churches (or even people themselves, for those nonreligious of us) to define “marriage.” Liberal churches might perform homosexual marriages, conservatives wouldn’t. Either way, noone’s rights are trampled on.

  23. David,

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I really take issue with your statement.

    “The core of the issue is whether people have equal rights”

    No, that’s not the core issue at all. The core issue is if marriage as recognized by the state is the union of one man and one woman. With the passage of prop 8, it is. And it’s that simple. Your statement implies that you believe that “all relationships are equal”. They are not. As I have argued before that some relationships can do things that are decidedly beneficial to society. Other relationships cannot perform these sames functions. Thus, not all relationships are equal.

    I would be fine if the state got out of the marriage business altogether personally, but I don’t see that happening.

    If prop 8 had failed, do you really believe that activists wouldn’t work to get the tax exempt status of churches that didn’t perform homosexual marriages removed? It’s so obvious that would be a result that Stevie Wonder could see it… But I supposed that wouldn’t be trampling of rights. Just bringing enligtenment to the morons, right? 🙂 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Coast_Women%27s_Care_Medical_Group_v._Superior_Court for an example of the trumping of religious freedom.

  24. I am really surprised that there are still people in the western world like this. Trying to shape a society by law. It’s useless. it does not work. Why do people wory so much about their nuighbourgh path to happiness. Every time I see this in the news I think “When did we get transported to the darkages??”.

    pjl: How dear you speak of religious freedom when you are so careless about someone’s basic equality to someone else. To you the only contribution made to society by a couple is producing children??? I don’t have any children (don’t want them either). This makes me useless to society? Go back to your 14th century church and fry some heretics man. You make me so mad (and I’m not even gay). Grrrrr

    I have found that there is only one real reason people are against these things and that is religion. Why do (a lot of) religious people get so much gratitude out of kicking other people down. Are you so insecure about yourself and the choices you make???

    PS I’m from Holland so I don’t have a vote.
    To all people who are gay and want to get married: Visit us in Holland, it aint perfect but where way ahead of the game.
    To all the people who voted against this: See you in a couple of decades when you catch up.

    Sorry about the rant CHIPx86. Thanks for your great work on Gnome stuff and VMware (a happy VMware consultant ;-))

  25. The issue is really that the government has no business in the marriage domain. Marriage is not a right, it is a way of life.

    People are so happy squabbling over legal definitions because everyone knows that these definitions cannot be taken to any logical conclusion. If someone wants to keep a goat in their bedroom – more power to them… but don’t require a “license” to keep goats.

    Remove all government meddling and let the chipx86 fall where they may.

    p.s. I’m from Washington State, so I don’t have a vote either!

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