View Sidebar

Post Tagged with: California

On Same-Sex Marriage

On Same-Sex Marriage

I was at the first same-sex civil union performed in Connecticut, and for that I consider myself privileged. After the brides slowly walked down the aisle to the altar, the Unitarian pastor performing the ceremony told us, through tears, that they symbolically took their time getting to the altar because it has taken them a long, long time to be able to get married. For a couple that had been together for more than 20 years, and had each spent a lifetime fighting for their right to get married, it was about bloody time they were allowed to openly, proudly declare their love for one another and have that love recognized by the state.

enhanced-buzz-21299-1355130638-5That was in 2005. It would still be three more years before Connecticut became only the third state to enact same-sex marriage legislation. Other states followed suit, but not without problems. In 2008, California’s infamous Prop 8 banned same-sex marriage in my current home state, rolling back a right that had been granted to gay couples previously, and prompting a litany of suits that have now reached the Supreme Court. But even in 2005, although it was still an uphill battle for millions of gay couples in the United States, it wasn’t unthinkable that the nation was at a tipping point. In just seven years’ time, a blink of the eye in legislative terms, nine states now allow same-sex couples to marry, with the first to allow it by popular vote in the last election. The president of the United States, for the first time, publicly acknowledged his support of the issue. Multiple Republicans and GOP insiders have acknowledged that there is little they can do about the eventual legalization of same sex marriage nationally. And in a stunning symbolic blow to the sadomasochistic social conservative movement, conservative-turned-libertarian Glen Beck is joining Bill O’Reilly and the ranks of the right who finally acknowledge that small-government conservatism means the government should stay out of love as well.

Pictures of couples marking their 40 years of commitment to each other with wedding rings say more about the necessity of righting this fundamental injustice nationally than I ever could, but it’s worth pausing for a moment to reflect on how we got here, and just how important this is to the nation. There are people today who still remember when “miscegenation” was illegal, and when blacks couldn’t marry whites. Hell, there are people today who were around when women first got the right to vote. It is a painful legacy of our history that only until recently have all people, of all kinds, truly been a part of the national project. And nothing is more odious than the interjection of government power into private lives of citizens (if you ask me, we’re going in the wrong direction: we should be ending government involvement in marriage altogether). But especially when sex and love have been used by countless regimes in history to drive wedges between people of different races and faiths (especially where religion is concerned), it has finally become somewhat of a banality at this point to stand up and declare openly, “I can love who I want and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

enhanced-buzz-13310-1355130194-9I could say a lot about this, particularly about South Africa which went from apartheid’s strict regulations on sex and marriage to full-blown marriage equality within 20 years, but it is amazing how steadfastly civil liberties can be protected as long as people keep speaking out for them. For there are plenty of people who would like this “sin” to be punishable by death. There are plenty of people who would like to see gays “cured” by the state, or see religion in general imposed upon children in classrooms. And, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of our friends on the left who would like to tell people what foods they can eat, or what lightbulbs they can use, or what is appropriate to say and in which fora. There will always be people who believe they have a right not to be offended by someone else’s personal choices and beliefs, and they will work to take away our rights in turn.

The test of the immutability of the right to marriage is not whether it becomes national law in 5 years, but whether in 30 years, or 50 years, people take it for granted, the way I fear many people today take their right to a fair trial for granted. Whether people realize how difficult it was to acquire these rights, there are always sinister forces looking to defeat them. We must be vigilant and continue to fight to protect our natural rights, rights that should and will belong to us even if our universe has been clouded with totalitarianism.

The wedding bells today in Washington are a welcome sound to all who can hear them. And may they soon ring out in Mississippi and Georgia and Idaho. And may they soon ring out in Indonesia and Iran and Uganda. And when they do, let us not forget how hard it is to gain our rights, and never fail to protect them.

As an aside: if you are a supporter of gay rights, but also believe in conservative ideals like small government, free minds and free markets, I recommend donating to GOProud, an conservative gay rights organization that supports states’ rights (that wonderful feature of federalism that has allowed gay couples to get married all across America even while many people oppose it). Whereas they are a little controversial on their narrow line on same-sex marriage, they get points for fighting discrimination and pushing for more acceptance in the conservative movement.

December 11, 2012Comments are DisabledRead More
Navigating California’s 2012 General Election Ballot

Navigating California’s 2012 General Election Ballot

Today I had some extra time to peruse the two massive voter information packets I received from California and San Francisco about the ballot measures in the November general election. This is my first time voting in a California general, so this was really my first intimate encounter with California state politics. The guides are presumably sent to every citizen in the state to educate them about their ballot options, which is a great idea to promote an educated citizenry and an active electorate. So in theory, I don’t object at all to voters being sent detailed information about all the candidates on the national, state and local ballots, as well as the state and city propositions.

However, in practice, this seems like an exercise in futility. For one thing, the guides themselves are dense manuals that number at more than 150 pages each; a chore to read cover-to-cover for any person. Each ballot proposition (there are eleven of them) is painstakingly deconstructed and explained, no doubt by committee, and the “For” and “Against” arguments are provided by representatives from each side–these representatives are also, no doubt, chosen by committee. The result is a sanitized, extremely confusing, mishmash of populism, legalize, and financial voodoo that seems to make both sides of each proposition look like the other side is an Orwellian nightmare and the alternative is the only solution to California budget Nirvana.

It would seem to me that if I, a reasonably intelligent and highly educated voter, have to get Wikipedia and reading glasses to navigate the legal and economic implications of eleven state propositions and seven ordinances in order to make a truly educated choice about the politics of the state in which I reside, I can’t imagine that the average California voter (or, shall I more diplomatically say, the California electorate) is making an informed decision about any of these measures. I definitely can’t imagine that more than a small percentage of voters are preparing for election day in advance. Most people will not know how they will vote for these measures before they get into the ballot box (which makes the populist wording of these propositions on the ballot even more suspect).

That said, even I had much trouble making decisions about some of these ballots. For instance, every proposition has a “fiscal impact” section, and it would seem that one should naturally favor the proposition with the least fiscal impact. However, in many cases, for me, this seems to matter little compared to the proposal itself. Because of my objection to state spending and taxes, I am glad to vote against Prop 30, Prop 37, Prop 38 and Prop 39, which all raise taxes or increase costs for increased regulation. But I am also in favor of repealing the death penalty and reducing overharsh prison sentences, so I have no problem voting for Prop 34 or Prop 36, even though they both require the state to spend money. What does this say about my fiscal responsibility? For one, the “fiscal” question is much less important than the economic question: how do spending and taxes promote or hurt prosperity? The state government is not just a balance sheet; the total budget has to be considered to be money taken out of the productive economy. A statement like “Increased state revenues through 2018-19, averaging about $6 billion annually over the next few years” does not mean that the voters are making money (which is what it sounds like). It means that voters are actually losing that money in the form of taxes.

I also had trouble supporting or opposing measures that all contain a mixture of desirable and undesirable elements, which are characteristic of the bills which they represent. Most laws are approved in chunks, even if various subsections may have nothing to do with the purported purpose of the law itself. The most insidious example of this (no doubt politically effective) practice is Prop 35, whose purported purpose is to increase penalties for human traffickers (who would oppose that?) but hides the fact that they expand the definition of human trafficking to include almost anyone involved in prostitution, and furthermore gives the state the power to monitor the personal internet usage of every registered sex offender, which includes people convicted of minor offenses such as public urination. As much as I would love to lock up slave traders for life, this is a really sneaky way to infringe on civil liberties.

Finally, some of these measures are straight wrong, or just illegal. City Proposition G reads as follows: “In Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the free speech provision of the First Amendment protects corporations as well as human beings…Proposition G would make it City policy that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and should be subject to political spending limits.” Put simply, a city ordinance cannot take away federal constitutional rights. If Biloxi, Mississippi were to pass an ordinance that said “In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women have a constitutional right to an abortion…Proposition A would make it City policy that women not have a constitutional right to an abortion,” people would be up in arms, and rightfully so. The City of San Francisco doesn’t decide what is constitutional, especially after it has already been ruled constitutional. Even the San Francisco Chronicle says that the proposition is completely nonbinding and is only there to show the country where San Francisco stands on Citizens United. Does anyone not know where San Francisco stands on Citizens United?

I have known for some time that California’s political system is broken, with the oft-praised “Fifth Estate” of direct democracy making policy decisions such as the rates auto insurers charge. Not only is the general electorate largely uninformed about these issues, how easily can the general electorate be seduced by a measure called “Human Trafficking; Penalties” into giving up their own civil liberties? How easily can the populists in the state house put damaging and irresponsible regulations into the hands of the voters, to decide for other people what they pay for their auto insurance or how they purchase their food? Sending an information packet to the voters is completely useless if the decisions voters are asked to make are decisions voters shouldn’t be making. And if voters are asked to make these decisions, then California is setting itself up for failure. What weapon do the California voters have to protect themselves against each other? How can a minority voice in California not be drowned out by an uninformed majority? The whole reason we have representative government in the first place is to entrust our elected leaders to make policy for us (even if entrusting these people is, often, itself an exercise in futility).

If we are not able to even elect good leaders as an electorate, why do we think we would be able to make good policy as an electorate?

October 20, 2012Comments are DisabledRead More
Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California decided that Proposition 8 to the California constitution violated the United States constitution.  This decision marks one more step in the historic–and seemingly endless–march for gay rights in the United States and the world.

California has long been a center of gay activism and progress in the area of gay rights.  San Francisco was the first city to elect an openly gay city supervisor, Harvey Milk, in 1978.  In that year, California’s Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have prevented gays and lesbians from working in the school system, was defeated.  However, gay marriage was still not valid or recognized in California.  In 2000, California passed Proposition 22 which constitutionally defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.  In 2008, the Supreme Court of California overturned this amendment, legalizing gay marriage in California for several months until the November election, when Proposition 8 was passed which overturned the court’s decision.

Time and time again, the courts have upheld the rights of homosexual couples to marry, and time and time again, populist movements have put an end to this basic human freedom.  Today, a Federal judge issued an invalidating ruling, meaning that in California, for the time being, the only hope for defeating gay rights is in the Supreme Court.  (For you constitutional purists out there, the reason we have courts in the first place is to provide guidance on law and prevent unjust laws when we don’t know any better.)

Today California once again joins the ranks of the few states in America that extend this privilege to homosexual couples:  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Washington, DC, New Hampshire and Vermont.  We will see soon if the Supreme Court upholds today’s ruling.  In my opinion, there is no valid argument–constitutional, moral, religious, or otherwise–against allowing homosexuals to marry to the fullest extent of equal protection under United States federal law. The only valid constitutional argument from a Federalist perspective is the separation of powers and the States rights doctrine.  This is certainly a valid argument to make, but keep in mind that if the Supreme Court had consistently strictly upheld the States rights doctrine when it came to matters of equality, segregation would still be legal.  Interracial marriage would still be illegal.  Plus, we have the Fourteenth Amendment for a reason!

It is important for Americans of all races, religions and orientations to remember that our ancestors also faced opposition to their basic human rights and freedoms.  Indeed, the past four hundred years of history in America has been a story of groups gradually winning the right to be viewed as equals.  In the struggle for gay rights, we see a similar endurance and persistence that has occupied every civil rights movement in our history.  The same endurance that led blacks to freedom, that led women to the ballot box and that even led Jews to Israel.  There is no doubt that, like these movements of the past, the movement for gay and lesbian rights in America will succeed.  The decision today in California is a vital step on the road to justice.  The more the opponents of this movement try to hold the country back, the louder its drive for justice, and the sweeter the victory.

It is easy for Americans to forget, being as secure we are in our citizenship and our persons, how hard it was for our parents and grandparents to fight so it could be this way.  Think about the progress we have made as a nation in just the last century–but also think about how much further we have to go, not just in terms of gay rights but in terms of many basic human rights, worldwide, that we take for granted.

If you are interested in the legal thought going into today’s decision, check out the text of the ruling here (  There is also a great article by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ted Olson, in Newsweek called “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” (  Olson explains quite eloquently that the fight for gay rights is not just a gay issue or a liberal issue, but an American issue.

August 4, 2010Comments are DisabledRead More