Another charge is that allowing the full civil rights of marriage to same-sex couples will impinge on the religious freedom of those who view it as immoral and they will not be able to speak against what they see as sinful actions or sinful people. Looking at what is currently legal and what free speech allows religious leaders to preach against, this would not seem to be the case. The sale and consumption of alcohol is legal in all states, but the virtues of abstaining can be preached from the pulpit. People are allowed to cohabit, and even adopt children as an unwed couple, but the sinfulness of living an impure lifestyle can still be preached with passion in front of the congregation. If looking at these examples was not enough for people to realize that what is allowed by law can still be condemned by speech in church, the California Supreme Court decision of May 15, 2008 (which allowed the marriages to take place), specifically states as follows regarding religious denominations:
Affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs. (Cal. Const., art. I & 4.) — in re MARRIAGE CASES, S147999, page 117.
Although untrue, those in favor of Proposition 8 seek to portray this as an epic battle of Church v. State (I’m not exaggerating. Chuck Colson called it “Armageddon” last week, but the fact is that churches are not all in favor of this change to the constitution. Twenty-three congregations paid to take out an ad in the San Jose Mercury News urging a vote against Proposition 8. Members of the LDS church have set up a website voicing their opposition, and Professor Morris Thurston, a prominent LDS scholar published an essay combating the lies that same-sex marriage would interfere with religious freedom or education. Members of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, where I hold my membership, have also set up an a site explaining why they view a vote of “No” on Proposition 8 as important to religious freedom and separation of church and state.
Similar to the reasoning of Adventists Against Proposition 8, EVERYONE, gay or straight, religious or otherwise, should be scared of Proposition 8 for setting a president of trampling the few and setting up a tyranny of the majority. A lawyer in Virginia writes,
With Proposition 8, we see religious extremists seeking to impose their anti-gay religious views on the civil laws of the State of California (as well as in Florida and Arizona under the initiatives on the ballot in those states) and overturn a ruling of the California Supreme Court. This flies in the face of how government is supposed to work in this country and will set a precedent where an unrestrained majority can subjugate minority groups. The so-called “separation of powers” devised by the framers of the United States Constitution – and emulated in the state constitutions – was designed to do one primary thing: to prevent the majority from ruling with an iron fist and trampling on the rights of minorities. This reasoning was based on the framers’ experience under the British monarchy where minorities, be they religious or otherwise, had suffered often at the hands of the majority. Thus the framers deliberately avoided giving any branch of the government too much power.
Among the powers given to the Federal Judiciary are: the power to try federal cases and interpret the laws of the nation in those cases; the power to declare any law or executive act unconstitutional. Under state law, the respective state supreme courts perform a similar function. In In Re Marriage Cases, the California Supreme Court recognized the inherent and unchangeable nature of sexual orientation which justifies treatment of LGBT citizens as a minority. The California Supreme Court then properly held that discrimination against same sex couples was unconstitutional.
Proposition 8 is both wrong in terms of seeking to abrogate the proper functioning of the role of the judiciary and in terms of pretending that gays are not a minority who deserve equal treatment under the civil laws. Worse yet, Proposition 8 is an attempt to impose religious beliefs on other citizens and represents behavior akin to the Taliban and other Islamic extremists.
Most of the people reading this note aren’t residents of California, so why am I writing this? Because, as you may have heard, this will affect the whole nation one way or the other. The voting will either allow same-sex couples legal marriage rights and those who oppose the right to voice dissent, or take away those rights and establish a precedent of unprotected majority rule. Both sides know what is at stake. “No on Proposition 8″ has been seeking funding to continue airing ads, and “Yes on 8″ and its supporters have donations pouring in from out of state by the millions and are holding rallies at mega-churches to reach large populations. Yesterday, with only 4 days left in the campaign, the “No on 8″ website was hacked so people couldn’t make online donations.
If you’re not in California to vote, what can you do? Donate! Donate your time. If you’re in California, take the time this weekend to talk to your friends and neighbors about the implications of amending the State Constitution. If you’re out of state, you can volunteer to call voters. Donate your money. Besides word of mouth, the ONLY reason people are hearing two sides to this argument is the donations that are keeping ads on the air opposed to Prop 8. The LDS church has been in the news for weeks for organizing its members nationwide to donate millions, and they’re only one congregation. Not everyone has read Professor Thurston’s essay, most won’t. It’s the TV ads that they’ll see, and those are paid for by the thousands of donors to the “No On 8″ campaign. Even college students like myself can donate $5 or $10. Whether you can give your time, money, or both, visit http://www.noonprop8.com/ to contribute.
If you’ve read this till the end, give yourself a pat on the back. There are articles detailing the arguments about Prop 8′s affect on education, freedom of speech, or ability of churches to make their own decisions regarding the matter. I tried to cover all topics here, and hopefully gave a good overview.
Whether you reside in California or not, whether you’re gay, straight, religious, or an atheist, this will affect you. I’ve made it clear where I stand, and if any of this has moved you, I ask you to help make sure that Proposition 8 goes down in flames.
** Kenneth wrote this letter as a member of a democratic society who sees a potential abuse of power by the majority if Prop 8 passes, not from the perspective of someone who wants to get married but can’t, because “I’d still be writing this if I was straight.”