So Proposition 8 has been overturned, thank the gods. And now the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments, and the demonizing of innocent, upstanding Americans by the bigots has begun. Again.
There’s a storm coming, and it’s in your teapot.
The Right is still spinning this as another bullshit “damned activist judges!” complaint, because naturally, the ruling today overturned “the will of the people” (and that’s only okay when it’s overturning stuff that they don’t support). This of course ignores centuries of historic precedent of voting majorities oppressing smaller populations (such as blacks and women, and now moving on to include latinos and homosexuals), and remedies only being available through the courts, whose duty is to uphold the law and the Constitution, regardless of what the “will of the people” may have to say about it. I believe this is where the “if everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?” counter-argument comes in handy. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good or right (like slavery, or war, or Fox News, or American Idol).
Of course, the Right is continuing to do everything they can to demonize the concept of homosexuality and shift the debate away fundamental rights and equal protection under the law, to “LALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!! GAY PEOPLE ARE GROSS!!!!” This is, “of course”, a very compelling emotional argument, but has absolutely no legal standing against the text of the 14th Amendment of the Right’s beloved United States Constitution:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
There’s a few things to note about this text. First, there’s the equal protection bit, which the Right tries to ignore as much as possible whenever it affects things they disagree with for any reason. Because marriage is a civil act of contract law in the United States, it is bound by the text of the 14th Amendment, and it is therefore unconstitutional to deny anyone the right to create such a contract between themselves and another person.
Second, I’ve seen a ton of people opposed to gay marriage claim that marriage is a privilege, not a right. It’s like getting a driver’s license, or owning a house, or (in their mind) having access to quality affordable health care (amazing how this all ties together in some ways, isn’t it?). However, as the very first sentence of the bit I’ve quoted from the 14th Amendment quite clearly states (emphasis mine, for those who are hard of reading):
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”.
This argument also ignores the fact that there are already precedents for things like the privilege of owning a house being subject to the 14th Amendment (ever hear of the Equal Housing Act?), but let’s not let logic and facts get in the way of a good gay-hating.
Even if I were willing to grant you, for the sake of argument, the absurd assertion that homosexuality is a choice (which I’m not, but let’s continue to deal in hypothetical hypotheticals), Proposition 8 would still be unconstitutional because there is still no legal reason to discriminate against gay people when it comes to issuing marriage licenses. Naturally the “EWWW GAY PEOPLE ARE ICKY!!!” argument still stands, but as I’ve already said, that has no basis in law. And besides, if you want to go after something that really squicks people out and which many people consider immoral (or at least inadvisable and openly ridiculable), why not go after the laws that allow first cousins to marry? Oh right, you can’t build a culture war out of that issue…
Gay people getting married won’t ruin your marriage (or shouldn’t, anyway… I can’t really speak for how fragile your relationship may be that other people doing something completely outside your sphere of influence will cause it to collapse). It won’t cause fire to rain from the sky. It won’t cause anything terrible to happen to this country (besides, there’s already plenty of terrible shit happening to this country that has nothing to do with gay marriage). When you say stupid shit like that, it makes you sound like the jackass Imam from Saudi Arabia or wherever who said that women wearing revealing clothing causes earthquakes. It’s absolute, total, scientifically disprovable bullshit. It won’t destroy our children. It won’t cause everyone to become afflicted with The Gay. It will, in fact, do absolutely fucking nothing to you, so why the hell do you even care? Oh right, culture war and all that. Never mind.
I also inexplicably keep seeing people tumble down the slippery slope arguing that legalizing gay marriage will lead to polygamy, bestiality, and people marrying their favorite inanimate objects. To tackle the simple stupid arguments first, there is no way for this to lead to bestiality or people marrying their red Swingline staplers, because dogs, cats, horses, staplers, toasters, refrigerators, and the like are unable to enter into legal contracts in the United States, and frankly I don’t see a judge agreeing with the assertion that Fluffy can read and comprehend the terms of a marriage license.
The (only marginally) more complex argument, of course, is that this will inevitably lead to polygamy becoming legal. This is still wrong, however, because it again ignores some basic facts about the marriage contract. Namely, a marriage contract is a legal document that applies to two people. That’s how the contract works. It would take considerable effort to manage to convince anyone with a sound sense of reason or logic that this two-person contract should apply just as well to parties of three, or four, or twelve. The number of persons who can enter into the marriage contract has never and will never be an issue. The issue is that the contract should, like all other legal contracts, be genderless. There are no rules that say only a male and a female can enter into a contract to start a small business together, for instance. So why is the marriage contract so special? The answer: it’s not. And I say this as a married man. What’s special is the relationship upon which the contract is founded, and that has nothing to do with the law.
Polygamy is also a really tricky concept which would require completely new contracts to cover the complex sets of legal protections and provisions stemming from a multi-party relationship. At that point I think you start pushing into the realm of organizational law rather than personal law, and I just don’t think there’s enough demand to motivate anyone to draw up the relevant contracts. What works for one doesn’t work for two, and what works for two doesn’t work for three or more. It’s like expanding rock, paper, scissors to more than two players. Sure you can do it (as Cyan has demonstrated), but it relies on a lot of house rules and additional complexity to make it work which frequently just isn’t worth the effort involved.
That said, I’m pretty squarely in the “let consenting adults be consenting adults” camp, which you’d think would be totally in line with the Right’s assertion that government is the problem, and that it needs to get the hell out of our homes and let us live our lives. Inexplicably though, this only seems to apply to their homes. Everyone else is subject to the intrusive power of government acting at the behest of the easily-offended fundamentalists slinging untrue accusations about easily-demonizable minorities (but I’m the Nazi, remember…). In my opinion, if six people want to marry each other, and they can work out a contract to make that happen (as opposed to just living together and legally acting as individuals), why stop them? What harm are they doing to each other, or to you (besides offending your sensibilities)? And why should it be the government’s job to do anything to help you go out of your way to be offended by their existence? I’d say pull the stick out of your ass, but apparently putting things in your bum is an abomination, isn’t it?
Of course, the big fear isn’t that gay people will suddenly be happy (or miserable, depending on how cynical you are of marriage in general), but that somehow by making it okay to be gay, it’ll encourage children to also be gay, which feeds directly into the Right’s fears of a dwindling caucasian population (because gay people don’t have babies) in the face of the screaming unwashed hordes of brown people lurking at the gate, waiting for their chance to storm the castle.
There’s also the fear that, horror of horrors, it’ll be illegal to discriminate against gay people (incidentally, when your platform is “help us support discrimination!”, it may be time to examine what you’re doing). Given the power that religion holds over government in this country already (why else would Prop 8 have been on the ballot in the first place?), this seems like a bizarre concern, but okay, let’s look at it. The thing that seems to come up most frequently is that it will require religions that think homosexuality is a sin to recognize and/or perform gay marriages. No it won’t. Now, if you offer your church or meeting space for public use for weddings, you have to comply with all relevant anti-discrimination laws, but this will not force the Catholic Church (to pick a fucked up, bigoted old organization purely at random, and not because I grew up as part of it… *ahem*) to recognize gay marriages, nor would it require its priests to perform them. The same laws that stipulate, in effect, that your right to your beliefs ends at my doorstep work both ways.
Hopefully, those opposed to the legalization of gay marriage will get over their debilitating fear of catching The Gay before they end up looking as backwards, repressive, and controlling as the folks who opposed (and especially the folks who still do oppose) the legalization of interracial marriages. And out of curiosity, whatever happened to that little piece of advice handed down through the ages by the carpenter from Judea? You know, that thing about loving thy neighbor, and doing unto others?