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Monday, October 27, 2008

Guest Commentary: Opposing View on Same-Sex Marriage

Steven Ostrowski

This November, Proposition 8 will be decided by the voters of California. It will decide whether same-sex marriage stays or goes in the state of California. In the year 2000, Proposition 22 wrote into our family law that marriage was between a man and a woman. This passed overwhelmingly with 61% of the vote. A few months ago, this law was struck down by a divided California Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision. Now we are given a choice to reaffirm the Court’s ruling or change the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the state. According to most legal sources, all same-sex marriages made prior to the passing of Proposition 8 would become invalid.

The first argument made by the opposition is that same-sex marriage is a right that should not be taken away. It is thus implied that the passing of Proposition 8 would strip same-sex couples of their right to marriage. When it comes to the word “rights” there are two sources people come to as to where these rights come from. The framers of the US Constitution believed that our rights came from our Creator. Others believe that our rights come from the state.

If our rights come from our Creator, then the argument become theologically and speculative as to whether our Creator deems it a right to grant same-sex marriage. The framers of the Constitution under a liberal version of Protestantism believed that the Creator desired that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property). At the time, this was quite a radical document as it was in great contrast to Divine Rule of Kings. The “No on Proposition 8” campaign has not used the Creator as a source for their right for same-sex marriage. It has never been mentioned in this campaign and it probably won’t. So I will assume that the opposition believes that their rights come from the state.

If that is the case, the opposition must concede that their rights are determined based on the people, democratic processes, and the Courts. If the state, through the people, strip same-sex couples of their so called right to marriage it must be conceded as totally legitimate. How can there be moral outrage if the people can give and take away? Unless of course, the opposition is relying completely on the Courts for their protection. In which case, even the Courts are answerable to democratic processes.

But is same-sex marriage even a right? I do not believe so. It is no different than a driver’s license, hunting license, fishing license, boat license, airplane license, etc. It requires qualifications and permission from the state. Anything the state grants as a privilege cannot be considered a right. Indeed, a county clerk could decide not to let anyone marry. This has occurred in at least two counties in California in recent months.

Under the Equal Protection of Law clause, I believe that this has already been completed in California. Civil Unions have the same exact benefits as marriage benefits. The only difference is the title in which it is called. The argument that a civil union is considered inferior to same-sex marriage cannot be determined. It can’t be determined because it is a qualitative analysis based on individual persons. Furthermore, we have not yet seen the results of the people’s acceptance to the term civil union as opposed to same-sex marriage. It could be argued that many people would consider same-sex marriage to be a less legitimate term than civil union. In any case, the Court was not given enough information to make a proper decision on the matter and thus we have a 4-3 split decision. But even if civil unions were considered inferior to same-sex marriage, it wouldn’t matter because the Court should not be making values on what is inferior or superior to what.

For those of us who wish to preserve democratic freedom, we should be appalled by the Court’s decision even if we agree with it. As stated before, the voters approved Proposition 22 by 61%. Imagine if a proposition you voted for became overruled on the whim of a court despite a state-wide consensus. For many, it is not legitimate for the Court to overrule the people on any particular proposition regardless of whether it’s trivial or mundane. A great many others are displeased that instead of going through the proper democratic processes, members of the gay community have sued to institute their view. This gives myself and many others, the impression that the gay community is simply using the Courts to get their way because they are hopelessly outnumbered by the general population. This will not create mutual understanding and reconciliation between the gay and straight community. Instead it will breed discontent, accusations, and hurt feelings.

An argument against Proposition 8 is that we should not impose our values on the state. However, it is quite the opposite. The opposition is imposing an unwanted definition on the institution of marriage. It must be conceded that both sides wish to “impose.” To not concede this, is to not understand the power of the democratic process. We all impose our values on everyone when we vote. Failure to do so is simply apathy. Even a moderate view is an imposing view point. Either same-sex marriages equal heterosexual marriages or they do not.

This brings up the point of religion. The opposition has accused the yes campaign of using religion to impose their values on the state. Although both sides wish to impose, religion is seemingly a more negative form a persuasion than secular reasoning. I find this to be most intolerant of the opposition to keep religion out of the democratic process while tolerating more secular arguments. What difference does it make why people vote a certain way? What difference does it make whether a priest declares a message versus a civil servant? Indeed, there are many pro-gay churches who preach the exact opposite and yet the opposition does not consider this to be threatening.

This leads into the more negative expressions, I have experienced from the opposition. I have been told that I must be bigoted, intolerant, extremist, and hateful to support Proposition 8. So, is 8 hate? I find it rather presumptive for the opposition to imply such a thing. There is nothing in the ballot description, which was edited by Jerry Brown, to suggest hate. Some supporters of 8 have shown hate in their emotions, but this is also true with the opposition. There are lesser beings on both sides, but Proposition 8 is not in it of itself hate. In fact, if we were to take this hate value to its logical conclusion it would require us to take a rather unfavorable view of our country.

Eighteen states have banned gay marriage in their constitution and all other same-sex unions. An additional eight has gay marriage as just banned in their state constitutions. Seventeen more states have banned gay marriage as a statute in their laws. So, a total of 43 states have banned gay marriage as compared to three states that explicitly allow gay marriage. So, there must be a lot of hate going around. And especially so in California as we can see the polls are almost even on this proposition. The opposition should not consider Proposition 8 as hate due to very plausible chance that it could pass. But perhaps opposition is just making a moral judgment on this issue, in which case I would humbly request the source of this moral outrage.

So, what is at stake here? The definition of marriage has the precedence of thousands of years as being only between one man and one woman. Homosexual relationships simply do not qualify for this term. Marriage, as supporters would say, is for the procreation of children and a social foundation for the creation of families. This obviously excludes a lot of individuals, but that is the point.

Marriage only holds value if it procreates children and is monogamous. Marriage loses value through divorce, series of divorces, adultery, open relationships, and couples willingly refusing to have children. Instead marriage has become a mere contract with no real special or profound characteristics. It’s a social and economical contract with the state and nothing more. This change in definition from a family creating unit to a mere sexual relationship has destroyed the value of marriage.

The value of marriage or a same-sex marriage is always going to be subjective, but this is a subjective debate. But why should the supporters care if the value of marriage goes down with the emergence of gay marriage? Marriage in a lot of ways is like stock. If you devalue an institution, everyone’s stocks become worthless. Then people bail out of institution all together. We will become like Sweden where marriage is scarce and often ridiculed. The creation of gay marriage cements the philosophical view that marriage is not a family creating unit, but a mere social contract with the state. For religious individuals, who believe their marriage is sanctified by God, and more secular individuals this is rather troubling.

The collapse of marriage will affect everyone across the country. Divorces cause enormous strain on the economy when it comes to commercial spending, housing, and the raising of children. Not one politician in the nation actively supports people getting divorces. When people live by themselves and do not combine their economical assets it hurts the economy or changes it in such a way that it may hurt us personally. When children are raised with only one parent, it has a profound impact on our economy and social services. It must be conceded that marriage is a good thing for society.

That is why the value of marriage must be preserved. A clear example is the movie Chuck and Larry where two males, who have no romantic intentions, become married for the sole purpose of getting benefits from the government. That marriage is just as valid as the marriage between two heterosexual individuals who have been married for 50 years and have many children and grandchildren. For those of us, who value their own marriage or potential marriage that is an unsettling thought. Now, it can be easily argued that a scenario like this already exists with Las Vegas weddings. This is true, but pointing out other bad behavior doesn’t make other bad behavior good.

And so what about infertile couples, those who do not wish to have children, and the elderly? Should we prevent them marriage licenses? I would say no, because infertile couples through time may be cured of their illness or problem through medical science. There have been many Biblical accounts of infertile couples who were also old that gave birth. Culturally, the Christian cannot refuse to marry these individuals. Also, those who refuse to have children may change their mind in the future. In addition, the process to find out these answers would violate privacy and self incrimination principles. So, the government must side on the side of caution and give all heterosexuals marriage licenses. Same-sex marriages are obviously different and can be detected as such through physical appearance and record keeping. Same-sex couples under no biological circumstance can they produce children through both partners. Artificial impregnation does not create a natural family, because the father or the mother of the child is absent, and the other spouse involved did not donate in the creation of the child.

Furthermore, those who value free speech and religious tolerance should consider the ramifications of what this country will be like under a more secular culture. Priests and pastors are being sued, fined, and jailed for speaking out against homosexuality in their own churches. Americans are not immune to this; hate crime legislation is encroaching steadily on what one can say and cannot say. Indeed, our confidence in the 1st Amendment is based on the US Supreme Court and the government. If both side against you, for whatever reason, you lose your voice regardless of what the US Constitution says. Churches may be stripped of their non-profit status if they do not hold gay weddings or if they speak out against them. Public schools will inevitably be taught gay marriage, as it is already being taught in Massachusetts, with or without the permission of parents. Without access to vouchers or alternatives, parents may have to compete with schools on what their child learns. Gay students may become segregated in special schools as is the case in Chicago. The slippery slope is not very inviting to supporters, all movements in history start out small.

So, the solution to increasing the value of marriage is to not making it easier to obtain but harder. It would go a long way, if couples had pre-marriage counseling, divorce counseling, heavier divorce penalties, as well as government incentives to keeping people together through the use of tax credits and/or social programs. Small reforms can be made to prevent the Las Vegas weddings that are harming the image and value of marriage in this country. Gay marriage is not the answer; it detracts from the philosophical view of what marriage is supposed to be. We will never be able to fix these problems if marriage becomes a right with no responsibility or accountability.

So, I hope there is some understanding as to the concerns supporters have if Proposition 8 does not pass. I have not preached to you Biblical verses or the writings of Popes and saints. I am having a conversation here that can be easily understood by all regardless of culture or religion.

Preserve the value and philosophy of true marriage by voting Yes on Prop 8.

Steven Ostrowski