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[This post began as a letter to my cousin, who is active and vocal in the movement to reject Prop 8. I'm proud of him for that. But I really don't know him well - we see each other now and again at family gatherings - and eventually it seemed wrong to be blasting all this concentrated thought in his direction, complete with unfounded assumptions about what he thinks or doesn't think. So instead I'm posting it here, as sort of an open letter to the person I imagine him to be.]

Everyone I know wants to undo Prop 8 and restore the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Half of them changed their Facebook status to "California, I'm disappointed in you," but that doesn't do any good, because California doesn't read Facebook. Everyone's joining Californians Ready to Repeal Prop 8, or Repeal the CA Ban on Marriage Equality - 2010, or One Million Strong for Marriage Equality. Awesome! Get involved however you can. Prop 8's a bad law, sold to the people of California by out-of-state interests with false advertising. We need to get rid of it. But I think a lot of people don't know how.

The legislature didn't outlaw same-sex marriage. (They've passed legislation twice to legalize it.) The governor didn't outlaw same-sex marriage. (He vetoed that legislation I just mentioned, but he publicly opposed Prop 8.) The courts didn't either - it's because of the courts that some 18,000 same-sex couples are already legally married in California.

California voters (52% of them, plus all the ones who couldn't be bothered to vote at all) outlawed same-sex marriage.

So fine, the government didn't get us into this mess, but can it get us out of it? Well, the courts could invalidate the amendment. There are lawsuits to this effect already underway. I'm skeptical (similar efforts have failed in other states), but I wish them luck.

The governor, though, has little or no power to make or unmake laws. And since Prop 8 was a constitutional amendment, the legislature can't directly overturn it. All they can do is put a reverse amendment on the ballot for the public to vote on again. But it'd take a 2/3 majority in both houses - a tough sell even before the voters passed a constitutional amendment - and it would only set the stage. To overturn Prop 8, barring another court intervention, we need majority public support for marriage equality.

In a way, going back to the voters seems like the hardest approach, just because there are so many who need to be convinced - there are about 23 million eligible voters, compared to 120 legislators, 7 Supreme Court justices, and just one governor. But there's a lot of good news:
  • 48% of those who voted are already on our side. That's almost enough to overturn 8 right there.

  • That means there are a lot of us to help with the convincing. Over five million people voted No on 8.

  • Generational currents are on our side. Exit polls showed results by age, but the right way to think about it is by year of birth. Voters born before 1978 tended to vote for Prop 8, and voters born since 1978 voted against it. Life being what it is, over time there will be fewer of the first group and more of the second. And it's not like older voters' opinions are fixed in stone, either. More minds are changing in favor of marriage equality than against it.

  • In 2008, a whole lot of potential pro-gay activist energy was focused on getting a Democrat in the White House. That done, there should be more people to help with marriage equality and other campaigns.

  • I can't back this up with data, but here's what I believe: The way to win people over to our side is love. Isn't that beautiful? People fall in love, people get married (legally or not), and the people who love them see that and want to help. Not everyone comes around. But each bond we make makes all the other bonds stronger. (That's one of the reasons we have marriage in the first place, and one of the reasons marriage equality is important to me.) And it's much easier emotionally to be on the side that wins by loving.
The demonstrations I see you attending, and organizing, are great. They give like-minded people an opportunity to meet, reinforce, and energize each other. And they make a public statement: We support and demand the right to marry, there are many of us, we're not going away. But if the courts don't solve this problem, and it comes down to mass action, I think a quiet sort of activism might be the most effective. You're already doing it, but I want to share this post that resonated with me:
What Should You Do for Gay Rights

--by Sebastian

Now that Prop 8 has provided a temporary setback to marriage rights in California, I was thinking about what the best positive step next would look like. Eventually there will probably have to be another vote, and the best thing I can think of for that is rather mundane. In the next weeks and months, talk to some generally good but misguided people you know about why marriage is so important. Talk about how the commitment of two people is just as important for those people no matter what sex they are. Talk about how the community benefits from the commitment by allowing the joy of the public commitment to be shared. Talk about how much it can hurt for the ceremonies of love to be denied. You can preempt some of the stupid lies about schools and tax exemptions that were spread by the "Yes on 8" campaign, but ultimately focusing on the human aspect is best. It may seem boring compared to other forms of political activism, but ultimately it is how we win.

If you don't think you know any otherwise good people who are also against gay marriage, look again.
That last paragraph meant a lot to me, because in the week before the election I realized that some people I respect and love don't believe what I believe about marriage. It's easy to feel like there's an enemy that needs to be defeated. But there are also friends that we need to persuade.

Well said

Date: 2008-12-18 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It's easy to forget, living here in the Bay Area, that not everyone in California has the same political beliefs as us. And it's hard to remember that there's another way to win an election than insulting our opponents in order to "mobilize" people that already agree with us.

September 2015


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