Sunday, December 21, 2008

Other shoe drops: tear up those marriage certificates

You might remember the television ad from the anti Prop 8 campaign that got the Religious Right and their fellow travellers rather upset. They shouted with horror that the commercial showed two Mormon missionaries visiting the home of a lesbian couple and searching through it until they could find the couples marriage certificate in order to rip it up.

Various members of the fringe Right were in a dither. They argued that the commercial amounted to hate speech -- unlike the sermoms that are preached in their churches targeting specific groups of people regularly. (By the way, just because something is hate speech doesn’t mean it ought to be illegal. I’m a first amendment absolutist.) Apparently pointing out, in a rather humorous way, precisely what the Mormon sect was doing is not hate -- it’s journalism. That is what the Mormon cult was up to with this campaign.

So how unfair was the ad? After all, some argued Prop 8 merely stripped gay couples of the their right to marry. It didn’t require that anyone march into people’s homes and destroy their marriage certificates.

The Sacramento Bee reports on the most recent legal brief filed by the Yes on 8 campaign in the California Supreme Court. In practical terms it demands that the Court order the marriage certificates of gay couples to be ripped up.
The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The Yes on 8 campaign filed a brief arguing that because the new law holds that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized or valid in California, the state can no longer recognize the existing same-sex unions. The document reveals for the first time that opponents of same-sex marriage will fight in court to undo those unions that already exist.
Isn’t that, in practical terms, precisely what the commercial so humorously depicted? Didn’t the Prop 8 campaign know that, all along, they were intending to try to nullify the marriages of other people? Weren’t they intentionally hiding their intentions from the voters?

Fundamentalists and cults like the Mormons are masters at deception. They hide their ambitions or beliefs from the public. The fundies hide their ambitions, the Mormons hide their bizarre beliefs, though in Prop 8 the Mormons also hide their ambitions.

I remember a seminar given by Rev. Richard Angwin, a fundamentalist Baptist who once roamed the country teaching born-again Neanderthals how to politically campaign against the rights of gay people. In one of his lectures he warned fundamentalists to hide their full agenda. He told them not to reveal all the moral laws they wished the state to put into place otherwise they would turn off voters.

For months the Yes on 8 hate-mongers were silent on what they would do the thousands of happily married couples. Now the other shoe drops. But anyone with an ounce of brains already knew that this what they intended to do.

I wish to address one further issue here. I have had some libertarians argue that opposition to equal marriage rights is not inherently bigoted. I disagree.

Opposition to a state institution of marriage is not bigoted but if such an institution exists, and they advocate a measure which strips one precise, identifiable group of people, from that institution then it is bigoted. It is especially bigoted if they themselves are, or have been married. One can oppose state education without being a bigot. One can’t argue that state schools should exclude Jews or blacks or even Mormons, without being a bigot. Opposition to state schooling is not bigoted, opposition to state schooling for one group of people is.

The Rick Warrens, the Mormon sect members, and the Catholic Bishops are antigay bigots. This is not debatable. Any campaign that targets one group of individuals, in order to strip them of rights, which are enjoyed by the rest of population, is unavoidably bigoted.

Some of the bigots, who think they are clever, argue that they want gays to have the same marriage rights as everyone else: that is the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. Imagine the howls of the Jonah Goldbergs of the Right if a campaign stripped Jews of the right to worship their god? Surely campaigners in that measure could argue they want Jews to have the equal right to worship the Jesus of their choice.

The Right is very worried about PCish legislation that regulates what people eat and strips them of their freedom of choice. They would reject a claim by health Nazis that such laws merely enforce the equal right to eat healthy food. A law that forbids eating fatty foods, or which restricts which god one may worship, can be couched in the same terms that the anti marriage campaigners use.

If the law gave everyone the right to attend the Baptist church of their choice the Mormons would be furious and argue that their rights were being violated. They would be correct. To then turn around and argue that gays have the same right to marry a member of the opposite sex, like everyone else, is just as ludicrous.

If a law were passed stripping Mormons of their right to believe in billions of Gods and gold plates, and baptism for the dead, they would be livid. They would not accept that their rights are equal if it meant only the equal right to worship the Christian god. Yet, they turn around and use precisely that kind of law, and that kind of logic, to strip another minority of their rights. No libertarian ought to give that sort effort any kind of support. You may oppose state marriage in general, but to oppose it for one group of people is not libertarian. And if you oppose it in general, but only campaign to strip one group of people of that right, and you are not a bigot, then you are doing a rather good imitation of one. Personally I’m not convinced it is an imitation, I suggest such libertarians are merely embracing their inner bigot. I am not saying they have no right to be bigots, they do, but they ought to be honest enough to admit it. And they ought to recognize that the law should not embrace their personal prejudices but grant equal rights and protection to all citizens.

PS: I am curious. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons were together for decades. Shortly before the death of Phyllis Lyons, the couple married. Can we really declare legally invalid, the legal marraige of a woman, after she has died? I guess with this weird baptism for the dead Mormon thing, they feel they can rip up marriage certficates for dead people as well.

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