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.: Proposition 8 | 2008-11-17 05:52PM :.
Proposition 8, titled "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry", was recently passed in California. It was proposed by California Renewal (campaign homepage: http://www.protectmarriage.com), and sponsored primarily by Christian religious groups, while the opposition banded together under the organization Equality for All (homepage: http://www.NoOnProp8.com). I don't live in the US, and I didn't hear about it until it had already happened. In a recent conversation, a Christian brought it up and seemed happy about the outcome. Some of the things he said seemed rather unlikely though, and I doubted them. Afterward, I began some research. That's when I realized the full extent of California Renewal's disgustingly sordid campaign to pass Proposition 8, which I'll simply call "the Yes campaign".

The background of Proposition 8 is this: In March of 2000, Proposition 22, again primarily sponsored by Christian religious groups, was passed, and denied the right of same-sex couples to marry. The California Supreme Court overturned the proposition because it violated the state Constitution.[13] The court furthermore affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry. A few months later, Christian groups submitted Proposition 8 to again deny this right. Proposition 8 amends the state Constitution to add the following text: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." That's all it does, but it effectively outlaws gay marriage.

I've heard many people ask "Why did Proposition 8 pass?" or "What happened in California?". I'll tell you. A pernicious campaign of lies and deception is what happened. I've watched every one of the Yes campaign's television ads and read every word that they've published in the California State Voter's Guide. Almost every single sentence is deeply deceptive. They were very cunning. No doubt to avoid legal trouble, they didn't tell any outright lies that I could find, but what they did say is so deceptive and so dishonest, just a hair's breadth away from being lies, that they surely knew almost all readers would get their intended, false meanings. And those readers, who would not know to be so hair-splittingly careful in choosing their words, would spread the lies by word of mouth.

On the other hand, I did not find a single deceptive or untrue statement produced by the No campaign and published in any official outlet (e.g., the California Voter's Guide, a television ad, their official website, their press releases, etc), with the exception of a few personal opinions about God from "real life" people they interviewed, which may not be true, but certainly weren't attempts at deception. You may say it's because I'm biased. So don't take my word for it. Do the research yourself. I challenge you to find one.

Rights

The most important issue of the Proposition was that it takes away the rights of same-sex couples. The Yes campaign vehemently denied this, saying that couples in domestic unions have exactly the same legal rights as those in marriages. But that is a lie by omission. California domestic unions provide the same legal rights as marriages only in matters relating to California state law. In particular, they do not provide the same rights under federal law, nor will the union be recognized if the couple leaves the state of California. The General Accounting Office released a report[12] that summarized the ways that federal law treats married couples specially. They found 1,049 such places in federal law. If we make the very conservative assumptions that 1) they didn't miss any, and 2) only 10% of them create any privileges or benefits for married couples, then there would still be 105 federal rights denied to same-sex couples by Proposition 8.

Here are specific examples of this lie:

• "It was forced on us, ... when gay domestic partners already have the same legal rights [as married couples]" [5]
• "Proposition 8 doesn't take away any rights or benefits of gay or lesbian domestic partnerships. Under California law, 'domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits' as married spouses... There are NO exceptions. Proposition 8 WILL NOT change this." [1]

This is very deceptive. It conveniently fails to mention that under the laws of other states, and under federal law, they would not have the same rights, protections, and benefits. And it's doubly deceptive in that it says it doesn't take away rights of "domestic partnerships". Of course not! The whole point is that it takes away rights of marriage! And finally, its emphatic and categorical phrasing ensures that many people will be deceived. In effect, they are telling a bald-faced lie.

Also, what exactly was "forced on" them? Certainly nobody was being forced into gay marriage. If that statement cannot be substantiated, it is dishonest.

• "Some will try to tell you that Proposition 8 takes away legal rights of gay domestic partnerships. That is false. Proposition 8 DOES NOT take away any of those rights" [1]

Again they carefully choose their words to deceive, and say that Proposition 8 doesn't take away the legal rights of "domestic partnerships". The point is that it takes away the federal and non-California state rights that come with marriage.

Education

The second most important issue of the Proposition was its effect on education. The Yes campaign held that Proposition 8 would "protect children" from, for instance, being taken on a field trip to see a same-sex wedding, and would prevent schools from teaching about same-sex marriage. They also said that if it didn't pass, teachers would be required to teach about same-sex marriage and implied that parents would not be allowed to opt out of that teaching. These are pretty much all lies and distortions.

• Image of a Sacramento Union article titled "First Graders Taken to San Francisco City Hall for Gay Wedding", and similar, in television ads[5,6]

The implication in these television ads is that Proposition 8 will prevent this kind of thing. But Proposition 8 would not prevent this, so the implication is a lie. Even if Proposition 8 is passed, students could still be taken to see a gay wedding. (Although obviously, the couple would get a domestic union license instead of a marriage license.)

• "96% of Schools [are] Required to Teach About Marriage" [6]

No schools are required to teach about marriage. However, if a school wants to claim that it provides "comprehensive sexual health education", then it will need to teach everything about it. (That's what "comprehensive" means.) And the California education code defines "comprehensive sexual health education" to include teaching about the "legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage" (§51890(a)(1)(D)) and "respect for marriage and committed relationships" (§51933(b)(7)). So only if schools want to claim that they provide comprehensive sexual health education do they need to talk about marriage. But obviously almost all schools do want to provide comprehensive education. That's their job!

But even if Proposition 8 passes, it will not affect whether schools continue to provide comprehensive sexual health education, it will not change the sexual health curriculum, and since the curriculum includes talk of "marriage and committed relationships", same-sex relationships can still be discussed. Even gay marriage specifically can (and will) continue to be discussed. Just because California doesn't legally recognize gay marriages doesn't mean they cease to exist everywhere. The discussion is deemed necessary by schools to combat intolerance, and Proposition 8 does not prohibit it. To imply that it does is a lie.

• "Gay marriage WILL be taught in our schools, unless we vote yes on Proposition 8." [7,9,10]

It will be taught about in schools regardless of the vote on Proposition 8. To imply that Proposition 8 prohibits its inclusion in curricula is a lie.

• "If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, TEACHERS COULD BE REQUIRED to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage." [1]

Again, a deceptive use of words to imply that 1) there's a threat, and 2) Proposition 8 protects people from it. Regarding marriage, the comprehensive sexual health education curriculum is defined to include "legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage" (§51890(a)(1)(D)) and "respect for marriage and committed relationships" (§51933(b)(7)). It does not logically follow that any specific teaching, and especially one such as there being "no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage", will be required. Even comprehensive sexual health education itself is not required! That's why they say "could be", because it's a completely hypothetical situation. The intent to deceive and the fear mongering are clear, and so this statement is dishonest.

• "It protects our children from being taught in public schools that 'same-sex marriage' is the same as traditional marriage." [1]

This is a lie, because Proposition 8 does not restrict educational curricula, nor will it alter the colloquial definition of the word "marriage". So even if Proposition 8 passes, a school could teach that "same-sex marriage" is the same as "traditional marriage". The only difference is that they'd have to add "except in California".

• "We should not accept a court decision that may result in public schools teaching our kids that gay marriage is okay." [1]

Proposition 8 will not affect whether schools can teach that gay marriage is okay. They still can, and they still will. And besides, what harm results from such a teaching? Gay marriage has no appeal to somebody who isn't gay, and teaching that it's okay doesn't mean kids are more likely to become gay themselves. The evidence overwhelmingly points to sexual orientation being determined before birth, or at an extremely young age. So if the kids are not already gay, they're not going to become gay just by learning that gay marriage is okay.

But when children are taught that gays are wrong and that homosexuality is abominable, there are harmful actions that might result. For one thing, the child will probably dislike or hate gays, and potentially harass or bully boys that seem too feminine. Schools teach about homosexuality specifically to reduce discrimination and hatred of gays, and to prevent things like the very recent murder of a boy at E.O. Green Junior High School by another student, who hated him for appearing gay. Those children may even grow up to be one of the approximately 17% of Christian Americans who respond to polls and say that they think homosexuality should be a felony punishable by death, or the 36% who think it should at least be illegal. Some of those kids have grown up and are running for office today on that very idea, like Merrill Keiser, Jr., a Christian who is running for the US Senate and wants to make homosexuality punishable by death. In the last election, he received 22% of the vote, showing just how widespread these murderous ideas are within the Christian community.

And when the Christian church has been in power, it has historically executed people for homosexuality. So when I weigh the very real harm that can be and has been done by teaching people that homosexuality is evil, and the lack of any harm that I can see from teaching people that it's okay, I have to choose the latter.

• "A leading Prop 8 opponent [NCLR] has warned [that] parents cannot remove children from this instruction." [6]

They blurred out the source of the statements, but I was able to track down the original. It is a publication by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) called "LGBT Legal Issues for School Attorneys".[8] NCLR is not endorsed by the No campaign, and if they are implying that, they are being dishonest.

The publication does seem to say, on page 50, that parents cannot opt-out. But I'm disinclined to take their word for it for several reasons: 1) if you read the footnotes of that same publication and the referenced laws, it is clear that parents can in fact opt out, 2) this and other parts of the article reveal its bias, and 3) the publication itself says that "No part of this publication should be taken as legal advice."

Overall, it is a biased and somewhat deceptive publication by a group that is attempting to convince public schools to adopt teachings that will help reduce intolerance. I agree with their aim, but not their means. If they were being thorough and honest, they would not have any reason to write, in fine print, that the publication, which clearly dispenses legal advice, should not be taken as such, and they would not have written the article in a deceptive fashion.

I also think it says something about the Yes campaign that they used a deceptive, unofficial, and non-mainstream publication in an attempt to discredit the No campaign.

Now here's a more complete description of what parents can and cannot opt out of:
  1. Parents can opt out of any part of sexual health education. (California Education Code §51938)
  2. Parents cannot opt out of the discussion of human genitalia in the context of law, physiology, biology, zoology, general science, hygiene, or health. (California Education Code §51932)
  3. Parents cannot opt out of discussion of gender, sexual orientation, and family life if that discussion occurs outside the context of sexual health education. (California Education Code §51932)
  4. Marriage is taught about in the context of comprehensive sexual health education. (California Education Code §51890 and §51933)
Therefore, because of (a) and (d), parents can opt out of any portion of sexual health education, including the discussion of marriage. However, schools are not required to give the opportunity if the topic of homosexuality comes up in some other class, like sociology. But everything the Yes campaign has said has referred to the teaching of marriage in the sexual health curriculum, which parents can certainly opt out of. And in any case, Proposition 8 affects none of this, and to imply otherwise is a lie.

• "It shouldn't be forced on us against our will." [1]

This relates to California's comprehensive sexual health education, and implies that it would be forced unless Proposition 8 passes, but California law already guarantees the right to opt out of any sexual health education in public schools (see above), so this is another lie.

"Activist Judges"

The third big issue of the Yes campaign is that "four activist judges", in an "outrageous decision", "ignored the will of the people" who "exercised their constitutional right" and voted for Proposition 22 "in a democratic election".[1,11] They are referring to when the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22.

That's their job! The Supreme Court exists to prevent the enforcement of unjust and unconstitutional legislation. Proposition 22 was both. The United States is not a pure democracy. It is a constitutional republic, and the people, even 99.9% of them, do not have the right to infringe upon the rights of any minority. To denigrate these judges is not only disrespectful, it reveals ignorance of the history and evils of pure democracy, the reasons the Supreme Court was created, and how America's government is supposed to work. I have no doubt that the Average Joe is ignorant of these things, but I believe the Yes campaign deliberately seized upon that with their dishonest rhetoric, in an attempt to convince people that they'd been cheated, when in fact it was the other way around — they had merely been prevented from cheating others.

Miscellaneous Lies

Here are some miscellaneous lies from the Yes campaign:

• "Gay marriage conflicts with our religious freedoms." [5]

What religious freedom does it conflict with? There is no freedom in the US to practice a religion to the extent that it infringes upon the rights of others. Until somebody can show me a religious freedom curtailed by the existence of gay marriage, I will consider this too to be a lie.

• "However, while gays have the right to their private lives, they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else." [1]

This is fear mongering, and implies that gays are attempting to disrupt the marriages of other people, which they are not. The contrast with the statement that "gays have the right to their private lives" implies that gay marriage substantially affects public life, while in truth, marriage is almost entirely a private affair. A gay couple getting married in no way alters the marriage of any heterosexual couple. To imply otherwise is a lie.

• "In a review of the past 50 years of ballot measures, this is the only initiative among 250 initiatives that an Attorney General has assigned a negative verb for its Title & Summary." [2]

They must have been very selective when picking those 250 initiatives to look at. Take a look at the California Ballot Measures Database. A cursory look reveals plenty of initiatives with negative verbs in their titles and summaries. The implication that Proposition 8 is unique in this respect is a lie.

• Churches could lose their tax-exempt status if Proposition 8 doesn't pass.[10]

501(c)(3)-type organizations (i.e., churches) are prohibited from conducting activities to influence politics, and the IRS can revoke their tax-exempt status if they break that law. Proposition 8 has nothing to do with this. Regardless of whether it passes or not, churches can still lose their tax-exempt status if they try to influence politics. To imply that this is related to Proposition 8 is a lie.

• People can be sued for their personal beliefs if Proposition 8 doesn't pass.[10]

What they were referring to was North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. Superior Court, a legal case in which a clinic refused to treat a lesbian woman (while providing services to straight women) because of their Christian beliefs. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is already illegal and will stay illegal even if Proposition 8 passes. To imply otherwise is a lie.

Sleazy Behavior

And here are examples of the Yes campaign's generally sleazy and dishonest behavior:

The Yes campaign implied in two television ads[9,10] that their views were endorsed by Pepperdine University School of Law. But in fact, Pepperdine University demanded that the references to their university be deleted from the ads, because the ads do not represent their position on the matter.

The Yes campaign sent letters[3] to companies that had donated to the No campaign, threatening them with loss of profit unless they donated at least the same amount to the Yes campaign to "correct [their] error". This is borderline extortion.

"Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error," reads the letter. "Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published."

It is false to say that supporting gay marriage means opposing traditional marriage because they are not mutually exclusive, and traditional marriage is under no threat of being banned.

But if you want to see even more sleazy behavior from the Yes campaign, just read these letters[4] (9mb PDF) from people whose children were "featured" in advertisements against their will, to promote something with which they did not agree. Here's an excerpt:

"We are absolutely outraged that you have chosen, without permission, to shamelessly hijack the images of our innocent children to promote a cause that we in no way, shape or form support. It is even more maddening that you have willfully and calculatingly edited the images of our children, with menacing music in the background, in a way that is completely contrary to their nature and harmful to them."

Conclusion

Essentially the entire Yes campaign was based on fear, lies, and irrationality. Why are Christians so anxious to take away the right of gays to marry? The excuse that they're against homosexuality because it's prohibited in the Bible (Lev. 18:22) falls flat. Even disregarding the fact that the authority of the Bible has never been demonstrated, why don't they similarly condemn wearing clothing made of two kinds of material (Lev. 19:19), shaving sideburns (Lev. 19:27), or eating shellfish (Lev. 11:10)? Quoting the Bible is merely after-the-fact justification of their prejudices. Ultimately, they condemn homosexuality because they want to, and they try to hurt gays because they are bigots.

But there is hope. Almost exactly 60 years ago, the California Supreme Court overturned the anti-miscegenation laws, which banned marriage between whites and non-whites. Proposition 8 is equally unjust, and so it would be right, as well as in accord with the country's legal principles, for the California Supreme Court to overturn it as well.

References:
  1. Official California State Voter's Guide
  2. Yes on Proposition 8 press release, dated August 8th
  3. http://www.adammil.net/files/95/Prop8ThreatLetter.pdf
  4. http://www.adammil.net/files/95/Letterv2.pdf (9mb download)
  5. Yes on Proposition 8 television ad "Have You Thought About It?"
  6. Yes on Proposition 8 television ad "Finally the Truth"
  7. Yes on Proposition 8 television ad "Everything to do with Schools"
  8. NCLR publication: "LGBT Issues for School Attorneys"
  9. Yes on Proposition 8 television ad "It's Already Happened"
  10. Yes on Proposition 8's first television ad
  11. Yes on Proposition 8 television ad "Men in Black"
  12. OGC-97-16 Defense of Marriage Act
  13. California Appellate Courts case #S147999
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