The top 10 reasons why Prop 8 passed
In case you missed it, Prop 8 passed. That means it is now illegal for gays and lesbians to get married in California. It also means that the state cannot legally recognize same-sex marriage from anywhere else, including, Canada, Spain, Massachusetts, or Connecticut. How could something this profoundly unjust, immoral, and stupid take place?
Here are my top ten reasons.
10. California’s initiative process. California voters are allowed to vote on just about anything, including the health codes, tax law, redistricting, education law, and, ugh, minority rights. There are no laws preventing outrageous contributions for inside and outside the state. Anyone with enough money can hire professional signature gatherers to put anything on the ballot. It is absurd, and this year it led to a state-wide vote on the size of chicken cages, as well as a vote on whether 4% of the state should be allowed to marry each other. California voters like chickens better. By the way, I voted against the chicken cage thing.
9. Arnold Schwarzenegger. After telling the state’s Log Cabin Republicans that he opposed Prop 8, our enormously popular governor did nothing whatsoever to help the No on 8 campaign beyond answering questions on “Meet the Press” in June. He was basically silent on the issue, even as the Yes on 8 campaign lied and lied and lied, for the next four months. During the furious final days of the campaign, instead of helping defeat bigotry in his own state, he went to Ohio to campaign for McCain and Palin. It was not until after the election — after it was clear that his pro-gay beliefs could not hurt the Republicans on a national level — that he went back on TV and said, “It’s unfortunate, obviously, but it’s not the end. I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area. They should never give up. They should be on it and on it until they get it done.” If you actually cared that much about us, you would have filmed an ad and shown up at some rallies. Thanks, Arnold. For nothing.
8. Apathetic gays and lesbians. At Pride this year, I walked the parade route and tried to find people who would be willing to volunteer. Or give cash. I’m not very good at such things. I raised less than $20. But I couldn’t even get my “friends” to help. People who I knew were underemployed claimed they were too busy to help. I was summarily dismissed by several people who clearly were more interested in their next drink than in equal rights. Yes, I know: It was early. But none of them wised up and started volunteering. None. Of. Them. They just assumed someone else would do it. Or they just didn’t care. Drinks to be downed, boys to be done, houses to be remodeled. Fast forward to the Saturday before the election. Between three and six thousand people showed up at the candle-light vigil in Hillcrest. We were amazed by how many people were there. But, then, last Saturday, after we lost, ten thousand people marched in protest. Where were those missing four or five thousand when the campaign needed them? Did they really think we were just going to win out of inertia?
7. Bigots. Contrary to popular opinion, the virulently anti-gay bigots were not the main reason why Prop 8 passed. (I’ll explain below.) But they had a major supporting role. A bigot beat a man for wearing a No on 8 pin. A bigot spit on a No on 8 flier that T.R. Knight tried to hand to him. Bigots gave me the finger when I was standing on the street corner waving my No on 8 signs. Bigots left hateful — albeit hilariously stupid — comments on my blog, and bigots responded with hateful (and stupid) comments whenever I left a comment on, say, a YouTube video or a San Diego Union-Tribune article. Here’s one:
These bigots do not shift the discourse or help the bad guys raise money. (And they do occasionally help the good guys raise money.) But they terrorize us. They scare the good people away. They scare moderates away. Knowing that violent bigots are out there scared people in Santee and Fresno and Bakersfield from campaigning, from speaking up, from wearing the pins, from planting their signs, and from asking their friends and neighbors to vote for equality, not for the bigots.
6. Barack Obama. For a long time, I believed that Obama was claiming to be against same-sex marriage for purely political reasons. Because I’m positive that the Clintons, John Kerry, John Edwards, and the rest of the Democrats who claim to be against same-sex marriage are simply lying about their support for equality because they don’t want to lose votes in, say, Indiana or Florida. I thought Obama was like that, cynical but somewhat justified in his cynicism. At this point, I’m not so sure. Maybe he really is that religious. Though I don’t think he’s stupid — obviously, he’s got a rather towering intellect — so I don’t see how he could possibly be against civil marriage for gays and lesbians. He must know the difference between the roles that the state and the churches have when it comes to marriage, and that being for civil marriage for gays and lesbians is not at all contradictory to opposing it on religious grounds, and that civil unions are “separate but equal.” And how can you be against gay marriage but also against Prop 8? Boy, is this confusing. And that very confusing message did the No on 8 campaign no good, and it allowed Yes on 8 a helluva lot of leeway in using Obama’s words against gays and lesbians. And they succeeded, because they used Obama’s words against gays and lesbians in their robocalls and mailers directed at minority communities. There has been a lot of really stupid rhetoric about the role that minorities, who turned out at historic rates and voted for Obama, had in passing Prop 8. Because — along with old white people, Republicans, Evangelical Christians, Mormons — a lot of them voted for Prop 8. A lot. Apparently, even mentioning this is racist. A couple of pundits — here and here — have bent over backwards to show how, statistically, the minority vote for Obama didn’t actually cause Prop 8 to pass. Maybe Prop 8 would have passed without 70% of the African-American vote. Or 55% of the Latino vote. Maybe those statistics are inflated, maybe it’s only 50% of either group. Honestly, I don’t care. Huge numbers of people who have been oppressed for centuries voted to oppress another minority. But this is not “shit rolls down hill,” the oh-so-icky phrase that a friend of mine once used to explain why, say, some Cubans discriminate against Blacks in Florida or why some Blacks resent Mexicans in Los Angeles. With gays and lesbians, it is different. Whether it is fundamentalist religion, under-education, or something even more intractable, many of these racial minorities simply do not see that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic similar, in many ways, to race. While Obama has tried to talk about homophobia in the Black community, his voice alone was never going to make things different. (And it was his voice alone, because the gay community has done near zilch to win over racial minorities, especially Blacks. And none of the pro-gay African-American leaders did much to help our cause in California.) Especially not in an 18-month presidential campaign in which other issues were much more important. So, he gave these minorities hope in droves and got them into the polls by the millions. And they don’t get us. They don’t get our struggle. And they voted against us. Obama got them in those polling booths, so he’s one of the reasons that we lost. As I wrote in a comment on my previous post, we need to make major efforts at rectifying this problem through outreach, alliances, and education. Our struggles are not the same, but they are analogous and complementary. We all need to get our fucking act together.
5. The Yes on 8 campaign. You’ve got to give them props. They know how to run a campaign. It was Rovian politics all the way: Lie. Distort. Divide. Lie. Distort. Divide. Lie. Distort. Divide. They knew that would not be able to win on the the language of the proposition, and they knew that their religious argument would never persuade the majority of Californians. So, they fabricated arguments about education, taxation, and freedom of religion and never backed down when every single newspaper in the state called them on their lies. Just as Bush kept repeating over and over that “the United States doesn’t torture!”, the Prop 8 campaign kept repeating over and over that allowing same-sex marriage to stay legal would result in the schools turning children gay, ministers going to jail, and churches going bankrupt. And just as Rove constructed the bogus “compassionate conservative” moniker, the Prop 8 campaign kept insisting that they were not trying to attack gays and lesbians — even though their entire campaign was based on the idea that nothing was worse than teaching children that gay people are allowed to get married. The Prop 8 campaign was clearly run by deeply dishonest Machiavellians, but they were pretty damn good at their jobs.
4. The No on 8 campaign, pre-October. While the Yes on 8 campaign was mired in Rovian tactics, sadly, the No on 8 campaign was mired in old-Left, Kerry-ish tactics. The reason that Kerry was Swiftboated was because he let it happen. The No on 8 campaign let itself be Swiftboated, too. And we lost. According to the Field Poll, in September Prop 8 was going to fail by 17 points. And it passed by four points and change. While the Field poll didn’t predict the final results exactly, they were damn close, so if an early 17-point lead would be high, 14 or so wouldn’t be. How does a campaign fail so terribly, so quickly? Incompetence, fear, incompetence, letting the opposition define the terms of the debate, incompetence, and an obsession with focus grouping every sentence uttered by the campaign. In the weeks before the election, there was a huge overhaul of the campaign. The new team put out the excellent Samuel Jackson-narrated ad about the history of discrimination, the excellent Diane Feinstein ad, the excellent “It’s not about schools, you idiots” ad, and the awesomely excellent Mac/PC ad that turned Prop 8 into a frat boy bully. The previous campaign leaders had killed our lead in the polls with anemic ads that seemed directed at a theoretical undecided voter who is afraid of gay people. None of the early ads showed real gay people (and in the later ads, we flew by like a subliminal message). “Gay” was almost never uttered in the official literature. While our local campaign was run by dedicated true believers, they were working with phone-banking and GOTV scripts written by the central office that were manipulative, unpersuasive, and, to me, at least, self-hating. As I mentioned above, they did almost no outreach to the African-American community. And part of the reason that so few gays and lesbians helped the campaign in the early weeks and months is because of how terribly ineffective the recruitment was. The campaign was so annoying at San Diego Pride that several of my acquaintances said they would never give them any money or time. Basically, the No on 8 campaign was run like the West Coast wing of the Human Rights Campaign, a bloated, ineffective PAC that has now helped us lose 30 of the last 30 anti-marriage ballot initiatives.
3. The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. Oh, the irony: A religion founded by a polygamist that only gave up polygamy by political force, devoted itself to using political force to steal the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. As a grad student in my complex wrote on a sign, “Joseph Smith and Brigham Young fought for marriage equality and you should, too!” This is what LDS Church did: Back in 1997, terrified of the possibility that same-sex marriage would be legalized in Hawaii, they decided to stop gays from getting married. But they didn’t want to be out front; that was a role for the Catholic Church. So, over 10 years ago, they started an anti-gay cabal. The LDS Church has since bankrolled anti-gay marriage initiatives in Alaska and Arizona. But it’s not just the LDS Church’s money. The Church told their members that it was their duty as Mormons to donate money to pass Prop 8 and actively work for its passing. Not only were LDS Church members phone-banking from Utah and Idaho, and bussing into California and knocking on doors, and standing on street corners waving signs with patently dishonest slogans, but they also donated 77% of the Prop 8′s $35 million of funding. Those ads that told Californians that there was nothing worse than a child learning that gay people are treated equal under the law? Paid for by Mormons. And now the LDS Church is complaining that they are being targeted by gay activists. Oh, cry me a river. You reap what you sow.
2. Fundamentalist Christian activists and their followers. While the Mormons footed the bill for the Yes on 8 campaign, and the campaign itself used the money efficiently and with evil precision, Fundamentalist Christian activists from Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the mega churches in Southern California were the ideological force propelling the whole thing. And they brought their followers to the polls. I have written extensively about their messages of religiously (un)justified hate, the illogic of their manipulative and fear-mongering arguments, and the pathetic dishonesty of their “research.” Fred Dobson, Tony Perkins, Jim Garlow, and Miles McPherson use the Bible, the pulpit, and bold-faced lies to wage war against a minority group. And for what reason? It’s unclear. Dobson and Perkins are terrifyingly smart, but they have no justification for their hatred of gays and lesbians. Perkins is especially evil, claiming that anything gays and lesbians do is “anti-family.” Every bit of their argument against us is based on lies they have told to bash us. It’s oddly circular. Garlow and McPherson are both demagogues, charismatic and powerful. But they are both very, very, very stupid men. Just watch that video. Garlow has no understanding of the United States Constitution, sociology, or morality. Yet, in his ignorance, he’s adamant. He’s a bigot and an idiot. There’s really no way else to describe him and McPherson. Their grasp of facts, logic, ethics, history, and the law are only slightly better than your average high school freshman. Read their sermons, if you dare. Watch the hideous video. Or, even better, read Garlow’s ridiculous book, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code. (It’s a novel, you idiot.) But thousands of people follow McPherson and Garlow as if they were themselves divine, and millions of people think Dobson and Perkins have direct lines to God. Their followers hang on their words, believe everything they claim, and go to the polls and do everything they are told by these terrible, unforgivable men. But why?
1. Stupid people. There comes a time when we must call a spade a spade. If you think that gays and lesbians are out to convert your children, burn your churches, eat your dog, and spit on your mother’s grave, you are stupid. If you think that allowing gays and lesbians to be married will lead to school teachers forcing kids to hang out at sex clubs in SOMA, you are stupid. If you think that same-sex marriage is a threat to your marriage, not only are you stupid, but you need to start marriage counseling. If you think your pastor, your bishop, or anyone who raises money for their organization with David Duke’s donor list is a reputable source on the sociology, legality, health, or history of gays and lesbians, you are stupid. If you think that minority rights should be decided by majority vote because we live in a “democracy,” you are both immoral, stupid, and need to go take a civics class. If you think that “freedom of religion” means that only your religion can be free, you are stupid. If you think that “freedom of speech” means that you do not suffer consequences for what you have said, you are stupid. If you think that civil unions are just as good as marriages, and we should be happy with what we have, you are stupid. If you have devoted your time, your vote, or, heck, your blog to stripping others of their rights because you are protecting the children, doing God’s work, or preventing the Apocalypse, your are not doing any of those things. You’re just stupid.
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