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Proposition 8: fear on both sides

I've been thinking a lot about Proposition 8 - both before the election, and after it. In truth I have mixed feelings about the whole gay marriage thing (for example, how it happened that lesbians went from thinking it was an institution of patriarchy to something we wanted,) but that's a different post for a different time. I'm saddened, of course, that a lot of people in California voted to add a discriminatory amendment to the consitution. What has been troubling me lately is the response among some in the LGBT community to demonize those who voted for Prop 8 (for example, on one local e-mail list I'm on, they are being called "H8ters", and often painted with the same brush.) I think until we are willing to look at why people chose to vote for Proposition 8 squarely, we won't be in a position to take right action. It's far to simplistic to suggest that it's simply because they hate us. And I think it's also too simplistic to suggest that they all just listened to their pastors and were brainwashed. I'm sure that there are some people who fit in those categories, but I refuse to think that explains it all - that it explains that the majority (slim, but still) of voters in California felt strongly enough about this to vote for an amendment to the state constituion, to put their check/arrow/finger next to the line that said "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." Why is it that people fight against civil rights? What is it that causes them to cast ballots, or act in ways that promote discrimination? Fear is most often the motivation for treating other human beings badly. You ask: what are they afraid of? I suspect they are afraid of the same things we are: they feel their life threatened by change, and they want to have an explanation for it. They want to have a way to understand what they can do to make things better. They happen to understand it in ways that are far different than we do - but I refuse to think that most of them actively wish us harm. (Perhaps I'm naiive, but I'm stubborn.) And, for our part, we feel scared too. We feel scared that our rights will be taken away permanently, and that our lives will be threatened. But we can't act out of fear - we need to act out of compassion and a desire for dialogue. And, of course, we do need to act clearly and strongly to challenge proposition 8 both in court, and with another ballot measure next cycle.

Comments

[...] In California it’s been saddening to also see another demonstration of what we have not yet overcome as some protesting the bigotry of Proposition 8 have been directing their anger at Black Californians. The thinking and behavior is racist—and it’s wrong-headed to target a particular group as responsible for the fearfulness of a cross-section of the electorate. [...]

I think you're right, about fear (we call it homophobia for a reason) but I'm reading about Duanna Johnson and wondering about the difference between not actively wishing anyone harm and being willing to dredge up some outrage when someone is harmed:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/11/14/duanna-johnson/

Which I realize is only tangential to the question of marriage, but I think that as long as we (and Memphis is not exactly in the State of California) can comfortably ignore violence like that which Duanna experienced, civil rights like marriage are a long way off.

Or is it the other way around? Civil Rights are a first step towards recognizing that people should be treated fairly all the time?

PS. I didn't totally miss your basic point, that it doesn't help move any thing forward to write people off as brainwashed.

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