2009-05-27

Preposition 8: regarding

I just read about the California Supreme Court upholding the Proposition 8 referendum. My first reaction was that it was ridiculous to "discriminate" against homosexuals, but then I realized that this case was not about sexual orientation, but about the process of amending the state constitution, which is how the court could rule "for" gay marriage one year and "against" it the next. So it made sense.

But, a lot of people were quoted saying that any majority could discriminate against any minority through this mechanism. The San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, had the best quote, taken from the best article on the topic I've seen:

"I never thought I'd live in a state where the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch are all made irrelevant in a context of protecting a minority's rights - that's where we are in California today."


That made me think again.

But, the end issue is simply the definition of the word "marriage", which I think is almost an irrelevant argument, because the court's ruling also specifies that no "major" differences are allowed to exist between marriage and the domestic partnerships into which gays can enter. So, basically, equality in all senses already exists, except in the name. Need I quote Shakepeare?

If there was a legal standing "straight", I suspect that those people who have entered into a same-sex domestic partnership would be prohibited from registering as such, and for good reason. I, myself, will never be called an "Austrian" no matter how long I live here, even though that title carries with it some measure of respect here, just as the equal-rights groups are claiming "marriage" does. Am I, therefore, being unfairly discriminated against, as part of a minority?

The whole topic makes me wonder why so many people are up-in-arms over semantics and word choice. I wonder why the word "marriage" is in the law books at all, when it most often occurs only as a subcategory of "domestic partnerships", wherein all types of partnerships have equal rights.

My conclusion at the moment--even though I'm still considering the possibility that heterosexual partnerships might have a greater benefit to society than homosexual ones, and I'm wondering if that's even relevant--is that Proposition 8 might as well specify the definition of the word "breast" to be only the "traditional" female kind; to some people, that's always been true, and others are afraid to discriminate based on sex.

My solution: take the red pen to the law books, and scribble "domestic partnership" over every crossed-out "marriage", and leave the marrying to the churches.

3 comments:

RM said...

I agree. If gay people want to get married and ruin their lives, that's their perogative.

My only concern is what happens in their divorces. Homosexuals can't have any better of a chance of staying married than heteros, and I bet their divorces are just as messy.

Just kidding, I'm not really that cynical, but that's the concern for some people.

I am actually okay with domestic partnerships. I think it helps everyone. Because of marriage not being allowed, companies can't discriminate for domestic partnerships for purposes of benefits. Which then extends to unmarried straight couples that just choose to not get married.

It's like Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn, or Warren Beatty and Annette Benning.

Ben said...

immer ein Auslander.

I'm surprised that you would downplay the meaning of words - given that you're such a linguistic & literary snob ; )

For me there are three important arguments for gay marriage 1) there will always be a decent proportion of the population that is gay. 2) unlike other relationships that society frowns upon (incest, beastiality, plural marriage) there isn't a natural tendancy for one person to have all the power. 3) Long lasting supportive relationships are important for the health & stability of a society. Society should help, not hinder people who want to enter into such relationships.

fbg said...

Aber dann kommt die Frage, "In welche Länder bin ich Ausländer?"


I mean, you've got a point, there, Ben, about me being a literary snob, and so forth. But, I'm of the [Oscar] Wilde and [Stephen] Fry language school. It's not so much the words that matter, but when and how you use them. Meanings are rarely static, and seldom direct. Thus, the type of word definition you might use in writing a law has barely a resemblance to its literary uses.

That being said, laws are meant to keep society in order, using practical guidelines. Passing an amendment that defines a word, and in end effect changes nothing but the appearance of the law, is pointless.

I agree with your three reasons, but seeing as how--assuming the interchangeability of "marriage" and "domestic partnership"--gays are already allowed to be married, the goals have already been achieved. The argument is just over the bow you tie it up with.

It's like the law they passed here in Austria saying that degrees from Fachhochschülen (a kind of applied, career-focused college) must be considered equal to degrees from universities, at least in title. I mean, seriously, what does that even mean? Should the U.S. pass a law saying that degrees from Cincinnati State are equal to degrees from Berkeley? No, because it doesn't matter. Anyone who cares to look closely enough will see where you got your degree, and will know that the title you give it doesn't matter.I know this comment is getting long, but I just thought of a phrase I want to coin. This is perhaps the first use of the verb "Title IX" outside of the context of the NCAA:

California should seriously Title IX the crap out of the "Pro-Marriage" camp. By that I mean that they should, in the name of equality, take away opportunities from a bunch of people. In this case, it would be the word "marriage". Just don't let anyone use it. Name it "Ruining Your Life", per Elf's suggestion, and see who fights about it then.