From the Archives: A Perspective on Proposition 22

In celebration of the California Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws baring same-sex marriage, I have pulled the transcript of my first radio commentary from the archives. This commentary was broadcast in February of 2000. An extended version of this commentary ran on Beliefnet, opposite a piece by James Dobson, who–naturally–supported California’s Proposition 22, which provided for a strictly heterosexual definition of marriage in California


Soon Californians will be privileged to vote on a ballot initiative, dubbed Proposition 22, which, if passed, would enact a statute whose entire wording, written in ten point font, could fit inside a fortune cookie: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

And so it is that our own dear state which gave the nation the Free Speech Movement, the legalization of medical marijuana and Boogie Nights now stands poised, at the cusp of a new millennium, ready to position itself in the avant garde of the Reactionary Right.

I am troubled by the statue proposed in California’s Proposition 22 and by other laws like it. I am troubled because they are unnecessary, unjust, and unnecessarily unjust, and I am troubled because they are presented to the voters as a means of defending the institution of heterosexual marriage.

Of course, marriages should be defended. As a husband and as a clergyman I am familiar with some of the things that threaten marriage, and legally binding commitments between persons of the same sex are not among the marital hazards I’ve encountered. Marriages are threatened by violence, neglect and greed; selfish ambitions, addictions and a co-worker’s rakish smile all present a clear and present danger to matrimony’s honorable estate. My own marriage, at times, is threatened because I can remember esoteric bits of historical trivia that I learned as a child but I cannot remember to pick up milk on the way home from work, yet I know of no connubial relationship that has ever been degraded by persons of the same gender lovingly and steadfastly entering into a life-long marital covenant.

Either way it goes, the outcome of the vote on Proposition 22 may threaten the American sense of liberty, privacy and fairness; the idea that a state’s rights are moderated by it’s inclusion in a union of states, a concept decided in American blood during the Civil War, hangs in the balance, but marriage, that always endangered yet ever hopeful institution will go on as it always has, unchanged, complete with the suffering it imposes on some of us, the joy and love it bestows on most of us, and the complex goodness it brings to all of us.

6 thoughts on “From the Archives: A Perspective on Proposition 22

  1. man they sure don’t give you much time to talk on the radio, do they?

    Nice piece… and it certainly feels relieving/surprisingly awesome to see our judicial system do the right thing.

  2. I have been thinking about threats to longeviety in the marital bed. When people who have been celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary, are asked how they accomplished this milestone, there are some interesting answers to be heard:

    “I’m hard of hearing”.
    “She makes the decisions.”
    “I’m in charge of Foreign Affairs and she is in charge of Domestic Affairs.”
    “We never go to bed mad”.
    “She has her money and I have mine.”
    “We’re both church goers.”
    “I love her.”
    “We simply kiss and make up.”
    “We’re both Republicans.”
    “There’s no divorce in our family.”
    “We stayed together for the kids.”
    “I said ‘I DO’, and I meant it.”
    “We couldn’t afford to live separately.”
    “The Pope wouldn’t approve of our divorce.”

    I guess I have never heard of a couple whose marriage was terminated because their gay neighbors got married. I’ll Google it and get back to you.

  3. Sara,

    It’s true. Two minutes goes by really fast on the air, but I’ve always felt that the short space has been good for my writing. It forces a certain brief eloquence. So I’m glad for the short space. I think, for example, that this version of the argument is much stronger than the one I wrote for Beliefnet, which is more like 1200 words.

    Ronn,

    My marriage has been greatly enhanced because I’m in charge of the kitchen and Anne is in charge of the money. We’re both much happier that way. I’m still waiting for my marital happiness to be degraded in anyway by the love and dedication of our gay and lesbian friends.

    Ben

  4. I’m encouraged by the recent Supreme Court decision…. and then again troubled by the newly approved ballot measure for a constitutional ammendment. As a heterosexual married person, I am starting to feel that my marriage is being degraded by efforts to exclude others, and enshrine in the state constitution a form of egregious discrimination. I am beginning to wonder whether a legal “marriage” is something I want to be a part of.

  5. Sara,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    These are strange days in California. I am happy that my marriage is not being, at the same time being recognized and threatened.

    Your consideration of setting aside your marriage (I read your blog–nice!) is compelling, though I don’t think that marriages like yours and mine are the problem. Our love and commitments are not creating inequality. I vote for staying married. It will help prove that same sex relationships are not threat to heterosexual marriage.

    Ben

  6. Pingback: Proposition 8: Evidence of Change at bendaniel.org

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