I was so excited to see that America doesn’t always just pick the safe choice, and isn’t always going to be governed by old white men, and that young people can be active in politics and make difference. But then today I find that, while some things change, some also remain the same.
Having drawn a line under its segregationist history by electing a black president, some Americans have shown that they are still more than happy to oppress a minority for no particular reason other than they are different to them. Proposition 8 has been passed in California with 52% of the vote, amending the state’s constitution so that now only marriage between a man and a woman is considered ‘valid’. It’s such a shame that the country can seem so modern and free, but at the same time it regularly reminds us that is also hugely conservative and dominated by religion.
I don’t really understand the argument that gay marriage being called marriage somehow undermines the value of marriage in general. Although the advocates of Proposition 8 state that they are not making an attack on gay couples, as they can still form legal domestic partnerships in California, if you probe their argument more deeply you can clearly see it is homophobic and discriminatory:
Marriage is an important and valuable institution -> Gay people getting married reduces the value of marriage -> If the legal part of being married is the same in both circumstances, the key difference must be the gay part -> To say gay marriage has a negative effect on the institution of marriage is therefore to say being gay is negative and somehow ‘less’ than being straight.
So how can they say it is not an attack on gay couples? And I’m sure lots of people who voted yes on Prop. 8 do believe being gay is wrong, and that was the reason they voted yes, not because of some principled stand on the value of marriage.
And saying “well they can form a domestic partnership, it gives the same rights, so they have no need to call it marriage” merely establishes a parallel, but separate system. Hmm, where have we heard ‘separate but equal’ before, now let me thing…. oh yes, segregation. I thought we’d accepted that was wrong?
So, although they’ve made a big step forward this week, they’ve also made a step back and there is still lots of work to be done.