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The Post-Game Show » proposition 8

Posts Tagged ‘proposition 8’

Some Thoughts on the Proposition 8 Ruling

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Today’s Proposition 8 verdict is truly momentous. In ruling that the 2008 ballot proposition was unconstitutional, Judge Vaughn Walker did not end the fight for marriage equality in the US, but he took a huge step towards that inevitability.

Ezra Waldman at Towleroad offers some excellent analysis, highlighting Judge Walker’s admirable attention to detail. Walker’s ruling lays out the evidence with such clarity that the appeals court would break its back trying to reach a different conclusion.

The major talking point in opposition to the ruling have been as follows: First, the courts should not overturn the will of the voters. Second, the judge is gay, and therefore biased.

In keeping with all the arguments put forth by the pro-Prop 8 side, both points are nonsense. It is the duty of the law to protect the weak against the powerful, and the minority against the majority, and in this case the ruling establishes that Proposition 8 should never have been put to the vote in the first place. Courts are meant to overturn the will of the people, when the expressed will of the people is to remove rights and freedoms from an unprotected minority.

(While we’re on the subject of the majority vote, I note that some are hailing this ruling as a victory for California, by California. It isn’t. It’s a victory for the anti-Prop 8 defendants, their lawyers and their experts. California still bears the black mark of the Prop 8 vote. While Prop 8 passed by only 52% to 48%, that was with turnout of just under 80%. Almost two-thirds of all Californians who were eligible to vote were happy to see gays stripped of their rights in their state. You can’t spin that; you have to own it.)

As to the suggestion that Walker should have recused himself because of his homosexuality, this is an impossible argument for the bigots to win. First of all, it’s central to the ‘protect marriage’ argument that gay people are not losing anything by being denied the right to marry the person they love. If the bigots then contend that Judge Walker stands to gain something personally or financially by overturning Prop 8, that shows that they know their argument is bunk.

It’s also the Prop 8 advocates’ contention that gay marriage undermines straight marriage, on which basis a straight judge would also have a personal prejudice. Then there’s the question of whether religious judges should recuse themselves. What happens if/when this case reaches the Supreme Court? Do the six Catholic justices all recuse themselves? I’m perfectly happy for this case to be decided by Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. (Then again, maybe they won’t let Kagan play either.)

Obviously, from where I’m sitting, I can’t find fault in Walker’s ruling, and nor would I want to. If he’s potentially biased, I’m proudly so. Still, I think even an objective reading of the case in support of Proposition 8 would conclude that it offered nothing of substance. What few experts they were able to call were not able to offer any evidence in support of their cause, and in many cases their arguments helped their opponents. Any verdict other than the one delivered would have looked highly questionable.

Prop 8 On Trial: The Brokeback Defence

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Today was the third day of the Proposition 8 trial, which looks set to be a landmark case in US legal history. At issue is the question of whether Proposition 8, which banned marriage equality for same-sex couples in California, was constitutional.

The California constitution states, “A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws”. The plaintiffs argue that denying gays the right to marry clearly violates the equal protection doctrine. Proposition 8 was discriminatory.

I am not a lawyer, but on the face of it I’d say this seems clear cut. The right to marry one’s partner should apply equally to gays as to straights because the constitution says so. The reason there’s any controversy at all is not because the issue is unclear, but because the majority consensus has always opposed applying the constitution fairly to this traditionally maligned minority. If this were just about what’s right, what’s fair, what’s humane, this would be over already; but it’s not about any of that. It’s about protecting the conservative status quo from erosion by the civil rights movement.

Extraordinarily, the central question of the case today appeared to be, ‘are gays still discriminated against?’ The anti-gay Prop 8 lawyers want to argue that gays are no longer discriminated against, therefore gays in California were stripped of their right to marry for non-discriminatory reasons. They actually cited Brokeback Mountain and Will & Grace as evidence that everything is just A-OK for gays today. They also pointed out that gays no longer get locked up in asylums. That’s the warm embrace of social acceptance right there!

The main Prop 8 lawyer also pointed out that Barack Obama opposes gay marriage. Well, yes. Barack Obama is not our friend. We need to come to terms with the fact that anyone who supports civil unions over marriage equality is an opponent of equal rights. Those who support civil unions are part of our opposition.

My favourite exchange of the day was between the Prop 8 lawyer and Yale historian Professor George Chauncey:

Evil Lawyer: “Isn’t it true that people voted for Prop 8 based upon their sincere moral values?”
Clever Historian: “Many people opposed desegregation and interracial marriage based upon their sincere moral values.”

The strangest part of the proceedings must have been the video testimony of Hak-Shing William Tam of the Traditional Families Coalition. Tam was one of the initial proponents of Prop 8, and he notably tried to remove himself from this trial because he was concerned about the attention it would bring him. As Rachel Maddow remarked on her show earlier this week, “Where is the anti-gay pride?”

Tam distributed literature claiming that San Francisco was ruled by a secret enclave of homosexual activists who saw gay marriage as a step towards their ultimate agenda of legalised prostitution and sex with children. It is extraordinary fringe tin-hattery, and the Prop 8 lawyer ardently objected to the airing of the video because it so clearly demonstrated the irrationality of the hatred directed towards gays.

Today’s proceedings seem encouraging, but there was a heavy cloud on the day, because the US Supreme Court - where this case is surely ultimately headed - ruled 5-4 that the Prop 8 case could not be televised or shown on YouTube because the judge failed to follow the proper procedures.

The Prop 8 side knows that, the more people are exposed to their arguments, the less they will be convinced by their position, so they really didn’t want this trial on YouTube. They are cowards who know their position is absurd and irrational.

This boon of public exposure has been denied us due to a technicality, and the fact that the Supreme Court split along ideological grounds bodes ill for this case’s chances in America’s highest court. The Supreme Court are likely to be as hidebound by their prejudices as every other conservative body in America, however discriminatory those prejudices may be.

The upside, however, is that we’re certain to get some hilarious YouTube reconstructions from the court transcripts.

SDCC09: San Diego, Why Don’t You Come To Your Senses?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

What defines a superhero? Powers? Costumes? Code names? Those may be the elements that make a character ’super’. The ‘hero’ part comes from one place; a willingness to fight for what’s right even when it’s not convenient.

The other thing about superheroes is that they’re fictional. The people who read them, and the people who write and draw and publish them, are under no obligation to follow their principals. We normal, ordinary folk can relish these tales of brave men and women standing up against wicked deeds, but when the time comes for us to stand up for an idea, well, that’s where the line is between fiction and reality.

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Which brings us to San Diego Comic-Con 2009, and the Manchester Grand Hyatt. SDCC is the biggest event in the comic book year, bringing together thousands of fans in one huge sweaty hall. It’s one of the biggest conventions to hit San Diego every year, and the hotels in the area are always booked out.

One of the official hotels is the Manchester Grand Hyatt, owned by Doug Manchester. In 2008, Doug Manchester donated $125,000 to the successful effort to strip Californians of their right to same-sex marriage with Proposition 8. For the past 12 months there has been an organised boycott of Manchester’s three hotels - the Grand Hyatt and the Grand del Mar in San Diego, and the Whitetail in McCall, Idaho. The boycott does not apply to other Hyatt-operated hotels.

Labour leaders and gay rights groups have backed the boycott.

The comic industry does not.

On the one year anniversary of the boycott last week, organisers claimed they had cost the chain $7 million in business.

But not comic book business.

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Comic book publishers, writers, editors and artists are all staying at the Manchester Grand Hyatt this week. I won’t name names, because I know many people had forgotten about the boycott even though this is the second year that it has hit the Comic-Con, and the organisers of the boycott did not do a good job of getting word out to the industry. I also feel that naming names would make people defensive, and I would rather they were contrite.

The problem - and it’s an appreciable one - is that the San Diego Comic-Con is huge, and the Manchester Grand Hyatt is only two blocks from the convention centre, and it is traditionally the social and business hub of the whole event. Most of these people work on superheroes, but they are not heroes. They will not do the right thing if it’s inconvenient to their business, or worse, to their buzz.

Last year some attendees argued that the boycott would punish the wrong people - the hotel staff. That’s an odd argument. People aren’t going to sleep in the streets or drink water all weekend if they are not at the Hyatt. Some waiter somewhere will get your tip, and he won’t be less deserving than the waiter at the Hyatt. When you choose to eat in one restaurant, your heart cannot bleed for all the waiters in all the other restaurants you walked past.

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The other argument against a boycott is that people can spend their dollars, but mark them with a word or phrase or symbol that shows that this money comes from a queer-friendly source. Even assuming that people buying beers that they intend to expense later will be paying in cash, how will those markers ever make it to the account sheets? Even if every pro-gay person who stays or drinks at the Hyatt during this convention goes to the front desk and registers their objection to Doug Manchester’s position, will they be heard? It’s better than doing nothing, but only barely. It’s a fig-leaf for the conscience rather than a response.

The boycott is not unique to SDCC, and it has had an impact, because Doug Manchester is reeling. Two months ago, ahead of the convention season, Manchester tried to make amends - in the most wretched way possible. Having donated $125,000 to oppose gay marriage, he pledged to donate a fifth as much, just $25,000, in support of… civil unions. That’s not a reversal of his anti-gay discrimination. That’s the same position from a new direction.

Manchester also promised $100,000 in credit to local gay and lesbian groups - a bribe that gay groups have said they will reject as ‘blood money’, should it ever materialise (it hasn’t yet). All of this comes after the fact, after Proposition 8 passed in California and millions of gays and lesbians were stripped of their rights. Far too little, far too late.

Doug Manchester wants the gay dollar, but he still does not support gay equality. The boycott continues. It should continue, either until Manchester recants his position and makes a donation greater than $125,000 to a marriage equality group, or until Proposition 8 is repealed or overturned.

But the comic industry is not part of the boycott. Every dollar spent by the comic industry at the Manchester Grand Hyatt is a dollar spent in support of hate.

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Fortunately these comic book people all work in the media, and that puts them in a great position to fight that hate. One of the easiest ways to combat prejudice is to increase the visibility of diversity. The major comics publishers have skirted by with a minimum commitment to diversity, usually doing less than the least they could do, and sometimes just edging across that line as non-committally as possible. Even smaller publishers tend to shy away from gay content, feeling that it’s a different audience and a different market, rather than part of their audience and part of their market.

It is unfortunate that money spent by that audience is being used to line the pockets of a gay rights opponent. One might charitably assume that most of the pros who make this mistake are doing so in ignorance. Hopefully they will not remain in ignorance, and having recognised their error, will be happy to redress the balance through their work. After all, as of this week they cannot claim neutrality. They can either stand by their support of Doug Manchester and Proposition 8, or they can stand against it.

Most people don’t have what it takes to be a hero, and stand up when it’s difficult to do so - not when there are beers on the table and the company is buying. But these people don’t have to be villains.

Too Late on 8

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Does the gay rights movement in America lack leadership? Did the opponents of Proposition 8 fumble their campaign? The answer to both questions seems to be ‘yes’.  Prior to the election, then-candidate Barack Obama wrote a letter to a gay rights group stating, “I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states”.

The No on 8 campaign had this letter. They chose not to make any use of it, even as the Yes on 8 campaign claimed that Obama was on their side. The letter showed in no uncertain terms that Barack Obama was opposed to Proposition 8, amd yet nothing was done to draw attention to this. That’s mind-boggling. 

I found the story on Towleroad, but they linked back to Dan Savage, who raised an interesting point that I’ve also wondered about, though more with regard to culture than to politics. The point is this; if you’re gay and brilliant at something, why would you choose to be brilliant for a gay audience, or would you choose to be brilliant for a much bigger straight audience? 

Most brilliant people choose the latter course; to leave the ghetto and try their luck in the world. So, gay cinema is terrible because most gay directors don’t make gay films. Gay fiction is crap because gay writers want to reach a wider audience. And gay politics is leaderless because good gay political strategists avoid the niche of gay issues. No-one wants to be the gay Jesse Jackson, even if it takes a few Jesse Jacksons to get to one Barack Obama.

It’s only a theory, but I worry that there’s some truth to it.