Two a.m., Wednesday, November 5. We've been celebrating, and your humble narrator stands outside a Hollywood bar beside a filmmaker friend and a bearded reality TV show winner who looks like Tom Hanks at about minute 80 of Cast Away. We're talking to two girls, both of them lovely and charming, and right now I'm thinking I've got at least a 66% chance of getting in a serious make-out session in honor of our President-elect... when suddenly one of the girls bursts into tears.
Now I'm used to girls storming off in an indignant huff. And slaps to the face? Old news. But tears -- at least at this early of a stage in the relationship -- are a new and rather unpleasant experience.
The sobbing girl apologizes, telling us she is a lesbian (chances of a make-out sesh now plummet to 33%) and that these are not tears of joy over Obama's election, but tears of sorrow over that night's passage of Proposition 8. For those of you who have been living inside the cave Dick Cheney will likely disappear back into in a puff of green smoke on January 20, Proposition 8 officially amended the California state constitution to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, overturning the California Supreme Court's previous decision that same-sex marriage is as fundamental a right as mixed-sex marriage. So this girl is devastated at the thought that, as it stands, she will never be able to marry her girlfriend, who's currently inside paying the check.
Now, as I see it, there are four problems with this.
Problem One: Separation of church and state.
Based on the donations made in its favor, the influence of religious organizations upon the passage of Proposition 8 is undeniable, with significant contributions coming from the Roman Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, among others. Freedom of religion is, of course, guaranteed by the First Amendment; the ability of religious organizations to impose their beliefs on the law, however, is not.
Go back to Reynolds v. United States, in which George Reynolds, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, argued that his right to marry Amelia Jane Schofield and Mary Ann Tuddenham was protected due to his religious duty. The irony that the same Mormon religion that battled for the rights of the polygamous was at the forefront of Prop 8 aside, the key is that the Supreme Court ruled against Reynolds, stating that the law of the land superseded the mores of a religion.
Specifically, they quoted a letter from a guy who knew a thing or two about citizens' rights, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that "religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions." Basically, what TJ was saying is that while your religion may be of the opinion that Spiderman Underoos ought be worn over one's eyes at all times, the government has an obligation to make sure that opinion does not carry over to the action of one blindly mowing down pedestrians with the church van in a soft cotton haze.
As it stands, the United States Constitution has an obligation to its citizens to "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Until somebody provides any empirical evidence, other than vague moral condemnation or passages from religious texts, to prove otherwise, I have yet to see how homosexual marriage threatens any of those duties, at least any more so than handguns... or, oh, heterosexual marriage.
Problem Two: Separate is not equal.
You probably learned that maxim in your high school American history class. Yet many continue to point to the fact that California and a handful of other states provide domestic partnerships or civil unions to homosexual couples, thereby granting rights "equivalent" to those guaranteed in the federal definition of marriage. That fallacy disappears when we realize that even in those states where civil unions are legal and give more or less equivalent rights, other states are under no obligation to recognize those rights. Which is kind of like saying that while Alabama will protect your freedom of speech, if you cross the border into Tennessee arguing that Dancing With the Stars is the greatest show on TV, a cop who prefers Wheel of Fortune is allowed to shoot you in the face.
So, on a legal level, the distinction between civil unions and marriage should be eliminated, and a single term should apply to both. This means either all couples, homosexual or heterosexual, should be allowed to "marry," or all couples should be recognized by the government as having entered a "civil union." Given that the rite of marriage seems to have its origins in the church, I'd suggest letting it remain in their domain -- after all, there is no state equivalent of baptism (a judge dumps Poland Spring on you when you get a passport?) or Eucharist (though free booze is always highly encouraged) -- and keeping the rights guaranteed by the state and federal governments distinct from religious ceremony.
Problem Three: The people have spoken.
The majority of Californians voted to pass Proposition 8, it's true. But when it comes to issues of equality, America's history has proven that sometimes the desires of the majority are not always in line with the virtues this country prides itself on. At several points in our past, a majority considered that the decimation of Native Americans, the enslavement of blacks, and the inability of women to own land were all pretty wonderful. Now we look at those times in the same way we look back on the craze surrounding Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" -- a mixture of embarrassment and dread that something like that could ever happen again.
Problem Four: Now how am I supposed to get laid?
So we're back outside the bar now, and I'm giving up on any possibility of making out. Because the second girl -- the one who's not gay -- is obligated to comfort her tear-streaked friend, along with the girlfriend who's just returned from paying the bill.
She takes a rain check on some late night grub (and, presumably, breakfast the morning-after). Reality TV Friend calls it a night. Filmmaker Friend joins your humble narrator on a journey to Canter's Deli, a 24-hour joint where, incidentally, a gay man pays for our drunk's breakfast of champions: eggs, bacon, hash browns, and coffee.
Let's just say I have yet to have a Mormon treat me to a meal.