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We Abide By Many Different Sets of Laws - A Piece on California's Proposition 8

Proposition 8 - Right versus Wrong


Before we begin to debate the rightness or wrongness of any law of the state (as opposed to spiritual laws, or natural laws, or laws of physics), we must keep in mind at least one fundamental notion:

  • The state's laws exist, on some level, to meet one basic requirement; to maintain a civil society and keep social order. The law's enactment and adherence to it should at least promote behavior that minimizes the risk of chaos and anarchy.

I hear lots of people say that they really "feel" that marriage should be between a man and a woman. There isn't anything wrong with having that feeling except when you try to impose your feeling on to some else.

Whenever I hear arguments, for or against Prop 8, that are prefaced with "I really feel," I'm reminded of the Southern slaveholders who really "felt" that the best life for blacks was a life of bondage. I'd bet that many of them truly "felt," in their heart of hearts, that their vision of how blacks should be treated was infallibly correct, so therefore the laws supporting slavery were "right."

I'm not being facetious. I'm trying to make the point that one's personal "feelings" aren't particularly relevant when determining what guidelines we, as a state, adopt to maintain a civil society.

We have a system of government that, while imperfect, is the best we know of at this point. It must balance the needs of all of the many diverse groups that call this state home. It was intentional that there be a separation of church and state so as not to unfairly burden anyone with someone else's religious mores -- as well as for other reasons. By the same token, the system promotes laws that protect everyone.

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This does not mean that the laws of the church are invalid. It simply means that individuals choose, of their own volition, to practice whatever religion they prefer. The state has no hand in that.

I guess the bottom line for me is that the state's laws cannot and should not serve as the only laws we follow. We have our own moral compasses, our own set of rules documented in the holy scriptures or wherever you go to seek guidance in life.

One of my many pet peeves throughout this Prop 8 debate is that those who support it use the Bible to buttress their argument, but the current California State Supreme Court decision does not give same sex couples the right to a religious marriage. The current law gives them the right to a civil ceremony, which involves entering into a marital contract with all the obligations and privileges this legal device provides.

This used to be the exclusive realm of heterosexuals, but the California Supreme Court was right, if its goal was to do what was in the best interest of all the people.

I don't want to close this essay without saying that personal feelings are important and we shouldn't discount them. I like what Wanda Sykes says on this topic. I can't quote her verbatim but, paraphrased, she said -- If you feel same sex marriage is wrong, don't marry someone of the same sex. It's just that simple.

The Brown Paper Bag Test

by Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive.

Articles by Sharon Kyle