Prop 8: Apportioning Blame & Fighting Back


I am getting sick of hearing that African-American and Latino voters in California are responsible for the horrid result in Californian bigots’ successful bid to take rights away from citizens.

That is a slap in the faces of all those dark-skinned people who voted in favor of maintaining legal equality for all. Let’s not turn against each other. That won’t help the future fight for establishing true equality throughout the US. Mark Monford writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that while hands of many hues played a part in achieving this horrific defeat of decency, he points his finger of blame upward.

Some say the inglorious success of Prop. 8, the brutally regressive measure that removes the rights of very specific people who love very specific other people from ever marrying them, can be blamed on multiple factors.

Some say it was Gavin Newsom’s smugness and political recklessness. Some blame Feinstein for daring to support Prop. 8s defeat. Some blame the black and Latino communities for their shocking and rather heartbreaking support of what essentially amounts to a civil rights abuse of the very kind they themselves fought so hard to overcome.

Or maybe it’s all those sad, white, central portions of the state, the huge chunks of voters who live in places without much culture or perspective or major universities, who only hear certain strains of spiteful rhetoric and thin fearmongering, whose general lack of education means they apparently still believe certain flavors of love will poison everyone’s soup and ruin the sanctity of the time-honored 50-percent heterosexual missionary position Christian divorce rate.

And I must say — and you might not want to hear this — a big chunk of blame for 8’s passage has to go to the No on 8 campaign’s initial arrogance, followed by their utterly limp reaction when the Yes campaign started attacking and gaining real steam. As one of my politically savvy Chronicle colleagues put it, “No on 8 was a bad campaign. Bad bad bad. Inept, amateurish, incompetent and, above all, guilty of committing the first and worst sin of politics: taking the voters for granted.”

But I don’t think it stops there. Because when you peel back all those surface factors, when you trace the line of quasi-reasoning back to its source, to the “real” reason many people voted for Prop. 8, I think the real blame lies with, well, the Almighty himself.

That’s right, I blame God.

Personally, I disagree with saying the deity upstairs is to blame (and so does the author, really). I fully believe Jesus — who, according to many believers, is God in human form — is weeping alongside those whose rights were yanked. But Monford’s larger point is correct: Bigoted churches that present a limited, twisted vision of God are the primary culprit here.

The Mormon and Roman Catholic churches poured millions of dollars into the Yes on 8 campaign. They also violated their own rule to do the job: Remember the commandment against bearing false witness? Well, the churches behind the heinous ad campaigns exhorting people to vote yes on the bigoted measure lied in the most egregious fashion. In doing so, they show that their piety is a sham.

These people are nothing more than desperate, control-freak Pharisees putting on a show of their own religious superiority and clubbing the rest of us with the only remaining weapon they have — the archaic notion that their religious view on marriage is the only one that matters. Their sin is profound and they deserve to be shamed.

I wonder how many people voted Yes because they believe the religionistas’ lies.

So what now? We fight back to turn back the tide of bigotry and the violation of the separation of church and state in ways that are honorable and in keeping with the nation’s heritage.

  • We climb off of our bar stools and leave our gilded cages to hit the streets and protest. It’s already under way: Demonstrators are showing their justified outrage in numerous protests around California and outside Mormon churches in Utah. Keep it up, folks, even when you’re exhausted and broke. Only revolution can save the day. There is no room for apathy and inaction.
  • Others stripped of full citizenship in this nation will risk jail by following the path of Mohandas Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the American founders by refusing to pay taxes until they are equal under law — and that includes those diminished by state and federal law. The federal Defense of Marriage Law is every bit as immoral as Proposition 8. This tactic, though dangerous, makes sense: Why should GLBT Americans be charged full freight for second-class citizenship?
  • Decent, equality-loving people will go after the churches: withholding donations, exposing them as the mendacious, self-serving political organizations they really are, and doing everything possible to have them stripped of their undeserved and unfair tax-exempt status.

Additionally, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other organizations are going to court in an effort to put a stop to the horrible precedent Prop 8 sets. The US, to its shame, is known for talking equality while withholding it, but never before have rights been taken away from citizens. With any luck, the judicial branch will put an end to what is a clear injustice.

natalie-davis.gifThis fight is not over. This is no time to make nice. In the course of righting this wrong, many of us will suffer. But it’s worth it — this necessary fight is worth it. Our families are worth it, and so is our dignity. Without full citizenship and equality under law, nothing else matters. And if equality is an inalienable right as our founders declared, God knows it too. And while I am all for forgiveness, in this case, the enemy knows all too well what they are doing. Give ’em hell.

Natalie Davis

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  1. hbrentonlee says

    To Candace: As long as you continue to arrogantly – and ignorantly – protect your right to be different, to continue, in the harsh and glaring light of undeniable facts to the contrary to define African Americans as terminally unique as regards presecution and prejudice, then you become the problem. Your response smacks of not-so-subtle homophobia and fails, entirely, to take into consideration the historically horrific, world-wide and continuing violent persecution of gay and lesbian people. Hitler slaughtered GLBT citizens in the ovens at Dachau, or have you forgotten that? Did you even know that? I grew up a gay man in the racist, homophobic South of the fifties and sixties. I know the Truth about racism and homophobia because I have lived through decades of it, and have suffered the pain of being denied basic human rights because I am gay, of being taunted and treated as a second class citizen, of being hassled by the police, and denied housing and services and medical treatment all because of my sexual orientation. To say that African Americans and GLBT people lack that common bond is to once again underline and reinforce the fact that many African Americans seem to value their dubious status as the more persecuted than others more than they value the Truth about the struggle for Human Rights for ALL people. That attitude diminishes human dignity and should be put aside, where it belongs.

  2. Su says

    Yes, and gays and lesbians face issues that African Americans or Latinos or Japanese Americans don’t. Is it a contest, or something? Why feed into this “divide and conquer” spirit?

    Progressives make a grave mistake if they call out race/ethnicity as a deciding factor when we should be fixated on religion. Or am I supposed to somehow excuse and accept whites who vote how their churches tell them to vote, but not African Americans?

    As opposed to “comparing” the experience of being gay to the experience of being black, I think that all liberation movements look somewhat to the various successes of the civil rights movement for strategies and tactics that will be translatable.

  3. says

    I’ll get to the other comments later, but Candice requires an immediate reply.

    Dear heart, look at my photo. Your great, great grandmother and I have more in common than you think. Gay people DIE because of institutionalized bigotry.

  4. candice says

    While I appriciate the article I think it completly MISSES the point. I would like to give a news flash to many Gay Americans, it is INSULTING for them to compare their plight in this country to African Americans. First of all most African Americans believe the LEAST of their worries when they were shipped over as slaves, then released and then had to endure 100 years of the KLAN was could they MARRY A WHITE MALE OR FEMALE, BUT WOULD THEY BE LYNCHED! Like so many African Americans just walking down the street or in this day in age we would call it driving while black could cause police brutallity, could cause you to incur the warth of the clan YES PEOPLE IN 2008 etc. I respect the fact that Gay Americans want their rights but DO NOT compare yourself to Japanesse people being put in intermeint camps, and having your property taken away, or being put into slavery, or being like the American Indian and have your land taken for good. Compare yourself to yourself and perhaps you will garner more respect. Elton John, and my great, great grandmother HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON!!!!

  5. Linda Sutton says

    Personally, I think we need to be pointing toward the so-called “low-information” voters who make up a much larger part of our electorate than we like to think. How many people did you hear wondering about how to vote on the props in the last few days? All of them not bothering to look any further than MAYBE their little ballot summaries, or maybe not even that. WAY too many people just soak up all the lies rampant in the TV ads that are their main source of, well, misinformation. They vote emotionally and are slammed into place by fears and delusions. No thought. No critical thinking. No recognition of what is propaganda.

    In addition, there’s the issue of total ignorance…those who still think that being gay is somehow a “choice.” Having spoken before one of the African-American churches in the valley on one of the other props, I was exposed to this line of “reasoning” in their nifty little powerpoint that summarized the “yes” and “no” sides. In it they listed the belief that race is not a choice but being gay is. Perpetuating this lie with an evangelistic fervor that is truly frightening, several of their “yes” speakers repeated the mantra of “saving their families” and “protecting the children”—proving that they had become saturated with the continuous ads paid for, in large part, by the Mormon Church (go to Courage Campaign to read more on this).

    Anyone who has not yet seen “The Call” video of the San Diego event of 11/2 really needs to go there. The Mormons had a lot of company.

    The critique of the “NO” campaign probably should include that they seem to have not reached out to either the Latino or African-American communities to explain how this is a CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE that directly relates to them.

    And lastly, we must blame ourselves because 55% of Democratic activists focused on calling the battleground states for Obama. While I have no doubt that our calls made a significant difference, we must recognize that it was done at the sacrifice of most of the downticket races as well as the propositions.

    Yea! for the chickens. After Obama, they seem to be the only winners this election cycle.

  6. Thom O'Shaughnessy says

    I can’t agree more. The blame game is not only disrespectful of the many from all communities who stood to oppose Prop. 8; it also distracts from efforts to Repeal Prop. 8 by court challenge, a new initiative, and being vocal & public in solidarity with our compatriots in the LGBT community.

    I would however, add another group besides the LDS church elders; and that is the Knights of Columbus. As an Irish Catholic I am truly offended and heartsick that a group originally founded to protect church property and immigrant Catholics from the bigotry of the Nativist Anti-Catholicism and the Know Nothing Party would join in this latest bigotry!

    Boycotts and secondary boycotts are an excellent way to express not only our freedom of speech, but also our freedom to spend our money where we choose. Economic disapproval is an excellent way to show our displeasure at venues who supported Prop. 8. I hope someone is putting together a Do Not Patronize List, as the AFL-CIO does, to remind all of us who were our allies and more importantly our foes in this continuing battle.

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