Wednesday, February 8, 2012

“Unconstitutional!” - Striking Down Proposition 8

Proposition 8 was passed by 52% of the California voters to limit marriage to one male and one female. The 9th Circuit Court just declared it “unconstitutional,” demonstrating that the highly debatable interpretation of a couple of judges carries more weight than the democratic vote. The Court concluded:

  • “Proposition 8 serves no purpose … other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

If this was the case, as a Christian I would have to agree with the 9th Circuit Court. Scripture informs me that we are all precious – created in the image of God – and have inestimable worth. In addition to this, we have all been perverted by the effects of sin. I must admit that I am humbled daily by the ongoing reality of sin in my own life. This leaves me little room – no room – to look down on others. When we truly understand that every good thing that we have is a product of the undeserved grace of God (James 1:17), the option of arrogance must be soundly rejected.

However, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t vote in favor of limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Likewise, I would vote against polygamy – not because I want to “lessen the status and human dignity” of polygamists but because I don’t think that this institution has a salutary effect on society.

Instead, is it not the Court’s demeaning language which “lessen[s our] status and human dignity,” merely because we vote against same-sex mariage? It is troubling to read that the 9th Circuit Court pejoratively labels us as “bigoted”:

  • Denying marriage to gay people is obviously bigoted because “under California statutory law [governing civil unions], same-sex couples had all the rights of opposite-sex couples.”

However, the laws of this land also deny marriage of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, brothers and sisters. Is this also bigoted? If not, why not? Why isn’t our nation bigoted for denying the right of marriage to these adults? Are we also bigoted for imposing an “age of consent,” thereby denying adult rights to juveniles?

Perhaps it is the 9th Circuit Court which is bigoted against those who would vote for a Proposition 8. It claims:

  • “The People may not employ the [ballot] initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment.”

But isn’t this what every law does. It inevitably discriminates against certain behaviors – tax evaders, speeders, thieves and even jaywalkers. Are we bigoted when we pass such laws? Certainly not! Do we “single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment?”  Instead, by extending social sanction to a behavior/institution that has proven detrimental effects on its practitioners, we are morally complicit.

Prop 8 does not discriminate against same-sex attraction (SSA) or the individuals who have it but against same-sex marriage (SSM). We are all orientated to an assortment of sins. Although I might be tempted towards theft, it doesn’t make me a thief. Nor should I be punished or stigmatized as such.  

Sexual orientation should not define the person. We are far more than our orientations. When Governor Jim McGreavey disclosed that he was a “gay American,” I was surprised. Why did he define himself by his SSA? He had many other identifies to choose from. He was a father, a husband, and the governor of the state of New Jersey. Why then did he define himself by SSA at the expense of his other identities? Why did he identify with what our conscience has universally indicted as sin – the homosexual lifestyle - in favor of his family?

Was he living a lie being married to a woman while his prime attraction was men? Certainly not! There is nothing that says that you have to be more attracted to your wife than to others – male or female! The conflict only arises when one equates acting out one’s sexual desire with truth and authenticity. I may feel like insulting someone, but truth and authenticity doesn’t require that I do so. I am not a hypocrite if I decide to identify with my faith and convictions rather than my sinful feelings.

When we vote for a Proposition 8, we are not voting against SSA or the people who struggle with it. We are not demonizing a certain group of people, as the 9th Circuit Court alleges, but instead the institution of SSM. Rather, it is the courts that have demonized us as “bigots.”

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