Monday, August 16, 2010

Gay Marriage Opposition Shows No Substance

The initial trial over Prop 8 is over and I'm sure no one reading this is unaware that Judge Walker ruled the proposition unconstitutional.  Of course, proponents of the proposition are appealing the decision, and the question probably won't be settled until it goes to the Supreme Court.  However, Judge Walker's opinion (which can be read in its entirety here) makes it clear that proponents of Prop 8 had no other basis than religious bigotry for barring same-sex couples from the right to marry.

This is monumental.  As is well documented, the campaign for Prop 8, while a California state initiative that would have no standing outside the state of California, was heavily influenced by organizations (mostly religious) who drew enormous resources from out of state.  When Prop 8 was challenged in federal court, the state officials named as defendants (including Gov. Schwarzenegger) chose not to defend the proposition, the state Attorney General even conceding the unconstitutionality of the proposition.  This left the organization and individuals initially responsible for the proposition to come to its defense.  Because this issue has been touted almost as a last stand for "traditional marriage", and has enjoyed the support of such deep pockets and well organized indoctrinators as the Mormon and Catholic Churches, one should expect that this defense represented the best arguments available for preventing gay marriage.  Of course, in a court of law in a country where laws are not supposed to be enacted on purely religious bases, the proponents of Prop 8 took pains to avoid explicitly religious arguments supporting their proposition.  Unsurprisingly to many, without "god says so", they had nothing to left to offer, and Judge Walker agreed.

As one would expect in a pluralistic society such as ours, Judge Walker maintains:

"A state’s interest in an enactment must of course be secular in nature. The state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without an accompanying secular purpose."

Left to show a secular purpose behind their proposition to bar gays from marriage, the proponents of Prop 8 claimed that "the state's interest in marriage is procreative", but when asked to explain how allowing gays to marry would adversely affect this interest, the only response they had was "I don't know".  Despite this, they claimed they would show some 23 specific harmful consequences that would result from allowing gays to marry.  In the words of Judge Walker:

"At trial, however, proponents presented only one witness, David Blankenhorn, to address the government interest in marriage. Blankenhorn’s testimony is addressed at length hereafter; suffice it to say that he provided no credible evidence to support any of the claimed adverse effects proponents promised to demonstrate."

The opposition purported to provide evidence that children raised in straight households fare better than those raised in same-sex households.  They failed to show any credible evidence of this.  Not a single legitimate study has shown this to be true, and in fact, the studies cited by the plaintiff's lawyers showed the opposite, that there was no appreciable difference in the adjustment or care of children raised by gays or lesbians, and those raised in more "traditional" families.  

In the end, the key witness for the proponents of Prop 8 agreed with the plaintiffs:

Blankenhorn noted that marriage would benefit same-sex couples and their children, would reduce discrimination against gays and lesbians and would be 'a victory for the worthy ideas of tolerance and inclusion.'”

In spite of that admission, Blankenhorn maintained that gays should be denied the right to marry on the basis of his unsubstantiated opinion that to allow them to marry would "weaken the institution of marriage".  Anyone following the debates about gay marriage should be all too familiar with this vapid, yet often repeated platitude, clung to so desperately by the anti-gay-marriage crowd.  For years proponents of gay rights have asked "How, exactly?"  Now, officially and before a federal judge they reveal their only legitimate answer "I don't know."

Religions enjoy a lot of freedom in the United States.  They are free to disseminate all manner of doctrines, theories, creeds, and even diatribes, venom, racism and bigotry, as are the rest of us.  What they don't have the freedom to do in the United States is to legislate their private religiously based morality.  To enact laws abridging the activity of others in the United States, they have to show that there is a compelling state interest in that abridgment.  The proponents of Prop 8, despite the support of highly organized and well financed organizations on a national level, have failed utterly to show any state interest in denying marriage rights to gays.  I submit that this is because there is none.  If there were, the Prop 8 trial would surely have been the place to show it.