Five on Eight

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Children and Proposition 8 | The law and Proposition 8 | Mormons and Proposition 8 | Ann Landers and Proposition 8 | ‘Biology, not bigotry’

Children and Proposition 8
At school and on sports practice fields, it’s become the No. 1 topic of conversation among kids.
By Alexandra Cole

Carpooling home after soccer practice, we approached an intersection where 15 or so people were standing on all four corners waving “Yes on 8" signs. “What does ‘Yes on 8' mean?” asked my 8-year-old daughter, Francesca.

I hesitated. I needed to figure out an answer in a way that would be sensitive to her teammate, who I’ll call Amy, in the back seat. I’ve dropped the girl off many times before, and her house has a huge “Yes on 8" banner visible from the street.

Proposition 8, I said, would change the state Constitution so only certain people could get married in California. I said it in a matter-of-fact way, and I hoped that we would get to Amy’s house before the inevitable follow-up questions started. But the light at the intersection had turned red. “What do you mean by certain people?” my daughter asked.

Before I could answer, Amy spoke up. “That means girls marrying girls and boys marrying boys.” It had never occurred to my daughter, or her 5-year-old twin brother and sister who also were in the car, that this was a possibility. Their response was to giggle.

Over the next several days, I followed Francesca’s conversations with her friends with great interest. Walking home from school, she pointed out a “Yes on 8" sign on someone’s lawn and told her classmate that she was “voting” no on 8 because it would keep some people from getting married. Her classmate agreed, and introduced a new term, “gay people.”

Francesca later told me that she’d asked everyone on her soccer team how she would vote. My burgeoning pollster reported a majority favoring Proposition 8. But what amazed me was that every girl -- none of them older than 10 -- could articulate a position on the ballot measure. Other parents have recounted similar observations: This one ballot measure has become the topic of conversation among their children. My eighth-grader reports brisk politicking on his middle school campus, and it has not been unusual in our part of Orange County to see teens alongside their activist parents at the intersections waving pro- and con- Proposition 8 signs.

Out of respect to Amy’s parents and their beliefs -- they belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- I had not expressed my opposition to Proposition 8 in front of their daughter. Francesca, however, had no such inhibitions. When Amy said her family would have to leave their church if they voted against Proposition 8, Francesca replied, “In our church, we can vote the way we want to.” When it was Amy’s mom’s turn to deliver the girls to soccer practice recently, Francesca also apparently explained that our family was against Proposition 8 because “people should be able to do what they want in California.”

After again picking up my kids from their soccer and swim practices on a recent evening, I arrived home to find an election mailer from in my mailbox. In big bold letters it proclaimed that “teaching about ‘gay marriage’ will happen in our public schools unless we vote yes on Proposition 8.”

The irony is that gay marriage has become the No. 1 topic of discussion on school playgrounds and sports practice fields precisely because of Proposition 8. The political battle has done far and away more to raise awareness of same-sex marriage among schoolchildren than the state Supreme Court’s ruling in May ever would have. This last month has been a giant teachable moment on gay marriage -- which is probably not what Proposition 8’s backers intended.

Alexandra Cole is an associate professor of political science at Cal State Northridge.

The law and Proposition 8
Voters are being asked to reinstate the people’s will, not make a decision about morality.
By Richard Peterson

Proposition 8 is not about the morality of homosexual lifestyles. It is not designed to diminish comprehensive rights already guaranteed to same-sex couples by law in California. It is not motivated by bigotry, discrimination or intolerance.

Proposition 8 is a reinstatement of the people’s will as expressed by the passage of Proposition 22 in 2000 by 61% of California voters. That measure was cast aside in May by a vote of 4 to 3 on the California Supreme Court. In a dissenting opinion, state Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter wrote:

“A bare majority of this court, not satisfied with the pace of democratic change, now abruptly forestalls that process and substitutes, by judicial fiat, its own social policy views for those expressed by the people themselves. Undeterred by the strong weight of state and federal law and authority, the majority invents a new constitutional right, immune from the ordinary process of legislative consideration. The majority finds that our Constitution suddenly demands no less than a permanent redefinition of marriage, regardless of the popular will.”

Proposition 8 in no way diminishes the legal protections or status already granted to same-sex couples. As California Supreme Court Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in her dissenting opinion:

“Domestic partnerships and marriages have the same legal standing, granting to both heterosexual and homosexual couples a societal recognition of their lifelong commitment.”

Most important, Proposition 8 seeks to protect the crucial role traditional marriage has played in society for more than 1,200 years. In 2004, a group of distinguished scholars from many of the nation’s leading universities, including Harvard, Princeton, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, convened to share their research on why marriage -- “understood as the union of one man with one woman as husband and wife” -- is important to society. In their 2006 consensus report, “Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles,” they warned that same-sex marriage was one of four major threats to the institution of marriage.

“Marriage cannot survive or flourish when the ideal of marriage is eviscerated. Radically different understandings of marriage, when given legal status, threaten to create a culture in which it is no longer possible for men and women to understand the unique goods that marriage embodies, the fidelity between men and women, united as potential mothers and fathers, bound to the children that the marital union might produce.”

Dignity and respect for all individuals, including same-sex couples, is most likely to flourish in a society built on the foundation of traditional marriage: the enduring union of husband and wife.

Richard Peterson is an assistant professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law and director of its Special Education Advocacy Clinic. He has appeared in ads for the “Yes on 8" campaign.

Mormons and Proposition 8
Of all people, Mormons should be sensitive to those seeking nontraditional unions.
By Lola Van Wagenen

Reports that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a big supporter of Proposition 8 should sadden all Mormons. Based on the unique history of Mormons, there is no religious group in our country that should be more tolerant of “nontraditional” forms of marriage than those of us whose ancestors were polygamist Mormons, who were persecuted because of theirtheir “nontraditional” marriages.

Have today’s Latter-day Saints forgotten that in the 19th century, our ancestors were violently and relentlessly attacked for their “peculiar institution”? Have they forgotten that they pleaded for understanding and tried in vain to prove that they were good parents? Have they forgotten that Utah territory gave our great-great-grandmothers the right to vote in part to prove that they were not downtrodden, and that these ancestors prayed to the Lord for the protection of “celestial marriage” against the hatred directed at Mormons?

Our polygamous ancestors were accused of being incapable of providing loving homes for their children. Who knows better than we do that this was untrue? Who can deny that our “nontraditional” ancestors left a heritage of hardworking, high-achieving progeny. And yet the fallacy that “nontraditional” marriages erode and destroy family values is one of the main attacks being used against gay and lesbian couples by LDS proponents of Proposition 8.

Most Mormons today would concede that much of the continuing prejudice against the LDS church persists because of our history of “nontraditional” marriage, even though 118 years have passed since the church abandoned polygamy. Still, what religious group has known more hatred and persecution in America than our families? And it lingers. Have today’s Mormons not learned to fight against prejudice and the vilification of people who happen to be different?

Returning to my Mormon roots as a historian has deepened my appreciation for, and gratitude to, my ancestors -- for their struggles and their sacrifices that living in “nontraditional” marriages demanded. My great-great-grandfather was jailed for his marriage, a history that I share with so many practicing Mormons. Given the Mormon experience, why are today’s Latter-day Saints not in the vanguard of pleading for acceptance, equal rights and compassion for all Americans? They should be standing up in opposition to Proposition 8, knowing that loving homes and good parenting can come equally from “nontraditional” or “traditional” marriages.

Lola Van Wagenen is a member of the Mormon History Assn. and the author of “Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage, 1870 to 1896.”

Ann Landers and Proposition 8
Watch it, bubs! Ann Landers would have told you it’s all about fairness and tolerance.
By Margo Howard

Proposition 8 aims to eliminate marriage rights for same-sex couples. Is it right to do so?

Three weeks ago, I came to Los Angeles from the East Coast to attend the wedding of two men for whom I have great affection.

It was not my first gay marriage. Four years earlier, I was the very elderly “flower girl” at the wedding of two gay male friends in Boston. I preceded them down the aisle, scattering petals from a basket, the works.

My one wish about both these events is that my late mother, Ann Landers, was still here so that I could talk to her about them. The old girl would have been thrilled because she really was what Time magazine called her in its obituary: “the stealth subversive.”

It was she, the trusted friend welcomed daily into tens of millions of middle-class homes, who from early on fought for gay rights. She said homosexuality was not an illness or an aberration or that looniest of definitions, “an alternative lifestyle choice.” Rather, she was convinced homosexuality was determined by genetics and dead certain that people were hard-wired in their sexuality. And to those straight people who believed that homosexuals could be “brought around,” she always suggested that they give it a go being gay. She put her not inconsiderable clout behind the (ultimately successful) effort to get homosexuality removed from the official diagnostic manual as an “illness.”

While I seldom try to speak for her, I know for a certainty that she would have encouraged all the people who ever wrote to her looking for guidance to vote no on Proposition 8. I know this because she was all about equality, dignity and rights. While she would have respected those who took the Bible literally, she also would have invited them to live according to their principles, and allow others to do the same. So if, per chance, before you vote you might wonder what your old friend Ann Landers would advise, remember her lifelong devotion to fairness, open-mindedness and love.

Margo Howard, an advice columnist for Yahoo News and Creators Syndicate, is the only daughter of Esther “Eppie” Lederer, who wrote the Ann Landers advice column from 1955 until her death in 2002.

Why ‘yes’ on Proposition 8?
‘Biology, not bigotry’ is the foundation for the traditional form of marriage.
By Maggie Gallagher

As I travel across California and the country making the case for Proposition 8, I’m often asked, “Why do you care about restoring marriage?”

It’s a good question, and not just for me. Why are so many Californians rushing to street corners to hold up “Yes on 8" signs, enduring petty vandalism, and even pettier insults, to make the case for voting yes on Proposition 8?

It’s simple: Government did not create marriage. Marriage is older than the U.S. Constitution, older even than the Bible or the Koran. Marriage’s deepest roots are in human nature and human experience. Marriage, as a judge on the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote in his compelling dissent to that court’s recent ruling allowing gays to wed, is rooted “in biology, not bigotry.”

Marriage is a virtually universal human social institution with a certain recognizable shape: It is a public union, not just a private union; it’s a sexual union and not some other kind of union; it’s a union in which the rights and responsibilities of men and women toward each other -- and toward the children of their union -- are publicly defined and supported, not merely left up to individuals to figure out privately.

Why do so many diverse societies arrive at this core marriage idea? There is something special about unions of husband and wife.

The answer is not hard to see. When a baby is born, a mother is bound to be somewhere close by. But if we want fathers to be there for children, and the mothers of their children, biology alone will not take us very far. We need a cultural mechanism to connect fathers to the mother-child bond. We also need an institution that communicates to the next generation -- in the throes of its own erotic and romantic dramas -- how seriously society takes the need to discipline those dramas so that children do not get hurt.

The word for the way society makes this connection, not only in California but in virtually every known human society, is “marriage.” Marriage is a union of husband and wife because these kinds of unions are distinctive and necessary to the whole society.

If Californians vote no on Proposition 8, the great historical cross-cultural meaning of marriage will be replaced by the new government dogma on which gay marriage is based: There is no difference between same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions; anyone who thinks otherwise is just a bigot.

Our children will imbibe this new dogma in hundreds of ways, and the old marriage idea -- marriage matters because children need a mother and a father, long for a mother and a father, deserve a mother and a father -- will be publicly discredited as discriminatory.

A victory for Proposition 8 will not deprive same-sex couples of a single practical right or benefit under California state laws. Civil unions will continue to provide legal protections for same-sex families. But the people of California will reclaim from four state Supreme Court justices the right to define marriage as a union of husband and wife, for generations to come.

Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage, which is a major contributor to the “Yes on 8" campaign.

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