September 8, 2005

The Will of the People

Posted in Political at 9:21 pm by Ian

You may have heard about the recent passage of a bill supporting same sex marriage by the California legislature. It looks now like it’s not going to become law, but it’s made me think a lot about how democracy ought to work when confronted with an important issue.

It’s no secret that I consider the anti-gay marriage position to be absurdly injust. Read Loving v. Virginia as analogous. Those on the wrong side of history always cling to tradition without reason.

But in the case of AB 849, things are more complicated.

Just five years ago, 61% of the voters of California approved Proposition 22, which added the following language to the California Family Code

308.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

The really interesting thing about this addition, legally, is that it’s added to the section describing the validity of marriages performed in other states. So, if AB 849 were passed, it might end up that California would recognize same sex marriages performed within its borders, but not those performed elsewhere. The end result of such an incongruity is far from certain, but it involves the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the California constitutional rules about the legislature not overriding initiatives.

But none of that matters right now; Arnie won’t sign it. He says that he won’t sign it because it clearly counteracts the will of the people, as shown by Prop 22. I can respect an elected offical not just punting responsibility for constitutional lawmaking to the courts, but I think he won’t sign it because he’s pandering to bigots. So he’s lost my vote. A lot can change in five years, especially on as visible an issue as this. Are we really sure what the will of the people is, anymore?

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16 Comments »

  1. Matt said,

    I was waiting for you to post something on this. I think I can understand Arnie’s decision to veto. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but look at the position he was in. If, in fact, the will of the people has changed in 5 years, it’s not like it there is a super majority in favor. Furthermore, he is a Republican, and having the backing of a party is pretty important to any politician. Going resoundly against what has been a pillar of the party platform is likely to be political suicide, esepcially if he doesn’t have a huge portion of the rest of the population backing him up. I think it’s less pandering to the bigots and more saving his own skin. Citing the will of the people looks like quite a cop out, and it is, but it’s hard to blame the guy for taking it as long it’s there.

    The fact of the matter is, as long as there are passages in the Bible denouncing homosexuality, there is going to be a significant group of people opposed to gay marriage. It doesn’t matter that tax collectors, adulterors, theives, prostitutes, Samaritans, and more were all just as outcast at the times when those passages were written. It’s going to take a fight at the level of the people, not the lawmakers, to have them see that Jesus welcomed and showed love and compassion to all of the people who fit into the examples I gave, and that homosexuals should receive the same treatment – love, not hatred. Until more of the Christian community buys into this, I think those opposed to gay marriage will have lawmakers by the balls. As was visible in the 2004 election, the fact that the CA law lost by only 61-39 was pretty remarkable.

  2. Ian said,

    He he.

    Well, since we don’t shun the IRS anymore, maybe our political hearts are big enough to embrace the faggots, too.

    It remains to be seen whether the veto was a politically sound move. Sure, he’s shored up his base, but he has to have lost a lot of modererates, too.

  3. Adam said,

    Well I was under the impression that he was going down in flames come election time anyway… so it’s not like it made a big difference.

    Ooo, I actually get to vote in this next gubernatorial race so I’ll do my part 🙂

  4. Dan said,

    Here are a couple of items that ran in today’s Press Democrat. Just providing ways of looking at this issue:

    Will the people stand for discrimination?

    and

    Tough veto

  5. Evan said,

    It’s interesting that in citing the ‘will of the people’ he’s lost your vote, because you consider him to be “…pandering to bigots.” I agree with you that a lot could have (and certainly has, especially regarding this issue) changed in the last five years; however, without any empirical evidence to back me up, I bet it’s arguable to claim that prop. 22 now would be supported by an even greater majority.

    Now, before you get all riled up, here’s my reasoning. Five years ago, in 2000, gay marraige was an issue being hotly debated; however, GW hadn’t yet done his second-election thing and garnered the support of a huge voting block of conservatives who don’t usually vote. Putnam’s theory of social capital (greatly simplified) suggests that people who participate in gov’t once are more likely to participate again, so it stands to reason that more (bigoted) conservatives would vote for this proposition now than in the past. On the other hand, the liberal pro-gay-marriage group was politically active in ’00, and is politically active now, but I don’t think there are a huge number of people who feel strongly about this issue on that side who haven’t participated actively already. Couple this with the trend of California voting more conservatively this past presidential election, and electing a Republican governor over a (more?) qualified Democratic opponant…

    So. While I agree with you that it’s wrong for the gov’t to dictate who can be hitched, I don’t necessarily agree that the Governator is just spinning a line. Further reaserch into how people actually would vote (polling and such by 3rd parties) is probably the way to answer the question at this point.

    On that note, does anyone have citations for the claim the PD makes that “…recent polls show Californians about equally divided on the issue…” (14th paragraph)?

  6. Dan said,

    I don’t. You could always email the columnist Chris Coursey and ask him.

  7. Ian said,

    Evan: My bit about losing my vote was poorly worded. I meant that I’m not going to vote for him because he obviously doesn’t share my values, as evidenced by his pandering to bigots. He’s painted himself as a socially liberal fiscally conservative governor, and I can now see that that’s not the case.

    I think your analysis of the present voting situation is interesting, and I have a few more variables to throw into the mix. My impression was that the ’04 election brought out new voters on both sides of the aisle because it was such a contested and polarized election. True, Bush gained more from 2000 to 2004 than Kerry did over Gore, but even percentage wise, Kerry got more of the California vote than Gore did in 2000.

    I don’t think you can really take the governor recall vote as a good indicator of this issue, both because it wasn’t an issue in the election, and because it wasn’t a standard election. Bustamonte’s loss had a lot more to do with his association with Davis than with his public policy.

    However, there’s also the increasing Hispanic vote to consider, which would tend to shift California more conservative. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the portion of voters who are Hispanic increased by a point or two in the past five years.

  8. Evan said,

    Chris-
    I just read your column “Will the people stand for discrimination?” in the PD, and I was wondering if you’d be willing to share with me the reference for your statement that “…recent polls show Californians about equally divided on the issue…” in the 14th paragraph.I’m discussing the situation re. Arnold and his decision to veto the bill passed into law, and as your column was used as a point of discussion, I’m interested in your source.

    Thanks,
    Evan

    ccoursey@pressdemocrat.com to me
    here’s a link to the latest polling done by the public policy institute of
    california

    http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/S_805MBS.pdf

    if you scroll down to page 27 of 38 on the pdf, you’ll find results for
    same-sex marriage. 46 percent of likely voters approve, 46 percent
    disapprove.

    Chris Coursey
    Columnist
    The Press Democrat
    Santa Rosa, Calif.
    707-521-5223

  9. Evan said,

    Another favor to ask of the readership:

    I can’t access the PPIC at work; net filtering and all that. What’s the general political stance of the organization?

    and here’s a good post by a baptist minister re. gay marriage. I know, baptist minister- but read it. it might surprise you.

  10. Evan said,

    Shit. edit gay marriage to read homosexuality in general. my bad.

  11. Ian said,

    Thanks for following up on that. In my brief overview of the PPIC document, it appears that they don’t have any obvious bias. The organization was created to clarify public opinions about policy. Surveys are conducted using randomly generated phone numbers, and statistical information is given about the number called, the similarity of that group to California’s demographics as a whole, and the expected error.

    The question at issue was asked as “Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married.” The general population was 44% in favor 48% against, with a 95% CI of +/- 2%, and likely voters were 46% in favor 46% against, with a 95% CI of +/- 3%.

  12. Matt said,

    Evan,

    Thanks for the link. That’s a good article. A lot of good stuff that I’ve been thinking for some time now.

  13. Jon said,

    “It doesn’t matter that tax collectors, adulterors, theives, prostitutes, Samaritans, and more were all just as outcast at the times when those passages were written”

    Can you explain what you’re trying to say here? I mean, tax collectors and Samaritans were definitely outcasts, but Jesus Christ and his disciples reached out to them, and I am unaware of any condemnation of them at all in the Gospels or the letters of the New Testament, only recognition of their place as outcasts and notes about Christ’s identification with them. The other things you listed – committing adultery, theivery, and prostitution – were recognized as wrong then and are still recognized as wrong now, as they should always be. If I were to look at the place of those who committ homosexual acts, it would definitely fit in the group of those who committ adultery, prostitution, and steal, not Samaritans and tax collectors. This seems to disprove your point – those who were outcasts (Samaritans, women, tax collectors, beggars, lepers, etc.) were specifically reached to, while those who were doing things that were specifically wrong (hypocrits, those who created others out of money, adulterers, sex outside of marriage, murderers, thieves, liars, violent people, etc.) were still told to “sin no more”.

    (p.s. – I am actually not an opponent of legalizing gay marriage, because I don’t think that religious criteria for marriage should be a matter for law, and I am so far unconvinced by the non-religious reasons for not allowing it. I just don’t like bad logic being used to defend the position.)

  14. Jon said,

    sorry – those who “cheated” others out of money and “those who had” sex outside of marriage.

  15. Matt said,

    Thanks for asking me to clarify. I wasn’t as clear in my post as I probably should have been. You’re correct that in some instances, Jesus instructed the sinful person who came to him to sin no more. I have a few counterpoints. You’ll have to forgive me if they’re a little disjointed.

    First of all, when Jesus saves the adulteress from the mob who was to stone her (the “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” passage) at the beginning of John ch. 8, his command to “Go, and sin no more,” I believe is often misinterpreted. At face value, it’s easy to look at it as an order to cease and desist her evil ways. However, I view it more as Jesus pronouncing her freedom. Jesus was prononcing her free from a life of sin, free from the heavy load she had been bearing, and free from the condemnation of her community. Jesus did not condemn her ways, nor did he condemn the crowd (which was also filled with sinners, obviously). He reached out with love to the woman and forgave her.

    Second, recipients of Jesus love and forgiveness were frequently given it without and admonition against doing further wrong. When Jesus dined in the house of a Pharasee one evening, a prostitute came to him, washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, wouldn’t stop kissing them, and anointed them with perfume. The Pharasee wanted to cast her out, but Jesus wouldn’t hear it. He thanked the woman and sent her with a message that her sins had been forgiven. There weren’t even any words that could be interpreted as an admonition or a command.

    Third, promises to change to lead a more wholesome life were never a prerequisite for receiving Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and company. He dined with the protitutes, cheats, beggars, lepars, liars, etc. before the word “sin” was ever uttered. He loved the outcasts and the sinners while they were still outcasts and sinners. He didn’t just love them and receive them after they had changed. Now, it’s a widely held belief that these people were so overwhelmed with Jesus’ love as to completely change their ways, but there aren’t exactly any 5 year follow up stories. In fact, basing on human nature alone, it’s certain that these people sinned again in one way or another. However, the important business had been taken care of. These people had their relationships with their fellow men and with their God restored.

    I think I should also include a note about how I’ve come to view sin. One way to view sin is as the breaking of a relationship, either with other people, or with God. The two most important commandments, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” emphasize this interpretation. The two most important things are your relationships with God and those around you. As an aside, homosexuality, in this interpretation, is condemned as an unnatural relationship, one which is inherently broken. However, it’s also easy to attack thinking of homosexuality as a sin using the very logic of this view, but I think I’ll save that for another time. Anyway, ith this view of sin in mind, then, the forgiveness of sins comes in regenerating relationships – the restoration of what was broken. Jesus came to restore the relationships between God and mankind that had been broken since Eden. Forgiveness is not just the act of wiping out the records of what you did wrong, but there’s a dramatic reconnection, an influx of love where there had been none. To me, this is an important distinction in what Jesus means when he tells someone that his or her sins are forgiven.

    Now, if you want to go with secular argments for gay marriage, that’s fine, but with the above in mind, the proper action for a Christian is clear. We must reach out in love where there is none. We are to welcome those outcast (as both hosts and guests) without regard for their past, present, or future behavior. We must generate and regenerate relationships with all people. Loving people, no matter who they are, what they do, or who they love, is far more important than condemning them.

  16. Jon said,

    I agree with everything you chose to say there. (You alluded to some opinions which I may disagree with, but I completely agree with every statement you said outright.) You give a second reason why I do not believe that this is the way Christians should approach the issue, beyond the initial reason of the state not being the body to address personal sin. As I stated already, I don’t like the lumping of different types of actions in your first comment, but now that I understand your intent I agree.


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