anger. bitterness. despair.

These are largely the only emotions I’ve been able to feel since Tuesday night, with the exception of two fleeting moment of elation 1) when the election first was called for Obama, and 2) when Obama gave his speech. Even in the midst of those moments, though, I kept being reminded that the promises inherent in an Obama presidency were not truly mine, as a gay person in America, to fully share. And while at the time I wrote that I was happy again to be an American, the truth is that by the next morning, recognizing the passage of California’s Proposition 8, I no longer felt as though I truly were even considered an American by even half my adopted home state of California, much less by anywhere near half the country as a whole.

Fifty-two percent of California voters Tuesday night did something remarkable and frightening. They amended the state’s constitution to strip a civil right from one group of people only. It’s that easy to do, which is shocking enough, yet the same process that makes it possible to take away rights by a simple majority vote requires a much more difficult process to restore those rights. Perverse. That same night, 70% of California voters voted to give additional rights to farm animals raised for food.

How am I supposed to feel now that a sizable percentage of the people I see on a daily basis in my neighborhood, at work, in stores and restaurants, not only believe that my life and my relationship are worth less than theirs, but vote to back up their personal religious beliefs with the force of the state?

And what recourse do I have when a mere 50% plus 1 of those voting have the power to do so? That frightens me. The tyranny of the majority unchecked.

And most of these people voted to take away my rights, Jeff’s rights and the rights of tens if not hundreds of thousands of other Californians and their children for one reason only. Religion. Religious leaders, subsidized by my own taxes, regularly stand up in their tax-exempt churches and tell these people to vote against me, that my life is evil and sinful, that (according to Catholic doctrine) I am “intrinsically disordered”, and that I am less than human. Millions of dollars poured in from out-of-state Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus, and tens of millions of dollars — between 40% and 70% of the total funds for this initiative — were given by Mormons, many again from outside California, commanded from their pulpits to do so.

Why should churches be allowed to benefit from tax advantages when they can act so clearly and directly to take away my rights, even though I have to pay taxes but receive fewer rights than other Americans? Through my life I’ve been moving from a position of having been indoctrinated in religion myself, to a period of spiritual exploration, to personal atheism combined with religious tolerance. After this egregious use of religion and its taxpayer-subsidized bully pulpits to attack me and my family and to deny me my rights, however, I have moved solidly to a position that religion must be actively fought in its every attempt to intrude publicly into law, science and education, and that religious institutions should not be subsidized by the state but should pay taxes.

But hey, if preventing me from marrying the man I love and intend to spend the rest of my life with now means that your marriage is safe again, and that you’ll stop those divorce proceedings so you can marry for the third time, stop beating your children, stop sleeping with your husband’s best friend, and stop slapping your wife around, well, then maybe it’s worth it. I’m really sorry that expressing my desire to actually enter an institution that you’ve already pretty much destroyed and more than half of you can’t even sustain has placed such a burden on you that you have become unable to treat it with any sanctity or dignity. I never knew I had that kind of power.

Know what, though? And this is what ultimately helps me channel my anger into something more productive, and diminishes my despair. Yes, you and your superstitions and your old-fashioned bigotry may have won this skirmish. Oh, but so narrowly, and that gap continues to narrow, and quickly. In the years to come, and maybe even soon, you will lose your war on fairness and equality. Younger Americans overwhelmingly don’t buy what you’re selling about us — they know us, are friends with us, love us, and see us and our relationships as no better or worse — and they will vote for equality instead of for hate and fear.

To the 52% of my fellow Californians who voted to make me a second-class citizen on Tuesday, though, I really do have to thank you for a couple of things.

First, my love for Jeff has not been diminished by your hate, fear and/or ignorance; our relationship is no less valid than yours, nor our commitment to one another any less real or meaningful, despite your wishing it so. If anything, this attack has made us even stronger. Thank you.

Second, over the last couple of months I’ve been struggling with figuring out what I wanted to do next in my professional life, feeling that I needed to make a major change. While I was already leaning this way, you’ve absolutely helped me hone in on what that change should entail. To wit, I intend now to focus my job search with institutions like the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, and similar organizations that work unceasingly and tirelessly to defeat your attempts to legislate hate and inequality. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “anger. bitterness. despair.

  1. Well said, Thom. I feel for all of you out there in California, and I congratulate you on your new motivation and job search.
    One thing: you wrote that “the same process that makes it possible to take away rights by a simple majority vote requires a much more difficult process to restore those rights” — what does that mean exactly?

  2. Jeff,
    The constitution may be amended by a simple majority vote after being qualified to be placed on the ballot, which requires signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. A revision to the constitution, however, which would be required to reverse an existing amendment, requires first a proposal in the legislature and a two-thirds vote of each house before going to the electorate for the up or down vote.
    So “much more difficult” may have been an overstatement on my part, but it does seem to set a higher bar in that a revision can’t be initiated by the electorate alone, while an amendment can, and that a revision requires a two-thirds majority of both houses even to put it to the electorate rather than just a simple majority.

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