In the March 22 edition of the Free Lance, the title of Elyssa Hagins' commentary, "Prop. 22 stirred debates in classrooms at SBHS", belied its true purpose. I was expecting a column describing how teens were getting more involved in the political process. Unfortunately. it was more about her opinions on why those who voted for Proposition 22 were prejudiced and supported government intrusion into our private lives. As one who voted for Proposition 22, let me set her straight on why she may be wrong.
To start, understand that my vote on Proposition 22 had absolutely NOTHING to do with gays. If gays want to get married, and it's legal to do so, I couldn't care less. I voted for Proposition 22 because it closes one loophole in the law -- it prevents people who can't legally get married in California from getting married in another state where it eventually may be legal just to get around our law.
In fact, I feel Proposition 22 did not really go far enough in this regard. It really should have read "Only marriages sanctioned by the laws of California are valid and recognized in California." This would also close loopholes for those marrying people too young or too close genetically to be married in California. (For example, some states allow -- or allowed -- first cousins to be married.)
However, as Ms. Hagins and Proposition 22 deal mainly with the issue of homosexual marriages, I'll deal with that issue in this letter, but realize that many arguments are applicable to other groups as well.
First, Ms. Hagins said that those voting for Proposition 22 are "in favor of stripping people of their rights". This is a pure falsehood. Proposition 22 stripped absolutely nobody of any rights. Gay marriages are not currently allowed in any state or country that I know of, so nobody has been stripped of anything. At worst, gays have lost a potential right -- if any state or country ever chooses to legalize gay marriages.
In fact, the Free Lance did carry an article recently that Vermont may soon be legalizing a form of domestic partnerships almost identical to marriage. However, it remains to be seen if those domestic partnerships would be treated as marriages in states that don't have similar laws -- like California.
Second, Ms. Hagins claims that denying certain benefits (she calls them "rights", but that's open to interpretation) to gay people is "unfair, unjust, and not something that our government is at liberty to have any kind of interference with or say in".
While I agree that it is unfair, and may be unjust, it is obviously something our government may have a say in. If that were not the case, either the state or U.S. Supreme Court would have overturned such laws long ago.
So if the law is unfair, as I have admitted above, why did I vote for Proposition 22? Because, as stated above, it closes the loophole allowing people to avoid the laws legally established by the people of California. If gays want to be married in California, they shouldn't hope some state passes a gay marriage law so they can go there, get married, and return to California; that's the equivalent of bootlegging cigarettes to avoid California's tobacco tax laws. If gays want to be married in California, they should pass a gay marriage law IN California. If they can't or won't do that in one of the most liberal, gay-friendly states in the U.S., don't expect some other state to.
Personally, I would rather see "marriages" limited to being religious rites given certain civil benefits by the states, while establishing a secular institution like domestic partnerships that had all of those same civil benefits. This seems to go hand-in-hand with our separation of church and state. Of course, those domestic partnerships would be truly generic -- they would apply not only to gays and straights, but to couples and groups as well. If some group of consenting adults wants to have a communal relationship, why should our government disallow that?
Bring me a petition allowing generic domestic partnerships and not only will I sign it, I will vote for it. Does Ms. Hagins support that kind of generic domestic partnership law? If not, so much for her high moral ground about government intrusion into our private lives.
Third, Ms. Hagins claims that Proposition 22 in essence may condone hate crimes. This is a completely ridiculous assertion. If gay marriages being illegal would be enough to condone hate crimes, then California's existing laws against gay marriages should be enough justification to allow them. However, the reality is that If any person committed a crime against another person simply because that other person was gay, current laws would still be in effect. Assaults are still illegal, as are hate crimes.
Lastly, Ms. Hagins laudably states that "there is no room for prejudice in a society that already has its share of it". Unfortunately, the hypocrisy of her statement is revealed in much of her article, where she has already prejudged those of us who voted for Proposition 22 as bigots or worse.
Did anti-gay bigots vote for Proposition 22? I'm sure many did. Does that make everybody who voted for Proposition 22 bigots? Not unless you believe in guilt-by-association. Didn't Joseph McCarthy teach us anything?
In summary, if you want a certain class of marriages recognized in California, make them legal in California. Anything less is supporting a loophole in the laws of California, a loophole that Proposition 22 has started to close.
UPDATE: On March 7, 2000, Proposition 22 passed by a wide margin.