As a gay man who happened to have been raised in the Jehovah’s Witness faith (and later excommunicated) I find this to be a rather interesting turn of events. 

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-08-06-engardio05_ST_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

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A few days ago I received an invitation to join a group suggesting that we vote “no” to all propositions on the ballot.  The more I read, the more it made sense to me.  We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic.  Sometimes, special interests groups use the proposition system to allow the majority to override constitutional law.  “What is the chance that the initiative system will be abandoned in states that have adopted it?” I asked.   “Slim.”  

I agree with the groups intent, but on some level, me joining would be like being the first one to come upon an accident scene, and making the choice to drive by.   The prop system is surely broken.  In one swoop the majority of californians took away  the constitutional rights of a minority.   However, I am glad that that same majority used their democratic collective voice to do the right thing when it came to humane treatment of farm animals.   I asked Gene Baur, the founder of “farm sanctuary” and author of the book bearing the same title, for his opinion:  “the initiative process has plusses and minusses. My view, is that there are more benefits than problems. Without the initiative, we would not have been able to enact a law like Prop 2. In fact, after other initiative successes in FL and AZ, the industry worked hard to put obstacles in the initiative process. Inititaives allow for direct democracy, which I think is more good than bad, especially when there is transparency in the process.”

If I happen to live in a state that has this process, while it’s in place I have the voice, and power, to pull over and come to the aid of something that is broken.  Should I have the power to take away something that is already guaranteed?  No.   But until this power is taken away from me, is a blanket “NO”  the right way to clamor for change?     I know myself…..I would have run to the polls to vote “no” to prop 8, but there’s not a snowballs chance in hell that I could have voted “no” to prop 2.

If my boss discriminates against me because of my gender, my age, my colour, my religion, it is illegal . We are colourless, ageless, genderless when it comes to the protection of our freedoms. This means that there can not be one law on record for men, and a similar one (maybe slightly less equal) for women.

The controversy over Proposition8 was flamed by conservative churces. I understand that it may be difficult to seperate religious belief from decisions that we are asked to make at the polls. But our laws pertaining to freedom and equality for all are not the same as our individually held religious viewpoints. The freedoms citizens of the US take for granted have come about only through the efforts of a previous generation that battled for them.   I find it a bit ironic that many of the cases from the 40s that helped so many were filed by one minority religious group that argued that their freedom of speech and freedom to observe their beliefs were being violated and should be protected under the first ammendment of the constitution.  The Supreme Court agreed and their decisions went on to help many other civil law cases.  Even though this religious group dosn’t approve of same sex intimacy, the fact is that even they would know that the intent of the same constitution that afforded them protection to carry on their religious life is the same one that holds out the vision of equality to all; even to same sex couples not wanting to settle for something similar but not quite the same.

Is it real ?

November 13, 2008

In a few days there will be a nationwide protest of the passage of propositions 8 (California) 2 (Florida) and 102 (Arizona) in which Marriage was re-defined to exclude same-sex couples.  I want to be a part, but this post may be all I’m able to do… for now.

I’m still processing many recent changes in my life, and in some ways, I can tell I’m holding on to the past.  At some point during the day I can count on having to ask myself if what I’m feeling about something is my own rational thought, or one based on years of conditioning from others on how they wanted me to feel about it.  Among other things, I am a gay man, who up until a few months ago, used to be married.   I was also raised in a very strict, religious household.  So, my perspective about the flip flop brought about by proposition 8 is uniquely my own.   The inconsistancies are as confusing to me as was my struggle with my own identity.  Basically, I think this issue has never been about the definition of marriage.  It’s about whether someone, other than ourselves, has the right to determine our worth or what we’re capable of achieving.

When I bring up my previous marriage in conversation, regardless of whether I’m speaking to a gay or straight person, the line I typically end up hearing is “but it wasn’t real.”   I find that remark offensive, but now I’m doubly offended that California has had a sudden change of heart.   The first thing out of anyone’s mouth when they hear of a breakup of a marriage when one of the partners is gay is “poor so and so….I feel so sorry for her/him.  Such a betrayal, such a lie.”   This raises the question: Just what do the “yes” voters want?  If it’s not real when a woman marries a gay man, then why spend all the dollars to prevent something that could be considered by both sides to be genuinely real between two people that love each other?   Instead, they’d rather perpetuate the cycle of humiliating divorce by creating the atmospheres that encourage all the hiding and conforming simply to be accepted.  Everyone looses in these scenarios when they unravel.

According to the LA Times the Morman church poored in excess of 20 million dollars into the passage of proposition 8 and similarly, according to SFGate.com, an exit poll showed that Catholics accounted for 30 percent of the California electorate on November 4 and that 64 percent of them voted “yes” on proposition 8.    Individual voters simply did what their church encouraged them to do, but I can’t help but wonder if any of them lost a minute of sleep thinking about the human cost of their vote beyond the dollars they’ve donated.   

I don’t think so.  To them, they did the right thing.  Along with preventing cruelty to farm animals (yes, proposition 2 was a very important win) Californians fanned the flames of prejudice that justify mothers disowning sons, siblings cutting off brothers, churches dictating to their members who they can talk to and who they can not.  Imagine how it feels to be completely cut off from what you knew; almost like you died, and who would know if you did?  All the years of conditioning has turned you into a eunich, your phone stops ringing, your work suffers, and just when work is all that’s left of the life you knew, even that gets complicated because your supervisor is a member of the same church that excommunicated you.  “No way can that happen in this day and age!” you say.  Guess again, and the people that voted “yes” on November 4th are the ones that tell me that that level of control is still accepted. 

Everyone tells me it’s much better now for young gay people, and I believe it is.  But living in a college town has given me the chance to have conversations with young men that are still afraid of being found out.      How do we help people that were in such a hurry to get to the polls on November 4th to know what it’s like to live with the consequences of someone else determining their worth and right to happiness and equality?   Do they know that their son would rather suffer in silence than risk outting himself by seeking the support of their  university’s LGBT program?   Are they happier to know that their daughter married who they accepted instead of who she loved?

I married my best friend.  You may call it a lie, but please don’t say that to my face and discount a relationship down to only being about a penis.  When you do this, you reduce it to only being about sexual attraction and nothing else.  In that case, I could be equally “in-authentic” with a man because, frankly, I’m not attracted to most of them.  So what was all of the drama and pain about; now choosing to be alone, waiting to feel the entire, honest shabang this time around, if it even exists?  I didn’t go thru what I went through, or put my wife through what she went through, only for me to do the same thing all over again with someone else, no matter their gender, or worse, to go through the motions with someone I don’t love just for the sake of being in a relationship.   My biggest surprise in all of this  was to find out that, for me, truth isn’t only about orientation.  It’s about connection, love, openness, understanding, commitment, and sometimes painful honesty with ourselves and those we don’t want to hurt the most.  We shouldn’t ask our sons and daughters to start a life with someone with anything less true.  Straight or gay, they deserve the chance to experience, and publicly celebrate, that kind of reality.