In June of 2008, I was cocky and naive. I wrote a blog entitled "It's Over," about the gay marriage issue.
The polls at the time were showing that more and more Californians were in favor of it, fabulous gay nuptials were springing up all over, and I couldn't care less what the rest of the backward-ass country thought of us. Once again, my state had it right, and we led the way. Prop 8 was on the ballot, but I wasn't really worried about it. At the end of the entry, I wrote that I was hoping this was the last I'd be writing about this issue for a long time.
Then came November 4. I was just so...fucking...ashamed.
I can still remember that night vividly. The surreal sight of Barack Obama and his family, looking so wonderfully, completely different than any other president in history, coming out to accept victory. Tingles. Chills. Elation.
Perhaps ten minutes of good feeling. Maybe it was only five. Checking the computer as the polls closed in California. What? 54 to 46 in favor? Sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Elation becoming shock. Exchanging Facebook posts with other incredulous Californians. Disbelief. Sadness. Shame.
Denial became guilt. I should've done more. I hadn't even gone to any rallies. I'd tried to go to one, but it was raining, and there was traffic...I had donated $100 to No on 8, but I could've given more.
Then I realized that I wasn't really ashamed of myself. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed of California. I was ashamed of us.
Guilt became anger. It's been almost a year. The anger hasn't left.
We took a huge step forward by electing our first minority president. Many of those same people who voted for Obama caused us to take two steps back by voting Yes on 8. This is more than incongruous for me. This actually makes my head want to split wide open.
How do you go to the ballot box and make the decision to take away someone's civil rights? To negate their happiness for something that affects you not in the least? How did this happen?
Riding my bike to school the morning after the election, I came across one of those plastic yellow "Yes on 8" signs on the ground. I stopped, got off my bike, and put it in my backpack. At the time, I wasn't sure why I was doing it. When I got home, I put it in the closet in my "Mantic." Whenever I catch a glimpse of it, it still raises my ire. The illustration depicts the silhouettes of a happy little family, all holding hands under the sunny "Protect Marriage: Yes on 8" banner. It makes me wretch.
Years from now, when my kids ask me "Why would people vote that gay people couldn't get married?" I'll show them that sign. I'll tell them about the fear and misinformation the homophobic, compassionless masses spread in the name of their religious beliefs.
They said children would be taught about gay marriage in kindergarten. I'm not even going into all the ways that this is ridiculous, but the most illogical aspect of it is the fear of zealots that exposing youth to the idea of homosexuality encourages them to be homosexuals. As if being unaware that there's such a thing as homosexuality is the only way to not become gay oneself.
They said that their rights would be infringed. Their churches would be forced to marry gays. There would be lawsuits. What this completely ignored was that churches already had rules in place about who could get married in their cathedrals. I should know. I had to satisfy all sorts of requirements in order to get married in a Catholic ceremony by a priest. The Mormons don't even let non-Mormons watch their wedding ceremonies. The gays would somehow be able to ruin all that.
They claimed morality. Their justifications start with "Well, I'm a Christian, so..." and "That's just not the way I was raised." You wonder why we atheists can't just be neutral toward religion, why we claim it's actively dangerous? Look no further than Prop H8te. Not all religious people voted for it, but those who did were almost exclusively Christian. Why their religious beliefs supersede someone else's civil rights and happiness is something no one has able to explain to me.
Then came the backlash of people even angrier than I. I in no way condone acts of vandalism or violence. But supporters of Prop 8 act bewildered that the rest of us just can't accept the majority's decision and move on. They just don't get it. This wasn't an election about a new tax, or a new park, or re-naming a frigging street. This was people's lives. This vote told an entire segment of the population that they were second-class citizens. You organize and fundraise an effort to take something away from people that you personally enjoy, and you don't like it when they show up in front of your church? Tough. You reap what you sow.
Of course, the great irony in all this is that Prop 8 only postponed the inevitable. Either a court ruling or a counter-vote will remedy the situation within the next 5-10 years. Even the homophobes must understand that, at least subconsciously. I was right in that original post; I just underestimated how hard intolerance would die, and how effectively it could rally, to paraphrase Henry Ward Beecher. I think that's what gets to me the most. It's so easy to chart the course of history, yet the ignorant ignored all that and voted based on their own personal prejudices.
If you voted for Prop 8, let me put this in language you should recognize: You have sinned against your fellow man and everything this country's supposed to represent. You have shamed our state and tainted its reputation.