Prop 8 Trial: They Got Nuthin’

Just to remind everyone, in 2000, California passed Proposition 22, which said that California would not recognize same-sex marriages, even out-of-state ones. In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 22 was unconstitutional, and furthermore, that marriage is a fundamental right. This gave gays the right to get married in California. Then, later in 2008, Prop 8 amended the state constitution to say that only opposite-sex marriage is valid or recognized.

I mention this to make it clear that Prop 8 took away a right. A right that courts have called fundamental.

So anyway, Prop 8 was challenged in court, and we’re finally approaching the end, with closing arguments presented yesterday. The wheels of justice certainly turn slowly, and one can only hope that they grind exceedingly finely.

So you’d think that after months of lead time, both sides would bring their A game and try to make a compelling summary for why their position is correct. You’d be wrong, as witnessed by this exchange between pro-Prop 8 attorney Charles Cooper and judge Vaugn Walker:

Walker: “Why is it that marriage has such a large public role? What is the purpose?”

Cooper: “This relationship is crucial to the public interest. Procreative sexual relations both are an enormous benefit to society and represent a very real threat to society’s interest.”

Walker: “Threat?”

Cooper: “If children are born into the world without this stable, marital union both of the parents that brought them into the world, then a host of very important, very negative social implications arise…. The purpose of marriage is to provide society’s approval to that sexual relationship and to the actual production of children.”

Walker: “But the state doesn’t withhold marriage from people who cannot have children.”

Cooper: “It does not.”

Walker: “Are you saying the state should?”

And this one:

“What testimony in this case supports the proposition?” Walker asked.

“You don’t have to have evidence of this,” Cooper said.

This gives some insight into the world that the anti-gay folks inhabit. The usual expression is “I don’t know what you’re smoking, but where can I get some?”, except that I like my drug trips to be better than reality.

Apparently, on planet Conservo 8, homosexuality is so appealing that if it isn’t forbidden, restricted, and blocked at every turn, everyone will instantly turn gay, stop having children, and the human race will die out. Entire continents will be devastated by the Fabulous Blight.

The only reason people get married, there, is to have sex and children. Love has nothing to do with it, nor are people allowed to decide for themselves why they should get married. Couples who fall out of love after they’ve had children are not allowed to get divorced (unless they’re straight, I’m guessing), and adoption is evil (since the child doesn’t grow up with its biological parents).

But I do have to give the anti-gay side some credit. For a long time I thought the only arguments against gay marriage, or gay rights in general, were religious, and should therefore not be used as the basis for legislation under a secular government. Turns out I was wrong: as the above shows, there are also secular arguments.

The remaining question is, are there any arguments against gay marriage that are neither religious, nor pants-on-head retarded?

Update, Thu Jun 17 11:10:03 2010: The best argument I’ve seen in the reporting about the closing arguments is that Prop 8 honors “the will of the people”. This does carry a certain weight: in a democracy, we the people get a say in the laws that govern us.

Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s right: slavery, denying women the right to vote, Prohibition, and segregation used to reflect the will of the people as well, but I think we’ve grown up since then.

News Items

VA AG tells universities to be more bigoted

The WaPo reports that the attorney general has urged colleges and universities in Virginia to rescind their policies against discrimination against gays.

You might think the Post got it wrong. That he’s saying that Virginia has no laws against discrimination against gays; that universities who do have such policies are going above and beyond what they’re required to do.

You’d be wrong. The AG’s statement says:

It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “gender expression,” or like classification, as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly.

(emphasis added)

So yeah, the AG just said that universities have to seek special permission to not be bigoted.

TX judge calls death penalty unconstitutional

Also from the Post:

A Texas judge in the county that sends more inmates to death row than any other in the nation ruled in a pretrial motion this week that the death penalty is unconstitutional, saying he could assume that innocent people have been executed.

Sounds good to me. I don’t disagree with the idea that there are people who deserve to be put to death, sometimes by chainsaw, but I nonetheless have a problem with the death penalty, because in the case of a mistake, there’s not a whole lot you can do to undo it. That’s on top of the other arguments against it.

Naturally, the judge is now taking flak from Texas governor Rick Perry. And the Texas AG is calling this “judicial activism”. Figures.

KS considers taxing churches

Finally, the Kansas state House is considering a bill that would raise taxes on churches. Or at least that’s what the hoopla is about. The Kansas City Star and ABC’s have articles about this, but perhaps the clearest explanation comes from the KC Star’s Prime Buzz blog:

The bill would impose the state’s 5.3 percent sales tax on power, gas and water bills. It would also remove a sales tax exemption enjoyed by churches and some particular business transactions.

Right now the state exempts 96 specific groups or types of business transactions from the state’s sales tax. Those exemptions add up to more than $4 billion. Lawmakers eager to avoid deeper cuts to schools and other state services suggested the repeal of some of these breaks to help eliminate a nearly $500 million deficit.

The [House Tax] Committee removed a provision repealing the sales tax exemption for non-profit organizations and for home repairs.

As I understand it:

• Kansas currently does not tax utilities; the bill would impose this tax on utilities, for everyone in Kansas.

• On a separate topic, there are various groups that currently don’t pay sales tax on anything. This bill would repeal a lot of these exemptions, including the one for churches and non-profits.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I agree that nonprofits that do good for the community should be given tax breaks (and I’m willing to concede for now that churches fall into this category). But these are lean times, and these tax breaks are costing the state revenue. At the same time, lean times mean that people need charitable organizations more than ever.

Of course, I haven’t read the bill, so I don’t know the details. Maybe it maintains exemptions for nonprofits that clearly do good, like soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and raises taxes on organizations that provide only nebulous benefit like “spiritual uplift”.

Way to Undermine Your Case

Today’s WSJ has an article about the Proposition 8 suit in California:

Defenders of California’s ban on same-sex marriage began making their case Monday, countering the plaintiffs’ argument that gays and lesbians are subject to discrimination.

Which is all well and good until you see the photo that ran next to the article:

Prop 8 Discrimination

So this guy is holding up a sign saying “No gay rights”. Right in front of the courthouse in which the lawyers for his side are trying to argue that gays aren’t discriminated against.

I believe that counts as an own goal.

What? Protests Change Minds?

When I
earlier about participating in the “No on Prop 8” demonstration at the
National Mall, I was rather dismissive of the notion that it might
affect anyone’s opinion.

However, SurveyUSA published a
about Prop 8 with an interesting result. People who voted for Prop 8
were asked “Have the protesters changed your opinion on Prop 8?”. 8%
of them said yes.

Continue reading “What? Protests Change Minds?”

A Gay Outing

It’s funny how you never see the sights and do the “local” stuff in your own town. I went to Paris once, and stayed with a friend who had lived there for sixteen years, and had never gone up the Eiffel Tower until I dragged him.

Me, I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for years and years and had never gone to a protest. Which seems a shame: people come from all over the country to march and protest here. For me, it’s just a Metro ride downtown.

So when I found out that there was going to be a
series of coordinated protests
against California’s Proposition 8 across the country, I figured I
should go. I’m neither gay nor Californian, but I figured I could
raise the body count. Especially since the “coordinated” part meant
that the ones in Maryland and DC were going to start at 1:30. I pity
the poor Hawaiians, who had to be out on the streets by 8:30.

Continue reading “A Gay Outing”