Saturday, October 18, 2008
My Vote Counts Too
I'm sure someone will take issue with this post. Everyone is entitled to their views - including me. So once more, I will break my own rules about blogging politics and religion and tell you what I'm thinking.
Florida's got a consitutional amendment on the November ballot (Proposition 2) that, if passed, would ban gay marriage in the state of Florida. It has caused all kinds of controversy here, some of it valid, some of it just plain nitpicky. Quite a few people have pointed out in our editorial pages that Florida's consitution already defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. That is true. What makes THIS amendment different is that it takes away the judicial branch's ability to overturn the amendment that defines marriage as one man and one woman.
I believe this is wrong on a couple of levels. If you're not familiar with this issue, you can go to the website below (click on Florida Marriage Amendment) and read a more in-depth synopsis of what is going on, arguments for and arguments against.
This is the summary from that website:
The Florida Marriage Amendment, also known as Proposition 2 and The Marriage Protection Amendment, is a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Florida. The proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution will appear on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Florida. In order to pass, the amendment will require a 60% majority of those voting in the election. As of September 8th, 2008, a slight majority of Floridians support the ballot measure (55%), but not 60%; 41% oppose the measure.
The amendment as written includes a clause prohibiting judges from overturning the law. This is a response to what happened in Massachusetts, where a judge overturned that state's law banning same-sex marriage.
The ballot title for the initiative says, "In as much as a marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."
The first thing that bothers me is that the judiciary is being forbidden to overturn a part of the consitution. They can't overturn something on a whim, people. They have to hear arguments, consult references and past rulings and come to an agreement that something is unconstitutional. That's how the judicial process works. Actually WRITING IT INTO THE PROPOSITION is just plain wrong. It's like saying George W. Bush gets to be king for life and no one can do anything about it. Like it or not, our government is set up with a system of checks and balances - and the system works. Voting for this amendment is a vote of no-confidence in our government. Before the stampede starts, let me say that I'm aware that a new vote on the consitutional amendment can be taken to have it removed. But unless the voting public is really savvy and their vote isn't cast on passion and misinformation, how likely is that to happen?
The second reason this bothers me is much more personal. I am not gay, but there are people that I love who are. Loving, generous, kind people. People who are just like you and me - with the exception of this one thing. That does not make them dangerous or untrustworthy. It doesn't mean that they are pedophiles or thieves or perverts. Heck, look around at the heterosexual population and you'll find plenty of those!
It doesn't take away the desire to settle down with one other person and create a family - often taking in children that no one else wants to adopt for whatever reason. Those children deserve a home just as much as the cute, smiling little babies that get snatched up so much faster. And who is the State of Florida to tell these children that their families are wrong or immoral because both parents are of the same gender?
And it doesn't take away from your marriage either. The only people who can take something away from your marriage are the two people directly involved in it.
More importantly, allowing for gay marriage is important for legal reasons. Without the "marriage" designation, many gays don't have access to family health insurance, or survivorship benefits, or even a say in the health treatment their partner might receive in the hospital. They can't sign papers agreeing to surgery or to turn off the machines if something goes horribly awry. In some cases, they may not even be allowed to visit their life partners if a "family-only" policy is being invoked. And more often than not (sadly), the partner may be the only family there is, the "natural" family having turned its back when a member comes out of the closet.
One would hope that we live in more enlightened times. That the world can recognize homosexuality as a natural part of the world - after all, where did all these gay people come from anyway? Why... heterosexual couples! Who raised their children in "normal" environments! It isn't nurture; it's nature.
I have a brother who is gay. He's an absolutely lovely person. But he stayed in the closet for years after figuring it out because he was afraid of the family's reaction. He didn't need to be, but he'd been struggling with this for a long time and he wasn't sure. When asked by my dad if he was sure, he said yes, adding, "Why would I choose to be a pariah?"
Because until recently, that was what he was facing. Social ostricism. When he came out to me, I told him that I wanted for him what I want for all my brothers. That he find his one special person. That he settle down in a happy home. That he and his partner raise children if that is what they want to do, because he loves children and would be a fantastic parent. But if he lived in Florida, that would be impossible to do legally.
And that is why, come November, I will be voting NO on Florida's Proposition 2. I hope you will consider your vote carefully and vote your heart and your conscience in November as well.