California wins this blog’s “Irony in Governance” award after the state’s citizens voted to enact a constitutional ban on gay marriage Nov. 4: a ban the state’s supreme court previously, and correctly, found to be unconstitutional just over five months ago.
I reiterate: the California constitution now includes a measure that the California Supreme Court said five months ago is unconstitutional. If your head didn’t just explode, feel free to keep reading.
This marks the second time California voters have been wrong on this issue, which leads me to question the state’s reputation as a stronghold for progressive liberal thinking. In 2000, voters approved a referendum banning same-sex marriage. State lawmakers made two efforts to reverse it, but Governator Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills.
Having no valid arguments to support them that aren’t based in religion, these bans are a blatant violation of the separation of church and state. These “laws” stand on two wobbly legs of “family values”–as if straight Christians are the authorities on that—everybody’s favorite book of fairy tales—you know, that great bastion of morality, the Bible, which also condones slavery, oppression of women and murdering children. I for one would rather have gay people raising kids in this country if it meant they wouldn’t be forced to read about atrocities disguised as “God’s teachings.”
What is perhaps most shocking, and disappointing, about the passage of Proposition 8 is that it came on a night that looked, on its surface, like nothing less than the coronation of a new liberal movement. I was one of the people saying this election signaled a fundamental shift in American ideals toward a more progressive, secular worldview. Now, seeing anti-gay measures passed in California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas, I’m afraid I was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, electing a black President is an important step. And I think we can say with pride that, while we may not have closed the book on racism by electing Barack Obama, it certainly starts a new and exciting chapter. However, when it comes to religion and conservative “values,” people are as closed off as ever. The passage of these ultra-conservative bills leaves me to believe that the Democrats owe their victories more to a mass protest against Bush and Republicans than anything nearing a fundamental reshaping of our values as a people. Sadly, Nov. 4 confirmed that we remain decades behind Europe and Canada culturally.
Of course the wild card in all of this is President Obama. He is a kind of composite American, straddling both sides of so many issues dividing this country: he is both black and white, at once religious and overtly intellectual, and a product of both modest Kansas beginnings and elitist Harvard Law School.
It is certain that Obama the Intellectual will not carry on empowering fundamentalist nut jobs in the manner of is predecessor, but it remains to be seen whether Obama the Christian will actually engage in the fight on behalf tolerance. He may simply look the other direction—afraid of enraging the overwhelming majority of his constituents who share his religious affiliation. I certainly hope it’s the former.
America finally has its 21st-century president. We desperately need him to find the courage to actively usher in some 21st-Century thinking.