Uploaded: Thu, Oct 23, 2008, 5:35 pm Community divided by Prop 8
Different views cause passionate responses by neighbors
Photo by Geoff Gillette.
There are a number of issues on the ballot in November that have sparked debate and discussion, but none of them has been as polarizing as Proposition 8, also known as the California Marriage Protection Act.
If approved, Prop 8 would amend the California state constitution to add the line, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Gay and lesbian groups across the country set up a hue and cry over the proposition, stating that it would deny same sex couples equal rights under the law.
In the last several months the debate has grown with groups on both sides donating huge sums of money to the campaign. On the pro-side are many religious groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Focus on the Family and the Knights of Columbus. Opponents include Equality Now, No on 8 and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Service Center.
Here in Danville, streets are dotted with signs both for and against, in some cases right next door to each other. Such was the case for Chad Hales and Kathy Leonard. The casual friendship the two families enjoyed has cooled significantly since the introduction of Prop 8. Each family has a pretty different view on the issue.
For Kathy Leonard, the issue is a personal one. Her brother-in-law John has been in a committed same-sex marriage for years. "They've been married several times when they could. John and Kevin got married the first day that they could after the Supreme Court ruling," Leonard said.
The pair has adopted one child and is in the process of adopting two more. They are concerned about what could happen to their children in the event that something should happen to one of them. "I've read that they get all the same legal rights, but I wonder do they go to all the depths, all the second-generation rights. Those are the sorts of things that are uncertain to me," Leonard explained.
Those same sorts of concerns exist for Kathy and her husband Ken. They have named her two brothers-in-law as guardians of their children and are concerned about the legal rights Kevin would have as a "domestic partner" if the worst should occur.
Legalities aside, for Kathy Leonard and her family this also comes down to basic discrimination. "They (proponents) keep saying that John and Kevin would be covered under the domestic partner law. But they wouldn't be married. That is a segregated, 'Separate but Equal' group. They might as well just round them up, brand them and stick them in the back of the bus."
Leonard said there are two families in their neighborhood who have come out in support of Prop 8. Since the issue came up, things have been very strained with those families and she doesn't see that changing.
"We view this as a total attack on our family by a powerful, wealthy religious right who want to relegate our family to second-class citizens," she said. "It's an outrage and that relationship (with the neighbors) has changed for good."
Chad Hales feels the issue is personal because it impacts the basic identity of marriage. "Fundamentally, I think it's a good thing because it defines marriage as being between a man and woman." He added, "For me, what I think it comes down to is there's something unique ... that it's a biological fact that our human family has grown through the unique ability to bring children into the world."
Opponents of Prop 8 often ask what effect same sex marriage has on those who are against it. Hales said he agrees that there would not be an immediate result if Prop 8 fails. "The effects are difficult to calculate. My belief is that it will have more of a long term effect on the way society views the institution of marriage."
Hales said he disagrees with the assertion that Prop 8 is about discrimination. "The word 'discrimination' comes so loaded in a debate like this. It says you hate people, you want to oppress them. The reality is I don't feel that way. I have gay friends. I deal with gay clients. I'm glad to hear that there's domestic partnership law. I'm just trying to maintain the definition of union that has a special meaning."
He also denies charges of bigotry aimed at those in favor of the proposition. "I will not treat anybody with any less respect or care because they are a homosexual." Although he did say that he does not condone that lifestyle choice.
The divisive nature of the debate has made things difficult in his neighborhood. Hales said he is concerned about the relationship they have with the Leonards and the effect this has had. "We're trying to support the proposition in a way that's deeply respectful. I'm sorry about the way it's making them feel but it's not the intention."
a resident of Danville
on Oct 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm
The hate and venom by anti-Prop 8 people astounds me. Labeling others as bigotsused frequently by anti-Prop 8 proponents to characterize anyone who supports Prop 8is a sign of what's to come for anyone who dares use the term traditional marriage if Prop 8 doesn't pass (on the other Danville Weekly blog discussing this same topic, Tom Cushing called Prop 8 supporters bigots 6 times the last time I checked).
There are many of us from different faiths whose First Amendment right to free exercise is at stake if Prop 8 does not pass. The injury to these rights is not a prediction, it is a certainty. Religious liberty scholars on both sides of the issue are clear that if Prop 8 does not pass, religious rights will be trumped by gay rights. Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown law professor who specializes in gay civil rights said: "Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win in every court." Web Link
Constitutional rights legal scholar Roger Severino stated: "Simply changing the definition of marriage opens the door to a flood of lawsuits against dissenting religious institutions based on state public accommodation and employment laws that prohibit marital status and sexual orientation discrimination. Additionally, religious institutions that refuse to recognize a new state-imposed definition could be stripped of access to government programs, have their tax exemption denied and even lose the ability to solemnize civil marriages. Web Link
Affected areas of conflict include medical and pharmacy services, places of public accommodation, freedom of speech, the revocation of tax exemptions for churches, and the revocation of licenses issued for state licensed services such as adoption clinics, psychological clinics, social workers, marriage counselors, and the entire medical profession (see the 2008 book Same-Sex marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts for a reasoned discourse of this issue by legal scholars from both sides). As recent cases are proving, religious affiliated service providers and individuals with strongly held religious beliefs that prevent them from willingly providing services such as gay marriage counseling, gay adoptions, and in vitro fertilization of gay couples, will be punished by the government and either forced to provide such services, or be driven out of business
Think I'm exaggerating? Here are just a few examples. As the California Supreme Court recently demonstrated in a San Diego case, they ruled that a doctor could not be protected by his religious beliefs in a lawsuit regarding the doctor's refusal to provide artificial insemination services to a woman in a same-sex relationship (doing so was contrary to his religious beliefs). One judge wrote in a separate opinion agreeing with the result that the court's same-sex marriage decision was the legal authority for gay rights trumping religious freedom (Justice Baxter, North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. San Diego Superior Court, No. S123892. Ct. App. 4/1 D045438, * ___ (August 18, 2008).
In Mississippi, a mental health counselor at North Mississippi Health Services declined to provide counseling services for a woman who wanted to improve her lesbian relationship. The counselor said providing such counseling would violate her religious beliefs. The counselor was fired, and in an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, she lost.
In New Mexico, the Civil Rights Commission ruled against an Albuquerque photography company, run by a Christian husband and wife, for declining to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony." The photographers had declined the job because their Christian beliefs conflicted with the message communicated by the ceremony. In retaliation, the same-sex couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission. The Christian couple lost, and were ordered to pay over $6600 in attorney's fees and costs.
The Alliance Defense Fund attorney representing the Christian couple noted this case is demonstrative of a "tremendous threat" facing those with traditional views on marriage and family. "I think that this is a tremendous threat to First Amendment rights. Those who are advocating for same-sex marriage and for rights based upon sexual orientation keep arguing, 'We are not going to apply these against churches. We are going to protect people's right of conscience. We are all about diversity and pluralism.' But, in practice, We see that these [non-discrimination laws] are not rectifying some unjust discrimination, but being used to punish those who speak out in favor of traditional marriage and sexual restraint," Web Link
In Boston, Catholic Charities was forced to shut down their adoption services after a court ruling allowed gay marriages and the state adoption agency went after Catholic Charities' adoption license for following their religious convictions and placing children in homes with both a mom and a dad. Boston Catholic Charities appealed to the governor and the state legislature to permit some sort of religious exemption so they could continue following their strongly held religious beliefs, but these efforts failed. Their decision to pull out of adoption was not lightly taken. Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, of Catholic Charities stated: "We reached a dilemma that cannot be resolved, and the heart of the dilemma is that we find ourselves in a conflict in which the religious moral principals of Catholic teachings clash with the political and civil regulations of the state." Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley released a statement that said, "Sadly, we must withdraw from the work of adoptions, in order to exercise the religious freedom that was the prompting for having begun adoptions many years ago." Web Link
The list goes on and on, and it's just a beginning. From the tone of comments on this blog, some of you are raring to go to force those who don't believe the way you do to act in a way that violates our religious beliefs. Under the guise of civil liberty, you're stripping away and belittling our First Amendment right to freely practice our religion, including supporting marriage as being between a man and a woman, something some of us feel was ordained of God, not man.
a resident of Danville
on Nov 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm
See excerpt below from Lowell Brown blog:
Web Link on the real story about how schools will force feed same sex marriage to our students and parents will NOT be able to opt their children out!!!!!
This is the true, but hidden, agenda of gay marriage proponents.
Perhaps the most hotly-debated question about Proposition 8 is the measure's impact on schoolchildren. If Proposition 8 fails, will young children be taught that same-sex marriage is equal to traditional marriage? Opponents of Prop 8 have adamantly -- and falsely -- claimed this will not happen.
The fact is, Prop 8's leading opponents have been very public for a long time about their goal of teaching schoolchildren about gender orientation at very young ages. What is worse, they have openly promoted strategies for overcoming or circumventing parental objections to such teaching. It is foolish to believe they will not use the same approach to teaching children about same-sex marriage.
Why this matters
When it comes to private sexual practices generally, I've long been attracted to the view of English actress Beatrice Campbell: "I don't care what [people] do, so long as they don't do it in the street and scare the horses." My work colleagues and friends, and anyone who really knows me, know that I consider their personal lives to be just that: personal. All my friends, gay and straight, know I support them in seeking personal happiness. I support California's already very expansive laws providing for domestic partnerships, which, in Family Code Section 297.5, guarantees to registered domestic partners "the same rights, protections and benefits . . . as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."
But marriage is different, and so is teaching schoolchildren.
Most seven year-olds still need to learn how to sit up straight and cover their mouths when they sneeze. Kids don't need the schools teaching them about gender orientation -- an arcane and confusing subject to even the most precocious children -- before they have even thought about their own sexual identities.
Besides, if we are going to start teaching six year-old children that same-sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage, that's a decision that should be made by the people, not by four of the seven judges on the California Supreme Court.
The law on teaching schoolchildren about marriage
Misinformation about just what California's Education Code says about marriage has been flying around the internet and on television and radio ads by the No On 8 campaign. There is no doubt, however, what the Education Code requires as to teaching about marriage and families. Here's an excerpt from the key statute, Section 51933:
(b) A school district that elects to offer comprehensive sexual health education pursuant to subdivision (a), whether taught by school district personnel or outside consultants, shall satisfy all of the following criteria:
. . .
(7) Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships.
(Emphasis added.) According to the California Department of Education's website, 96% of California school districts provide sexual health education that places them under Section 51933's requirements. Can anyone reasonably deny that if Prop 8 fails, the instruction about "marriage" this statute refers to will include same-sex marriage?
What Prop 8's leading opponents have said about parental rights
The response to these concerns from from Prop 8's leading opponents has been that Prop 8 has nothing to do with schools. Amazingly, even the State Superintendent of Public Education has filmed a television ad promoting this falsehood.
Think about it: If the State Supreme Court has defined marriage to include same-sex unions, and schools are required to teach about respect for "marriage and committed relationships," well, it seems pretty obvious that from kindergarten on, kids will be learning about same-sex marriage, doesn't it?
But it gets worse. The other response from the No On 8 group has been that parents can simply "opt out" of instruction about gay marriage. This is another deception. The same people who make that claim have argued forcefully that no opt-out rights exist, as long as the instruction is part of "diversity education" encompassing gender orientation. They've even made their case in court.
Regarding opt-out rights, an organization called the California Safe Schools Coalition published A Question & Answer Guide for California School Officials & Administrators. The Coalition's Steering Committee includes The California Teachers Association, Equality California, American Civil Liberties Union chapters throughout California, State Senator Sheila Kuehl, and other prominent backers of No On 8 who have already raised millions of dollars to oppose the measure.
Here's one of the questions and answers:
Can parents 'opt out' of their children's participation in school programs that discuss sexual orientation and gender identity?
State law explicitly provides that "instruction or materials that discuss gender, sexual orientation, or family law and do not discuss human reproductive organs or their functions" is not subject to the parental notice and opt out laws. Thus, where issues of sexual orientation or gender identity are raised in school programs other than HIV/AIDS or sexual health education, such as programs designed to encourage respect and tolerance for diversity, parents are not entitled to have notice of or the opportunity to opt their children out of such programs. California law does not support a broad parental veto regarding the contents of public school instruction.
(Emphasis added.) Translation: If you are a California parent and think you have the right to opt your second-grader out of story time because the teacher is reading the students a book about a prince who marries a prince, you should think again. As long as story time is part of a program "designed to encourage respect and tolerance for diversity," you have nothing to say about whether your child participates. You won't even hear about the book unless your child comes home and mentions it to you.
The California Safe Schools Coalition also published on its web site a "Question and Answer Guide to California's Parental Opt-Out Laws." The Guide's goals include helping educators who are promoting "tolerance and diversity" to circumvent the opt-out laws, as evidenced by this question and answer from that guide:
Do parents have a constitutional right to prevent their children from receiving education in public schools on subjects they disapprove?
Almost never. Parents have filed a number of court cases seeking to prevent public schools from teaching their children controversial literature or subjects . . . and have lost virtually every case. Courts have held that so long as the public school curricula are secular and reasonably related to educational goals, parents do not have veto power over the content of public school instruction. . . . Schools may wish to excuse students from non-essential activities (such excusing a Jehovah's Witness student from a Valentine's Day party) but are not legally required to excuse students from curricular activities such as . . . diversity education. The interests of the school and student in education outweigh parents' interests in preventing their children from being exposed to ideas that conflict with religious traditions.
Here's the guide's concluding paragraph:
[By] carefully articulating the purpose and content of diversity education programs, schools can both fulfill their legal duty to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory school environment for all students, and also avoid violating parents' notice and opt-out rights.
(Emphasis added.) So, you see, it's all a matter of how the schools set up their program. If they do that right, parents have no voice. The next time you hear a No On 8 spokesman tell you that parents need not worry about their kindergarteners being taught about same-sex marriage, think about the Question and Answer Guide to California's Parental Opt-Out Laws.
(Somewhat curiously, the Question and Answer Guide seems to have disappeared from the Safe Schools Coalition's web site. An e-mail correspondent sent me the Question and Answer Guide on October 23. By October 26, as I am writing this post, the guide no longer appears on the internet. The now-defunct URL is here.)
Proposition 8 raises serious and controversial issues. Instead of continually dissembling about the real facts and the law, it's time for the opponents of Prop 8 to get serious about addressing those issues.
And about telling the truth.
YES on 8!! For the kids and their parents.