Gay Marriage debate in California

Prior to moving over to Concord from my native San Francisco in 1979, those who knew me understood I was no homophobe. These credentials which included many gay friends and working on Harvey Milk’s losing supervisorial campaign, my street cred were never in question.

A third of a century later things have not changed much. I still have gay friends though they are fewer because of lives lost in the Aids epidemic. The people I hang out with are mostly those with whom I have common interests including gardening, cooking, wine making and other activities of a non-macho variety.

A friend once remarked “The only reason you are not gay Richard is that you simply have not met the right guy.” True!

gay_marriage_californiaWhether my buddies are gay or straight is no big deal. When one considers the number of individuals they have had intimate relationships with in their lives, it makes little sense to be overly concerned about their sexual preferences. Yet, society has been grappling in recent years about whether marriage between two members of the same sex should be licensed and recognized in the same way heterosexual unions are.

Personally, I don’t get all excited about the institution of marriage as the quality of a relationship triumphs over a piece of paper. Others hold differing views. Those on the left side of the political spectrum have generally favored gay marriage. On the progressive end of the scale, activists have compared gay marriage to the race relations prior to the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 60′s.

Conservatives, especially those with strong religious beliefs, have been in strong opposition to legalizing same sex unions. This stance has been set in stone for the GOP for a generation. The matter was brought up to voters in 2008 in the form of Proposition 8 which forbid marriage for anyone else but a man and a women being involved.

Even though liberal Democrat Barak Obama carried California in a landslide that year, to the surprise of many, Proposition 8 passed as well. After the experts sorted through the exit polls, they recognized the main reason for Prop 8’s narrow victory was that the same African American voters, who came in mass to elect the nation’s first African American President, overwhelmingly opposed the institution of gay marriage mostly because of their Southern Baptist roots.

After that things got ugly. Opponents blamed the Latter Day Saints, fundamentalist organizations, the Koch Brothers, and all the usual suspects for their defeat. Apparently these people’s money was somehow dirty while anti-Prop 8 funding which came mostly from labor unions and Progressive organizations was the product of mother’s milk.

At the same time the people’s will was challenged, as it often is in California by the losing party, when initiatives are passed. With considerable support from Progressives, Proposition 8 was eventually overturned by California’s predominately liberal Supreme Court. Gay marriage is now legal in the “Golden State” to this day.

End of story? Not quite.

Those on the right are upset because they believe leftist leaning courts have overturned the democratic process once again. Because of this strong sentiment, gay marriage is bashed at virtually every Republican Event I have attended as a reporter during last couple years.

This bothers me not because I don’t have strong feelings one way or another about gay marriage. In my mind if the same sex crowd wants to tie the knot, they are welcome to be just as miserable as most of the straight couples I know. What concerns me is that the people’s wishes were not followed as I would like. To me it would mean more legitimate if 51% of the voters came out against Proposition 8 rather than a third party making this decision.

If so, why should the electorate even be asked for their opinion if the courts don’t value it?

This disregard for the balance of power between Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches is becoming more pronounced than ever before. In his State of the Union speech President Obama declared that if Congress did not act on issues that he felt to be important, this would be overcome by taking out his his pen and makes executive orders to carry out his own agenda.

By doing this Obama infers that the executive branch in a democracy has powers that supersede everything else. This has been reflected by administrative overreach by Obama’s appointees in the Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal communications Commission (FCC), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and a host of other Federal agencies.

The constitution is taking a beating from political expediency.

let gays eat cakeNo one seems to care about this type of thinking. The news media in print, television, and on the internet has developed a major case of apathy when it comes to the purity of the democratic process. While they are quick to condemn the actions of foreign dictators, the reality is that in many cases we are playing the role of the Kettle calling the pot black so to speak.

The end result of all of this is the electorate feeling impotent in having their wishes carried out by the three branches of government on a local, state, and national level. While our democratic political system is being  subverted, such drums as abortion, alleged hate crimes, and gay marriage are beaten by both political parties especially come election time to gin up support from the party faithful.

Such time tested demagogic strategy has worked much better than discussing  unemployment, environmental, urban planning education, water, infrastructure improvements and a host of other issues which materially affect everyone’s lives on the first Tuesday of November. Such is the way with American politics.

This is why I would prefer to put the controversy of same sex marriage behind us as it is not all that important compared with what really matters. Later this year when my two gay friends get hitched, I won’t be concerned while attending their wedding about, Proposition 8, court rulings, or even who catches the bouquet. Their happiness is the only thing important on this occasion.

It’s time to move on.

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