Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking for an up-side to the Prop 8 Fiasco

My fingers, toes and eyes were crossed throughout yesterday, waiting and hoping, and then hoping some more ... but the fact is, without being more than marginally psychic, I knew months ago that Prop 8 would go through, no matter who said what, and how often.

The reasons are several, and sad; and utterly unavoidable. Bear with me -- I'll be as brief as I know how to be, but this post is probably going to ramble a little, because there are so many directions to go in, and most of them have to be at least glanced at in passing.

The first up-side to Prop 8 is, as I said a few days ago -- it's a windsock. Like flying a big rainbow flag, not because you're making a sociopolitical statement, but just because you want to know which way the damned wind is blowing!

And now we know that the voting population is very, very close to being evenly divided on this issue. Put it this way. If you got 100 people onto a cricket oval (or a baseball diamond; I'm impartial to both geometry and bat-shape) and divided them up according to this --

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial returns from the secretary of state's office showed 52.2 percent of California voters in favor of Prop 8 and 47.8 percent opposed.

--with 52 people standing to the right and 48 people standing to the left, and an ice cream truck parked between them to keep them all happy ... numbers-wise, you wouldn't be able to tell one group from the other. They'd look the same at first glance...

Until you looked closer. And then the actual facts regarding the demograph would start to become so obvious, they're actually staring us in the face.

Now, in the last few weeks something called the "Obama Effect" has been forecast, and some of us having been holding our breath to see if it was going to prove out. It did. People went to the polls nation-wide in bigger numbers than have been seen since women got the vote! That's fantastic. Also, Americans of color voted in vaster numbers than ever. Double-fantastic.

However, for the GLBTI community and our bid for civil liberties, this wasn't quite such great news, because...

Black Voters Save Proposition 8 [Byron York]
In California, it looks like Prop 8 has a good chance of passing. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, the gay marriage ban is winning 52 percent to 48 percent. And if it does pass, it will be because of black and, to a lesser extent, Latino voters. According to exit polls, whites opposed the amendment 53-47. But blacks supported it 70-30, and Latinos supported it 51-49. The polls have blacks at 10 percent of the electorate for this issue, with Latinos at 19 percent and whites at 63 percent. (Asians, at six percent, opposed the proposition 53-47.)

Public feeling in the Chinese community was little different, but offers hope for the future -- a white-hot, glowing pointer, to a single, shining truth that's been so obvious all along, no one but me seems to have seen it, and I wasn't going to say word one till it was all over! Here's the word from the Chinese community:
[...]But a considerable amount of Chinatown voters cited traditional Chinese family values and voted for Prop 8 [...] He said she strongly opposed gay marriage and had asked her three children, the youngest in 12th grade, to vote for Prop 8. “They agreed a little grudgingly this time. I don’t know how they’ll vote in the future,” said He. [...] The divide on the contentious issue seemed to fall on generational lines. Albert Fan, 18 and a freshman at the San Francisco State University, voted for Obama and against Prop 8. “It’s equal rights. They were just allowed to get married fairly recently and now we are going to take the right back? It’s not fair,” Fan said after casting his ballot in the Lincoln Neighborhood Center. His friend Alex Cheng, a 12th grader months away from 18, said he would have voted for Obama and against Prop 8 if he was able to.

Two of the four forces working dead against the defeat of Prop 8 appear in the above outtakes. The first thing you've got working against you is cultural diversity. America is not one culture. It's dozens, scores, perhaps even hundreds of cultures. (Australia is exactly the same. There's a saying down here, "We are one, but we are many." And it makes for big problems at law.)

It's been said -- not by me; and I was reluctant to believe it at the time -- that the African American community "has issues with things gay." This certainly seems to be proved out in the Prop 8 vote. The Asian community is no different; and why should they be? These are cultural issues. These are the hallmarks of ethnicity. Everyone has a right to their ethnicity.

But consider this for a moment: the "value sets" of ethnicities as disparate as Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Panama, Mexico and many, many other parts of the world which have all fused to make "America," have just been applied, via the popular vote, to strip civil rights away from a single group who might have hoped to be appraised and judged by, uh, American values.

[Right here, right now, I want to come out and say that I am 150% in support of cultural difference, the romance of ethnicity, the right of every person, or every race, to live in feedom, peace, harmony, and luxury. I struggle to comprehend where racists are coming from. Everything I'm saying on this page is about people's right to their ethnicity, and their right to vote as they feel, and their rights to believe, and feel, and be, what they are sure in their own hearts is correct. I'm looking dispassionately at the effect cultural groups have on the overall popular vote. Me? I'm what's termed a "Euro-mongrel," who has many friends of many colors and several religions, and I'd have been the first line at the polls to vote for Mr. O ... so please, people, don't misunderstand me here!]

But what are American values? Are they determined by the constitution, which was written by a number of, uh, European founding fathers with a whole carcass of bones to pick with their own "old country" ...? Or are they "the sum of the public consciousness at this juncture in time and space?" This one is going right into the too-hard basket.

It would, however, be safe to say that "American values" have always been about freedom. Liberty. Justice for all. Not being governed by the church. Not being told what to do by other nations, or social classes within one's own nation. In fact, those rights to liberty are written into the US constitution so indelibly, they might have been written in blood!

In 2008, the community as a whole has been playing fast and loose with the constitution, and for gay rights it was always going to get complicated:

Discriminate against gays by voting yes!
Discriminate against religion by voting no!
There's no right answer...

Posted by: Mick November 04, 2008 at 07:54 PM

As I pointed out just a couple of days ago, the First Amendment doesn't actually protect government against the church; it really only protects church against the government:
(Sorry, guys -- scroll past my birthday cake and read on down ... 4/11 was my birthday as well as your election day.)

So, constitutionally, you have to be fair to everyone, everywhere -- and it's damned hard. In fact, being fair to one and all is going to make gay marriage rights an intensely hard nut to crack, because, as I said above, we have FOUR elemental forces working dead against us.

The first is ethnicity. America, like Aus, is made up of so many different cultures, we're all jigsawed together into an incredible, beautiful cosmopolitan whole. It makes for a glorious place to live ... and a hell of a hard place to sort out what constitutes justice. In this country, we have an on-going wrangle between the European law of the city, the tribal law of the Outback, and the Sharia law of our Muslim community ... just how far can one group go? When, and where, and how, do you draw the line?

This is where culture and constitutional law collide, head-on ... and it's going to be bloody.

You HAVE to find a way to protect the rights of ALL individuals, not just SOME who happen to be privileged by their European faces, their church, or their heterosexuality:
Civil rights groups moved quickly today to challenge Proposition 8, asking the California Supreme Court to strike down the latest attempt to ban same-sex marriage across the state.
[...] San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also filed an identical legal challenge in the state Supreme Court, joined by Santa Clara County and the Los Angeles city attorney. San Francisco city officials, who pushed to overturn California's gay marriage laws in the previous court fight, argue that Proposition 8 violates the equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples. [...] The legal challenge maintains that Proposition 8 is invalid and takes away a "fundamental right'' from "just one group — lesbian and gay Californians.'' The petition argues that the state constitution cannot be amended if it violates other constitutional rights.

And the second elemental force working against the GLBTI community during the Prop 8 campaign was as unavoidable as the first. In a democracy, we're supposed to enjoy "government of the people, by the people, for the people." And it's months now, since I read a irate comment on a post somewhere -- the gist of it was, "I'm bloody damned insulted by the lady's assertion that four attorneys can better decide the public sentiment, than the public themselves." And I hate to say this, but ... that's pretty close to an argument you can't win, in a democratic state.

Four judges against the population. On the one hand, you have law made by the people. On the other, you have law made by the courts. It's been a long time since America has been about letting the court -- or even the government, and/or the church call the shots. The last time, it was Prohibition.

So, we were always skating on this ice with the fight against "Prop Hate" ... and I always speculated about where, and how, that ice was going to break away under us:
I found Prop 8 very annoying. Its existence was in response to what I thought was a poor strategic decision on the part of gay rights advocates—to take the faster court route rather than plodding through the legislature for a few more years. I thought that going through the courts was likely to produce a backlash that would make gay marriage ultimately take longer to get than if we stuck to the California legislature and governor.

I always wondered about the wisdom of trying to crack this nut by going to the courts, because the "government by the people" case is so strong. Admittedly, there are arguments in favor of having legislation made by attorneys, but once again, you're on thin ice, because (and I can see the sense of the argument) how can four or five or ten attorneys decide what's right or wrong for millions of people?

The legalization of gay marriage in California was fantastic. It was so far out there in the "marvellous" stakes, a word has yet to be invented to describe it ... but it was the product of a decision made by a group of lawyers who analyzed the state constitution; it wasn't the majority feeling of the people which made marriage doable for about 18,000 Californian couples. (Speaking of which, maybe it's just me, but I'd have expected it to be a lot more than that. Where were you, folks?!)

Prop 8 took effect at midnight on the 4th; gay marriages were halted; and the next court battle started almost at once. It's all about law suits now ... it's about injustice. And, damned right.

But the first two elemental forces we have ganged up against us -- the ethnic preferences of the voters, and the constitutional right of the people to decide legislation by popular vote -- will make it a long, uphill battle.

And it's going to get worse before it gets better, because the THIRD force comes into play as soon as you notice this little beauty:

In Florida, where the law requires constitutional amendments to win by 60%, a marriage amendment passed with disturbing ease, 62.1% to 37.9%.,8599,1856872,00.html?iid=tsmodule

Three states voted on Prop 8, and it carried in them all. California, Arizona and Florida have two things in common. Big things. One: a warm climate that makes life comfortable in one's declining years. Two: big populations of retirees, on account of Point One.

In the last few months we've worried about the Religious Vote (we'll get there in a minute), the Black Vote (the Obama Effect, drawing Americans of color in unprecedented numbers, and the unavoidable fact that they'll bring their "issues with things gay" to the polls with them), the Asian Vote ...

The one thing I have never seen mentioned in an American paper, magazine or blog is --

The Graypower Vote. Down in Aus, the Aged Vote is enormous. It's almost incalculable. It's the single factor that, all by itself could bring down a government. The biggest percentage of voters in any income group, or suburb, or city, or any other demographic hot-spot is ... the Gray Vote.

Florida has long been known as Heaven's Waiting Room.What a surprise that Florida's vote was so clearly weighted to the hetero side of the scales. Well, like ... duh.

In California, the aged population is also large by comparison with the rest of the folks ... blame the Boomers. Fact: the population blew out about six decades ago. The aged population also spills over into the Asian and African American cultural sub-groups. Go back to this quote, given (and cited) above: He said she strongly opposed gay marriage and had asked her three children, the youngest in 12th grade, to vote for Prop 8. “They agreed a little grudgingly this time. I don’t know how they’ll vote in the future,” said He.

Now, one can imaging going out there and canvassing the Afro and Asian communities, and changing the minds of enough folks to swing the next public vote. A couple of years of good, solid campaigning about the constitutional rights of individuals, the importance of the integrity of a strong constitution, the injustice of letting your religion dictate lifestyle to folks who are either not religiously inclined, or belong to another religious group ... and the "harmless" nature of being gay in the first place -- all this should work, if it were done slowly, steadily, gently, smilingly, in good conscience.

But how do you canvass the Aged Vote (and I do understand that the aged are a part of every subculture ... I said this above), where a lifetime of teaching (read: indoctrination) by pastors, and religiously inclined politicians, and their own intensely Christian parents and grandparents, has so set their minds, that many older folks think being gay is a mental illness. Seriously. How are you supposed to fight that?

The battle to defeat Prop 8 was a mere skirmish, but it was fought out along these lines. Part of the campaign has been to winkle the church out of the process of law and government, not least in the state of California. And we might have won, if monstrous amounts of funding had not come sluicing into CA from out-of-state missionaries...

Such as the LDS bods, who muscled in on a very Californian issue, and threw massive amounts of money at it...
The Mormon Church's members have contributed some $22 million into Prop 8, a vicious campaign here in California seeking to strip fundamental marriage rights from same-sex couples, making them permanent second-class citizens.

No matter where we take gay rights from here, this is what we'll be fighting. The fourth of those elemental forces I've been talking about is, obviously, religion. Ethnicity ... constitution ... age ... and religion.

Now, constitutional integrity cuts both ways. If we're going to fight for the rights of gays, the same constitution turns right around and demands that we secure the rights of religious folks. They have their rights to believe what they believe, say what they say ... and vote how they vote. Younger people still have the flexibility to moderate their views, if they're given a chance -- in fact, some younger folks who used to be (for instance) Mormons, can turn almost violently against their churches when they reach some kind of epiphanic moment. But older people are much less likely to moderate their views, in the teeth of the "gonna be up there soon" mindset, plus the Christian evangelism that goes on without pause, aimed at anyone, anywhere, who's even halfway willing to cock an ear and listen.

(We had Christian evangelists knock on the door just yesterday, right here! How come Muslim evangelists never knock? Or pagan evangelists? Why is it always Christians, with a Bible in one hand, and all the answers to every question about Death, the Universe and Everything ... so long as your idea of an answer has something to do with The One True God? Sheesh)

Evangelism is a big business ... especially in the age groups where folks start thinking, "gonna be up there soon." Especially in places with warm climates, where one tends to go when the body starts creaking and just doesn't want to know about another long, frozen winter.

For a moment, figure we can take on the constitution and wring equal rights out of it. At the same time, we can go out and woo the voters of color ... show them how gay people are honest, intelligent, hard working, law abiding, loving, decent, and deserve a break, same as African Americans were due a break -- and got it eventually.

What's left? The Gray Vote ... and the God Vote. And I have a sneaky suspicion, they go together like ham and eggs. Like Barnum and Bailey. Evangelism is what we're actually up against.

If churchmen en masse, next Tuesday, had a visit from God, who said, "I've arrived on this cloud to tell you, you bozos are getting it wrong ... give back all the money you've collected, go out and work for the poor, and get the hell off off the gay marriage rights case!" ... well, bright and early on Wednesday, these pastors, vicars and assorted priests would (or should) be out there telling their congregations what to think, what to say, and how to vote, according to The New Revelation. And if God had any sense, he wouldn't trust them. He'd say, "And remember, you bozos, I'm starting my own blog, and people will be able to check up on you."

Then you'd get something done about the evangelical aspect of this battle. But until God gets down here and puts the idiot back on the right track ...? We will be up against this:

Among the local ballot measures to be decided on Election Day, California’s Proposition 8 is perhaps the most fiercely contested. Backers of the proposition to ban same-sex marriage in the state cast their campaign in apocalyptic terms. “This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon,” born-again Watergate felon and Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Chuck Colson told the New York Times. Tony Perkins, the president of the Christian right’s most powerful Beltway lobbying outfit, Family Research Council, echoed Colson’s language. “It’s more important than the presidential election,” Perkins said of Prop 8. “We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage.”

While the Church of Latter Day Saints’ public role in Prop 8 has engendered a growing backlash from its more liberal members, and Broekhuizen’s involvement attracted some media attention, the extreme politics of Prop 8’s third largest private donor, Howard F. Ahmanson, reclusive heir to a banking fortune, have passed almost completely below the media’s radar. Ahmanson has donated $900,000 to the passage of Prop 8 so far.

Few Americans have heard of Ahmanson—and that's the way he likes it. He donates cash either out of his own pocket or through his unincorporated Fieldstead & Co. to avoid having to report the names of his grantees to the IRS. His Tourette's syndrome only adds to his mysterious persona, as his fear of speaking leads him to shun the media. While Ahmanson once resided in a mental institution in Kansas, he now occupies a position among the Christian right’s power pantheon as one of the movement’s most influential donors. During a 1985 interview with the Orange County Register, Ahmanson summarized his political agenda: “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

...and it's going to be one hell of a war, to overcome that. The GLBTI community is up against the Cultural Vote of Americans who bring to the polls with them the cultural diversity of countries where religious and sexual taboos are still powerful. Do these taboos belong in a twenty first century democracy? Probably not; but it's the people's constitutional right to be, do, say and vote, exactly as they want to. The GLBTI community is also up against the Aged Vote, which is heavily influenced by the Christian evangelical movement --

Which is frightening. Very frightening. I've blogged about them several times. I don't have the time to reiterate ... and I don't have the "steam" left right now, if I tell you the truth! I've said it all before, and it's only a click away:

The bottom line is ... American isn't quite ready, yet, for equality among all people. It's halfway there. In fact, it's about 48% ready -- as Prop 8 very clearly showed.

Perhaps we need to show the other 52% that gay people are decent, normal folks, no more likely to go off the rails, or be outrageous, or drugged out, or immoral, or down and out, than anyone in the hetero community.

I firmly believe we can "get the Cultural Vote" if we "work the crowd" right over the next couple of years ... and it might be enough to swing gay marriage rights at a level where this boon was brought about -- not by a group of attorneys, but by the people. The Gray Vote is another question ... because of the evangelical issue. There, all bets are off. But swinging the cultural vote would prrobably do it; we won't need the God Vote too.

Prop 8 has one up-side that is invaluable: now we know for absolute, positive sure, we're 48% of the way there. Just a few more people wooed to support human rights ... and we'll find them in the ethnic groups! ... and gay marriage rights will be "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Patience. Have courage, have faith. Next time.



James R MacLean said...

I set up a spreadsheet with the exit polling data. There's probably rounding error, since the categories "White," "Latino," "Black," and "Asian" sum to 98%. Assuming that there's a demographic category for the remaining 2%, and the exit poll data is accurate, then the unnamed "other" had to have voted 100% in favor of yes. That would still leave results that were off 1 percentage point (PP). If "other" had results similar to Hispanics, then the exit poll results were off by 2PP.

Still, that's pretty close to ordinary polling accuracy. Maybe "other" is not statistically relevant.

If the non-White results are accurate, then the White vote would only need to be 53.8 no to 46.2 yes to completely offset the Black and Hispanic vote.

So my point is that the Black vote only carries so much blame for this. Usually the Black vote is about 9%, and if that's what it were Tuesday, then the effect would be tiny. White people would have to have rejected the measure by less than 0.01 PP either direction.

James R MacLean said...

Also, you can't help this, but your exit pollster didn't control for income. There's a strong inverse correlation between income and homophobia, as you probably knew. African American households generally have incomes >75% that of White households. So if African American households had better economic opportunities, it stands to reason that they would prove more accepting, not less, of gay rights.

James R MacLean said...

Additionally, I'm skeptical of the conclusion that evangelicals were the decisive force here. In any close election, any demographic is "decisive," but a lot of the political power of the evangelicals is actually unreliable. That's why the "Christian Right" is actually so pro-business; it acts as a campaign finance laundering broker for business management.

In 19th century Scandinavia or Minnesota, where religious sentiment was far more deep and sincere than it is today, evangelicals were actually leftist on social issues. Not so much on gay rights, of course, but my point is that the churches have limited influence and it's necessarily opportunistic. Parishioners don't read the Bible, they read junk like LaHaye & Jenkins.

Moreover, the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law; it recognizes the integrity of contracts. Marriage has been a civil institution for over two centuries; it's no longer a matter over which any church can legitimately hold forth. I doubt Brown vs. Board of Education would have survived a popular vote in 1953, but the majority does not have the right to deny equal protection of the law to anyone.

Mel Keegan said...

James - many thanks for commenting; very nice to be discussing this.

I'm not any kind of a statistician, so I rely on others to "work the numbers." You're the first (so far the only person, but this will surely change as other people follow this line of reasoning!) to come up with these results ... I do believe you should you be posting them to the major papers, so that readers en masse know what's actually happening re the vote of Americans of color, rather than relying on the journalists -- who are, in turn, only quoting the raw, bald numbers. As you quite rightly remark, numbers tell only half the story. Thanks for this input: very valuable.

I'm not so sure that I agree with you on the theory that higher income groups are more likely to be accepting of gay rights; this statistic is prone to be influenced by other factors, such as education. The very poor are homophobic ... the middle classes are more accepting ... but on the evidence of our own eyes, disgustingly rich people are a significant part of the financial power behind the evangelical Right, who are so homophobic, it's insane. I see this as a "balancing factor" ... I don't have numbers to back up my hunch, but I do suspect that "moral values" as taught by church and social tradition in one's childhood will be consistent across the financial demograph. I'll think more about this, and will watch out for more information ... but right now, we're all keenly aware of the Dominionist wealthy who seem to become less sane for every billion they own, in some gruseome geometric ratio. You make an interesting case here, but I do remain skeptical.

On the religious point, I think you might have missed the gist of what I intended: the Age Vote (or Gray Vote, as it's called down here), is the "power piece" in this chess game. The old, and the very old, are heavily influenced by the church, and they will (rightly) vote with their hearts. They're targeted by the evangelical church as a means for the "big business" of the church to get what it wants -- eventually, a Dominionist White House -- but in the short term, this means targeting the vulnerable. The aged. This isn't my theory -- I've read a great deal about this in the online media, and am very much inclined to agree with this reasoning, since I see the sense of it. So my discussion of the evangelical Right is completely in regard to the Age Vote -- not the political reliability of Christian politicians!

Per the Constitution -- I'm sure you're fundamentally right! However, if the Constitution absolutely, clearly and unambiguously (!) guaranteed equal protection, it's safe to say that the Prop 8 "Fiasco" wouldn't be happening. It wouldn't be permissible, much less necessary! The lamentable fact is that in the minds of a majority of people, there remains the misconception that marriage rights have a religious connotation. We just saw the proof of this. I'm no kind of lawyer, but I do understand what I'm seeing when people vote with their Bibles, as their pastors have instructed them to. Also, the hard, clear fact that Prop 8 was mooted at all means that the issue is far from clear even at the legal level -- otherwise, it would not have found its way onto the ballot sheets. It would have been recognized at every level as being illegal ... and it wasn't.

I would dearly love to agree wholeheartedly with you on the Constitutional point you make, but alas -- the reality of the last week has shown that many gray areas still persist, and a great deal more work must be done to make the Constitution unambiguous, clear and fair, in the minds of all people, not merely the lawyers!

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