Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why the Prop 8 battle is far from over.

If the Mormon Church thinks the battle over Prop 8 has ended they are sadly mistaken. Let us consider what is happening and likely to happen.

First, the Mormon cult has made a huge mistake in regards to their public relations. American culture is divided between rational secularists and faith-driven fundamentalists. That is the main divide with many Christians falling into the rational secular category by practice, even if not by self-identification.

The problem for the Mormons is that they don’t fall into either group. They can be faith-driven fundamentalists, but of the Mormon kind,. And Mormonism is well outside traditional Christian thinking. They were trying to impress antigay Christians by matching them in prejudice. But that doesn’t remove the fact that most fundamentalists know that Mormons is not Christian in the theological or historical sense of the word. Mormons want to convince everyone they are because the use similar words but naming a pig Fido doesn’t make it a dog.

So while they might impress fundamentalists with their antigay bigotry they won’t win them over. And the rest of the country will be even less likely to look favorably on this weird sect and their polytheism, secret Temple endowments and celestial polygamous marriages. In other words, the one group they sought to impress will continue hating them and the secularists will resent their intrusive attempts to create a theocratic legal system.

Mormons also played this badly. They wanted the Christianists to know they were funding the campaign while they wanted to pretend to the secularists that the Church wasn’t involved. This is typical Mormon duplicity and deception. The Church had an expensive, but off-the-books, campaign to get their members to fund Prop 8. But they told their cult members to donate directly to Prop 8 so the funds didn’t go directly through Church hands. Then, when they are asked about their campaign to strip gay people of rights, the Mormon leadership feigns innocence and uses as proof, the fact that they didn’t contribute directly to the campaign.

But opponents know who was actually the funders of Prop 8. They know the Mormon leadership told members to fund the campaign and provide manpower. They know that church meetings were held where this was done. So today, angry people gathered to protest Prop 8 and they chose the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles as the target for their protests. So the secularists are pissed off at the Mormons and the fundamentalists hate them. All the Mormons have done is piss off a lot of people without changing the the minds of the Religious Right which accurately perceives them as being a strange cult. The Mormon leaders stupidly put the church in a lose-lose situation.

In addition, this “victory” for the antigay Right is, at best, temporary. This issue won’t go away. If they honestly believe that gay Americans are going to become resigned to second class citizenship they are either very mistaken or very stupid. I’d bet on the latter before I would the former. They may think this is the gay agenda but they don’t know the facts, again.

The gay marriage issue did not arise from what is called the “gay leadership”. The gay rights groups did not set this agenda. They didn’t want it. They were worried about bad legislation like hate crime laws, which they naively want to pass. Marriage was not a priority to them. It was gay couples, in long-term relationships, living with the problems of second class status who pushed the issue. The gay leadership and gay organizations only jumped on the issue after they realized it wasn’t going to go away. This was one of those issues where gay “leaders” saw the crowd moving in one direction, ran to the front of the parade, and then pretended to be leading it.

More importantly the issue is moving in the right direction. The original measure to ban gay marriage in California passed quite easily. Not this time. They barely managed to secure a majority of voters. And it may not be possible to do it again. There were numerous things that had to be done this time just to get a bare majority.

First, they benefited because of the high Black voter turnout. Black voters are even more bigoted than fundamentalists. A higher percentage of Christians voted no on Prop 8 than Africa-Americans. The reality, which the political Left dare not admit, is that African-Americans are a deeply bigoted lot especially when it comes to the rights of gay people. But that huge turnout was because Blacks saw their first chance to elect a “black man” as president. I put that in quotes merely because Mr. Obama is as black as he is white when it comes to his race. If the Prop 8 supporters think they will have that happen each time this comes up again they are wrong.

The question is who has the incentives to keep up the campaign, year after year. While hate can be inspirational to some it is not sustainable. I predict that religious groups will give up their efforts long before their victims do.

And these groups already know the trends are against them. One reason for their desperate measures to enshrine bigotry in state constitutions is because they perceive the tide moving against them. If you look at the vote in California, and compare it to the last vote against marriage equality there, you will see that support for marriage apartheid has subsided substantially in a very short period of time.

Without the Mormon church pushing members to pour millions of dollars into the campaign it is unlikely they could have pulled off their proposition. Last time they won easily without spending much money. Last time they didn’t have to resort to the horrific, dishonest television advertising that they used to push their cause this time. In other words, they operated under unusual favorable circumstances (the high turn out of antigay African-American voters), had to spend far more money than before, and had to resort to blatant dishonest on the air. With all of that they managed a narrow victory.

And there is one final issue which the antigay crowd will have to deal with: whether or not the initiative itself is legal. As I understand it Californians may make small changes to the Constitution by majority vote. But, if the change is substantial, then the requirements are different.

The California State Supreme Court ruled that state laws treated gay couples unequally and that the Constitution specifically guarantees equality before the law. So what happens to that Constitutional guarantee if another amendment specifically denies it? Can a Constitution contradict itself and how is that contradiction resolved?

Opponents are arguing that the new amendment effectively repeals the equal protection clause and thus changes the structure of the Constitution itself. Those sort of changes are reserved to the legislature -- which has twice approved equal marriage laws. At best the Mormons have only delayed the inevitable. And long-term I suggest they will regret their role in this assault the rights of others. Outside the utter moral hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, if there is one church that can’t stand much scrutiny, it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Addendum: Actor T.R. Knight, of Grey's Anatomy, was a poll worker fighting Proposition 8. He spent the day at polls in Southern California and describes the vitriolic hatred that was exhibited toward him, and other opponents, by Prop 8 supporters. "Every single supporter of Prop. 8 was so filled with anger and bile as they voiced their "support" to us, with the exception of one older gentleman, who engaged us in a very civil conversation. One person in over 13 hours." Knight wrote: "I hope I can muster the patience and keep my anger focused so I can continue to fight. Fight clean. Fight with just the truth. And never let myself spew the kind of hate I encountered on that Tuesday in November as we peacefully fought for our civil rights."