Friday, October 24, 2008

Queer voting: Don't ask, don't tell.

Well, let's just have one last talk about Proposition 8, but then that's it. (At least until after the election; then I'm sure I won't be able to resist.)

I've said it many times, both in conversation and in writing that I realized long ago I simply can't retain my sanity and get involved in certain discussions. Politics and religion, those general topics that many people say ought to be avoided in polite company, are some of my favorites, but there are more specific topics that are like Plutonium. Abortion is the most prominent one, the fact being that there are enough people in the world who feel strongly enough about the subject at either extreme that open discussion of the issue is impossible. Suggest the slightest shade of grey to the issue, and you may be reduced immediately to the rubbish bin in people's esteem relegated for child molesters and telemarketers. (Sorry telemarketers, I couldn't resist a line like that, and lawyers need a break now and again.)

Anyway, I've come to realize (unfortunately too late for a handful of conversations already let out of Pandora's Box) that Proposition 8 and the legal status of same-sex marriage is one of those conversations. It's a topic I've talked and written about many times, and yet something seems to have shifted. Maybe it's the bringing of the topic to the forefront of the culture by putting it on the ballot yet again, but suddenly, it seems to be undiscussable.

You see, I'm in a difficult position of having a foot in both camps due to the company that I have kept in my life. Let me make it clear that I make no apology for either group nor my associations with them, but a fair portion of my friends are conservative Christians, and at the same time, a fair portion of my friends are gay/lesbian/bisexual. What's a guy to do? No matter how I vote, I'm going to offend some people I care about very deeply. I simply can't avoid it.

I briefly considered abstaining, but then I realized that was a copout. Not just a copout, but one that would be counterproductive. Abstaining would solve no problems, and it would simply offend everyone, I imagine. It reminded me for a moment of Bill Clinton and "Don't ask, don't tell." In an attempt to please everyone, a solution was arrived at that pleased virtually nobody. Homophobes want to ask. Homosexuals want to tell. Nobody's satisfied.

Clearly, I had to make a decision, and I wanted it to simply be the right one, not the one that society (or any subsection thereof) told me I should choose. Don't think I'm going to tell you here, because in case I didn't make it clear, part of my process was eventually deciding that whatever I chose, I would not tell a soul. But still, there was something that needed to be said. What people on both sides of the issue agree on is the fact that it's an important issue.

There were plenty of reasons to vote Yes. As a Christian, I do believe that the Bible, the basis for Christian morality, teaches that certain sexual relationships are not to be condoned, and allowing a person to legally call certain of such relationships "marriage" would be condoning. There were plenty of reasons to vote No. Our government is secular, and has no compelling reason to bow to religious morality, and finding a reason for this law outside of that realm of thought is difficult. Yet if morality is not our basis for deciding our vote, then what is? Yet what good does it do to impose one's personal morality on another? You can go back and forth all day.

Furthermore, I'm often left with the impression that despite the supposed importance of this law, the outcome of this vote isn't really going to change anything. The proponents of the law said as much, which was an odd argument to my mind. (I've always said that if you had a choice between two religions, one of which says, "believe in me or suffer," and the other says, "believe whatever you want, it doesn't matter," then it seems believing in the former is a manner of hedging your bets, so to speak.) Long before same-sex marriage was declared to be legal, I knew many same-sex couples that had weddings and considered themselves wife and wife. It seems that with legal domestic partnership, this law is really a matter of semantics. You can be married, but you can't technically call yourself a "married" couple is what the law says, which in some ways is ridiculous, since the name was all that same-sex couples can really get away with without having to get government sanction. You call anything whatever you want to call it; that's free speech.

However, it appears that what one is not allowed to say is that one is a Christian, and yet votes No on 8; or that one is friendly to homosexuals and yet votes Yes on 8. I hate it, and yet, it seems a fair enough evaluation, which puts me in a quandary. Do I lie? No, that's wrong as well. Do I say nothing? It seems the safest, although with the way I end up talking about the subject so often, almost everyone who knows me at all well knows I'm on the fence, or at least near it, and would be rightly curious of my choice. I don't want to lose friends and create enemies.

Or do I? I started to think about it. Do friends really break off their friendships over politics? Well, maybe they do, but I hope it's over something of great depth. I would like to think that in Nazi Germany (Godwin's law again, sure, but it's always a great example) there were people who were moral and brave enough to break off friendships with friends who joined the Nazi party. I'm sure there are lesser issues that might apply, but not many, in my mind. If I had voted for President Bush in 2004, are there people who would have refused to ever talk to me again after hearing such an admission? I know a few people who seem to feel as strongly as that about him, but if they weren't exaggerating their feelings, I imagine they would have moved to Canada by now.

Although I don't feel so strongly, I almost understand how someone could feel very strongly about the abortion issue, on either side. Actually, the fact that I can understand both sides no doubt has a lot to do with why I'm not at either extreme. What I really have a hard time understanding is why people feel so very strongly about an issue that really is just semantics. If you really think that homosexuality is so evil that it can't be allowed, then this law ought not to be enough for you; you ought to be pushing to outlaw same-gender sexual relations entirely. If you really think that gay people ought to be allowed to be married, then damn the law, and get married anyway!

If you are a person who has a strong opinion on this issue, and you want to know how I'm voting, I've decided what it is I want to say to you: Please assume that I voted the opposite of how you voted (or would have voted, had you the chance). Treat me accordingly. If you don't judge me on my voting record (and I'm not a politician, so I'm not sure you should) then fine. If you do, then judge away, but for now, I'm done talking about it.


marauder said...

Are you ashamed of how you plan to vote?

Remember, what we do in secret will be trumpeted from the rooftop.

brilliant said...

Marauder, I've enjoyed reading your blog a few times.

I'm curious - would you support a proposition under which the government would only recognize Christian churches as valid religious institutions?

marauder said...

Of course not. I'd be outraged if any such proposition were given serious consideration, much less brought to the voters.

But to answer your real question, I think the government ought to grant same-sex couples the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy, including the right to define their union as a marriage if they want.

My post was intended solely to tweak Brucker, and was not meant as a serious comment in any way.

Glad to hear you've enjoyed reading my blog a few times. It's always a pleasure to get feedback from readers.

(And thanks to you, B., for the heads up. I likely would have missed the comment otherwise.)

brilliant said...

Pfft! I thought you were serious. Darn the lack of intonation on the internet. All this misunderstanding just encourages the use of smileys.

Brucker said...

He was serious the first time, now he's joking. He really deeply despises me ever since I beat him out for the "Most Liberal Fundamentalist Blogger of the Year" award on my sheer number of posts about gay penguins alone.

marauder said...

Well, that last part is true...