The decision by federal judge Vaughan Walker to invalidate California’s Proposition 8 both recycles and revives some of the tired, misleading clichés regarding the same sex marriage controversy. These distortions demand direct, concise correction and rebuttal.
1. “Proposition 8 was a mean-spirited ban on gay marriage.”
TRUTH: Proposition 8 banned nothing. The ubiquitous headlines describing this voter-mandated change in the California constitution as a “gay marriage ban” amount to the worst example of journalistic malpractice in recent years. The entire proposition consisted of only fourteen words: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This simple statement imposes no restrictions and issues no commands regarding the behavior of private citizens: it merely demands a change in the actions of government. Proposition 8 did nothing to interfere with gay couples in registering for state-recognized civil unions, participating in church or civil ceremonies consecrating their love, forming life-time commitments, raising children, or concluding comprehensive contractual arrangements to share all aspects of life and property. The proposition simply says that government will not get involved in any of these private or public processes by calling such relationships a marriage.
2. “Proposition 8 singled out gays and lesbians for discriminatory treatment.”
TRUTH: The proposition never mentioned gays, lesbians or any other individuals, whatever their sexual orientation. It didn’t discriminate among individuals; it drew distinctions among relationships. Under the proposition, a gay male and a straight male would face exactly the same options in marriage—free to choose any woman who is not already married or a blood relative. The fact that the gay man won’t want to marry any of the women available to him doesn’t change the fact that he and his straight neighbor face precisely the same opportunities and restrictions in their marital choices. .
3. ”Failure to sanction gay marriage is based on the assumption that “same sex couples simply are not as good as opposite sex couples.” (This language appears verbatim in the judge’s decision).