Change, a little at a time…

onprop8My generation has been fairly fortunate. We haven’t had nearly the same turmoil that accompanied my parents’ coming of age. Racism still existed (and exists), but as the Rodney King beating showed – it was far from tolerated in the court of public opinion. Even OJ Simpson could be seen as a step forward: even a black celebrity could get away with murder.

The women of my generation also had benefited much from our parents’ struggles. No longer is it assumed that a woman will go off to college only to meet a suitable husband, and, though the glass ceiling still lingers, it is being further broken with each passing day.

But today, the day after our nation elected its first black president, I find myself a bit overwhelmed by sluggish progress our nation has made:

1776: Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, declares the self-evident right “that all men are created equal.”

1863: Abraham Lincoln declares “all persons held as slaves within any state… are forever free.”

1920: Women are given the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment

1954: Thurgood Marshall successfully argues before the Supreme Court that “equal but separate” is inherently unequal

1955-1965: Rosa Parks, Mississippi Freedom Summer, Selma and the Voting Rights Act

I guess it should be no surprise that it took 45 years for a child of the Civil Rights movement to reach our nation’s highest office. So I can understand that this momentous occasion is cause for joy around the country. But at the same time, I find myself incredibly disappointed in my peers.

California’s Proposition 8 passed, amending the state constitution for the sole purpose of denying two loving individuals the rights afforded by legal marriage. It passed, in large part due to the very same generation that fought so hard for freedom and equality. It passed, thanks to the strong Christian faith of the Hispanic and Black communities who turned out in record numbers this year to help usher in so-called change. And it passed by the slimmest of margins.

Yet there is hope, for not only was the margin small, but those of my generation overwhelmingly voted against the ban. For it is one of the last fronts on the fight for Civil Rights, and one that my generation could not help notice as unfair – and just plain wrong.

The earliest memory I have of death, was at a young age when a friend of the family passed from AIDS. This heterosexual mother had received a transfusion tainted by the “gay plague” and her death was purely the blame of the ignorance and indifference felt at the time. AIDS and HIV research would not get the attention it deserved in this climate of hate and fear, and it took decades before people began to realize that this disease was not some targeted divine retribution from an otherwise merciful God.

The books and movies of my generation have further pointed out the glaring inequality in our society. Maybe one day Philadelphia will be seen to be as important in that front as To Kill a Mockingbird was 40 years ago. The brutal 1998 slaying of Matthew Shepard opened the nation’s eyes to the hate our society has encouraged, just as as the 1999 slaying of Winfield Scott Mowder and Gary Matson opened the eyes of those in Shasta County.

So for me today is 1950 with “separate but equal” the law. But change is on the horizon. Its just a matter of time…

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Jim Gore is anewscafe.com's tech mentor and troubleshooter. He was born and raised in Redding. A jack of all trades (master of none), he spends his free time contemplating the exact number of trees found in an acre.
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29 Responses

  1. Avatar Darcie says:

    Jeff, We are so proud of you!

  2. Doni Greenberg Doni Greenberg says:

    Thank you, Jeff. Well said, and so smart and insightful. Just like you. xo

  3. Avatar Mike says:

    The passing on 8 was a good thing as it defined marriage between a man and women. At the same time, I think laws could be passed that give the same rights of marriage to others that are registered as domestic partners or even best friends who have no interest of being in a relationship. By drafting a law that would expand the benefits regardless of being "married" It will keep the church out of the battle in trying to protect the position of marriage.

    I don't believe the church wants to deny equal benefits but more wanting to protect the defintion of marriage. So couldn't a better law be passed outside of the battle of marriage that would expand benefits to all?

  4. Avatar Ron Largent says:

    Jeff…you wrote an interesting article. I do agree with you on some points, and strongly disagree with you on others. I am a product of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California. Although I did not condone the methods used by many to convince others of the issues of "rights of the individual", I am a very strong individualist when it comes to individual rights. I am offended, however, when others interfere with my rights, or the rights of others. Proposition 8 was not such an issue, in my opinion. This became a political and a moral issue, not an individual rights issue. There is a difference.

    You made a number of statements on this subject that are debatable, but one you made is very misleading, if not wrong. When you say "those of my generation overwhelming voted against" the measure, you are just not correct. If you consider your generation your group of friends, or even those that share your particular viewpoint, you may represent a group, but you do not represent a generation in the sense of your statement.

    I could give you a number of examples throughout the State, including here in Redding, where the "overwhelming majority" of an age group, most likely of your "generation", voted Yes on Proposition 8. I can refer you to large groups in both the Bay Area and in the Los Angeles area that had large rallies, overwhelmingly attended by "younger" folks, that voted in favor. In San Diego, there was a group of "young marrieds" Prop 8 supporters that had over 10,000 signatures on a petition. And so it goes….many examples all over the state. Many, no-doubt, in your "generation".

    All said, though, you have a right to your position, as I do, and you can write what you want, but when you distort the truth, I take issue.

    Regardless of one's position on Proposition 8, the fact of the matter is voters chose to pass it. Obviously those smarter than me can legally interpret the issue, but the people have spoken by their vote. If, in fact, we are a democratic people, then their voices should not be overruled by politically appointed judges, as long as it does not violate the constitution. The constitution was written for all the people, not a small majority that have their special interests.

    I'm sure the issue will not go away, but at this point, we know what the people in California want. Each that voted exercised their right to vote, and they voted to support Proposition 8. Let's get on with life.

    Thanks, and I did enjoy your article.

    Ron Largent

  5. Avatar JeffG says:

    Thanks for your comments Ron. I too believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs, although I dispute that there was ever any moral argument to be had here (religious, yes — but not moral). But I very much doubt that either of us could persuade the other to change camps.

    My claims, on the other hand, were not based on anecdotal evidence but on exit polls like this one from CNN:

    The results speak for themselves…

  6. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Jeff,

    If the progress you allude to is that Prop. 22 passed with 65+ % of the vote and Prop. 8 passed with only 52+ %, then reality will surely disappoint you. The only non-judicial route to "gay marriage" is the initiative process. One of the biggest reasons for the lowered victory count is that people rightly feel uncomfortable amending constitutions. The wind will not be at the back of any group that tries to pass an initiative that amends the State Constitution to allow "gay marriage" anytime in the next decade. The only course is to argue the constitutionality of the California Constitution before the federal Supreme Court. I can already see the industry that will grow up around this case, as lawyers send out solicitation letters to the gay community

  7. Avatar M. Grant says:

    asking them to give just a little more to fight bigotry. The Supreme Court is either going to punt it, or, if forced to hear it, vote to uphold the people of California's right to govern themselves (Don't fall for the "equal protection clause" argument – it sounds reasonable enough to get you to donate, but that is all). Additionally, you will not be ingratiating yourself with voters if it looks like you are trying to use the courts to do an end-run around them. The irony is that a grandstanding politician over-reached and set back the gradual change that was occuring in California. I say, irony, because this same politician, Mayor Newsom, is actually being hailed for his courage and compassion! You might not agree, but tell me why did the Yes ON 8 people use his image and voice in order to sway voters? Were you aware that it was his office that initiated the idea to have those 1st graders come to their teacher's wedding. A wedding he was officiating at. With friends like these, who needs a proctologist.

  8. Avatar Levi says:

    As the exit polls, common sense and a knowledge of history tells us, the younger generations are always more progressive in terms of civil rights. Proposition 8 is a very clear example of legislating religious views to treat one segment of society differently than the rest. Religious bigots are simply calling it a moral issue because their faith tells them homosexuality is immoral. I am a happily married straight man and I don't consider homosexuality a moral issue on any level. Who someone wants to love, does not affect me in any way. Having religious bigots change the California Constitution to further their own religious views offends me to no end. Religion is once again being used as a weapon against a minority. My teenage daughter who cannot vote yet could find very few friends at her high school who supported Proposition 8. So yes, homophobia will be defeated eventually. Likely as old bigots die and younger more reasonable people come of age. This happened with racism and now we have an African American president. The civil rights issue of my daughter's time is discrimination against homosexuals. And it will be defeated. My guess is that this issue itself will be defeated in court and if it is not, it will be over-turned in a few years with a new amendment as the old bigots die… it only won by a very slight margin this time so it won't take long.

  9. Avatar Dom says:

    Mr. Largent wrote: >>If, in fact, we are a democratic people, then their voices should not be overruled by politically appointed judges, as long as it does not violate the constitution<<

    Oh, but the point is that the judges determined that Prop. 22 did in fact violate the constitution, specifically the equal protection clause.

    Basically, those who voted for Prop. 8 are haters – those who cannot stand that people who they hate and fear are being given rights. There has not been one rational reason given for preventing the state from performing gay marriages. Does it endanger hetero marriage? No – how could it? Does it force churches to perform gay marriages against their will? Again, no.

    And those who object on religious grounds should remember that wonderful phrase, "separation of church and state."

    So, no rational reason to restrict gay marriage – no one's being harmed, no basis in the constitution for legislating religious beliefs, violation of the equal protection clause.

    What's left? Just hate and fear. Cloak it in whatever sugar you want, but that's the bottom line.

  10. Avatar M. Grant says:

    It is interesting, Dom, that you would bring up the "Equal Protection" clause. It derives from the Jeffersonian notion that all men are created equal. Created. Not evolved, created. It is a philosophical notion rooted in Christianity. It's counterweight is the law of the jungle – survival of the fittest – where the only rights you get are the ones you can claw from your opponent and physically safeguard against all comers. If the state does not derive its philosophy from religion, then it devolves to a philosophy of "might makes right". That is why I find this talk about separation of church and state to be nonsense. The phrase does not exist in the Constitution, and the Founding Fathers would be perplexed by your interpretation. The Abolishinist, John Brown, was a devout Christian, as was the Republican minister, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Do you really believe that their world view was not shaped by their religions?

    Let me clarify, that without a religiously grounded moral code, it is not rational that you should be richer than me, if I am bigger, stronger and I have a gun and you don't. After all, how does it effect anyone else if I forcibly take stuff from you? -Matt

  11. Avatar JeffG says:

    M.Grant,

    A couple of historical corrections:

    1) Thomas Jefferson was not Christian.

    2) The bill of rights is a set of ten amendment to the constitution (therefore a part of it) introduced 2 years after the original document. The very first 18 words of the first of those ten amendments says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

    I do agree that societies need a collective moral code. But I do not agree that that moral code must come from religion. History is littered with countless examples of immoral acts committed for religious reasons.

    As to your "what if" — it is not rational for one to take from another for it would violate the ethic of reciprocity.

  12. Avatar Barb says:

    I just want to bring up to those people that keep citing the first graders going to the gay wedding in the bay area. They used this issue to show that children would be forced to learn of gay marriage. That the school would take them and indoctrinate them that this was ok and normal. The truth is, those children did not go on that field trip without permission slips from their parents. Their parents made the choice to allow those children to go. And guess what? It is ok. And it is normal. And we are everywhere. In your kids schools, in your churches, in your grocery stores. Does the fact that I am not married to my partner make me less real to your children?

  13. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Jeff,

    I think you will agree that what you term as "corrections" don't apply to what I wrote. I never said Jefferson was a Christian, I believe most historians consider him a Deist. I see your second point as supporting my argument ("separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution), not correcting it. Don't feel bad, I get this all the time.

    As to "History is littered with countless examples of immoral acts committed for religious reasons", it is my contention that far greater horrors (and certainly deaths) were visited upon our fellow man by self-described athiest regimes. Hitler, Mao, Lenin and Stalin are a few of the heads of state that leap to mind.

    As to the ethic of reciprocity, I agree my scenario would not be rational. But I see the enforcement mechanism of any ethic relying on either a fear of man or a fear of God. One always has the thought that one can escape retribution from his fellow man. The believer knows that there is no hiding from God. -Matt

  14. Avatar JeffG says:

    I suppose your point was that the words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the constitution. The idea, on the other hand, is quite clearly there.

    As far as atheists being the worst offenders, I again disagree. While Hitler is hard to peg (and historians continue to debate whether he was a Christian or atheist), the Nazi regime, on the other hand, was quite clearly Christian and promoted Christianity as the national religion.

    Other examples: The crusades, the slaughter of native Americans, Spanish colonialism, American slavery, Ireland, Osama bin Laden, the Black War, the Ottoman empire, the kurds, etc etc etc

    Regardless, the point of the discussion is that religion is not a prerequisite of morality and that there is no moral argument for denying rights to homosexuals.

  15. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Well, since I wrote "The phrase does not exist in the Constitution", yes, that would be my point. Come on, Jeff, what kind of shoddy debate tactic is "The idea, on the other hand, is quite clearly there." No, it is not "clearly there". If it was you wouldn't have Constitutional scholars smarter than both of us still debating it.

    Yes, historian's debate Hitlers beliefs, most seem to argue, persuasively, that he was a Nihilist that dabbled in the occult. I can find no one that argues he was a Christian or that he even evoked the "Christ killer" argument in his hatred of the Jews. Sadly the Nazis, did co-op the mother church, but as Mein Kampf makes clear, they tolerated Christianity – they did not support or promote it.

    Getting back to your point: In America, from the start, religion was/is a prerequisite of morality. Rights are either God-given (which I believe) or man-given. If they are God-given, then as religion informs us, there is no right to gay marriage. If they are Man-given, then you have to convince your fellow man, which as the passing of Proposition 8 informs us means there is no right to gay marriage. I am stumped as to where else you expect to derive rights from.

  16. Avatar ElvisP says:

    Ron Largent , I too am a product of the free speech movement. I worked two jobs and went to school.

    Separate is never equal. You should remember the "separate" washrooms, drinking fountains and the "whites only" signs everywhere. No one is telling you whom to marry, have a relationship with or speak with. My humble opinion sir, you have wasted our money on that education. You are just as obstructionist as those in the 60's that said it the way you do now.

  17. Avatar JimG says:

    I'm not seeing any convergence of views here, so let me throw some more observations into the conversation. From Does Religion Make You Nice? Does atheism make you mean?

    Arguments about the merits of religions are often battled out with reference to history, by comparing the sins of theists and atheists. (I see your Crusades and raise you Stalin!) But a more promising approach is to look at empirical research that directly addresses the effects of religion on how people behave.

    If you look within the United States, religion seems to make you a better person. Yet atheist societies do very well—better, in many ways, than devout ones.

    The first step to solving this conundrum is to unpack the different components of religion. In my own work, I have argued that all humans, even young children, tacitly hold some supernatural beliefs, most notably the dualistic view that bodies and minds are distinct. (Most Americans who describe themselves as atheists, for instance, nonetheless believe that their souls will survive the death of their bodies.) Other aspects of religion vary across cultures and across individuals within cultures. There are factual beliefs, such as the idea that there exists a single god that performs miracles, and moral beliefs, like the conviction that abortion is murder. There are religious practices, such as the sacrament or the lighting of Sabbath candles. And there is the community that a religion brings with it—the people who are part of your church, synagogue, or mosque.

    The positive effect of religion in the real world, to my mind, is tied to this last, community component—rather than a belief in constant surveillance by a higher power. Humans are social beings, and we are happier, and better, when connected to others.

  18. Avatar Mark C says:

    Jeff,

    Thank you for writing this piece. Having worked for years with your mother I know that she is proud of you for standing up in what you believe.

    Prop 8 passed. This issue is FAR from over. There have been propositions overturned in court and I believe this one will be challenged…and I will be there. I am a religious man, even though some in the Redding area would argue that. I grew up Southern Baptist and have Catholism mixed in. Sounds confusing trust me it is! The one thing I know is there MUST be seperation of church and state on ALL issues and this is one of them.

  19. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Since "separation of church and state" keeps being invoked, I would really like to understand where you all are coming from. Jeff laments a lack of convergence of views, so let me clarify how your argument appears to me. Even if I agreed with you that there is a clear separation of church and state in the Constitution, do you know how frightening that appears to those of us of Faith? I applaud the notion that the government will not interfere with religion, but the idea that the government can dictate that religion is not PERMITTED to influence or participate in the public square is another thing entirely. Where did government get that kind of power? You may applaud the notion because it agrees with your position, but do you feel no discomfort with that kind of statism? What if it were directed at an institution or people you have a deep affiliation with? Would you decry a lack of liberty, then? If you maintain that the people would not allow it, then you are ascribing wisdom to the same majority that you claim has taken rights away from homosexuals. So, if you do not agree with the wisdom of the majority, what higher source do you seek redress from? We of faith will seek it from God. That you seek someone or something wiser than the majority to overturn Prop 8, means that your faith resides with a powerful elite. What happens when there is a divergence of views/values between you and the elite that you have invested so much power in? Will you decry a lack of liberty then. -Matt

  20. Avatar JeffG says:

    Matt

    If you do not see how the first amendment prohibits the government from either supporting or restricting the exercise of religion, than I just don't know where to begin.

    As for where I seek wisdom from, in matters of morality and civil rights it boils down to the golden rule. In order to seek redress, I appeal to the compassion and empathy of the majority, for I believe people are inherently good and tend to do the right thing once they have sufficiently seen the downsides of believing in the superiority of their religion or race.

    And the tactics used to stir up opposition to change have been the same throughout time — fear and ignorance:

    http://daddy.everythingemma.com/suffrage.jpg http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/images/gallery/a_3ahttp://www-tc.pbs.org/becomingamerican/images/ce_

    But through time people gradually realized that such discrimination was wrong.

    And if you truly feel that pointing out the separation of church and state is a "cheap debate trick" how do you reconcile women's rights with the following:

    1 Corinthians 11:3

    1 Corinthians 11:7 – 9

    1 Corinthians 14:34 – 35

    Ephesians 5:22 – 24

    Colossians 3:18

    1 Timothy 2:12

    Titus 2:5

    Deuteronomy 22:5

  21. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Jeff,

    No, the cheap debate trick was stating that something was self-evidently clear, when it was not. I did enjoy your article and thought that a substantive and constructive argument/conversation was possible. If you would like to see a convergence of views, rather than the din of the echo chamber, then some heavy-lifting is required. I have given all your arguments careful consideration and have tried to give you an idea of where I am coming from. I don't sense the same from you. My remarks are mistated (even though they are in black and white) and then addressed. I have tried to give you classically framed arguments for my position and in return have gotten replies that border on sloganeering. I have asked tough questions that I have answered for myself and you have changed the subject.

    As a big fan of textual (biblical) criticism, I have never claimed that every word in the Bible is inspired by God (Which Bible? The Vulgate? Martin Luther Bible? King James Bible? Erasmus' Greek Manuscript? Codex Sinaitus? With whole verses and even chapters that are radically different – which is inspired and which isn't?). But if you want to play that game, our best and oldest New Testament Greek manuscripts don't even have what constitutes 1Corinthians 14:34-35. It also contradicts what is in Chapter 12. Did Paul, in the same letter, really talk about women's role in prophecy and prayer and then two chapters later say that they shouldn't even speak in church and should ask their husbands if they had questions? Also if you omit 34-35, the text actually flows better from 33 to 36.

    I have not sterotyped you. I would appreciate the same consideration. Please do not try to deflect the discussion. If you don't want to try and answer the tough questions now, don't worry I guarantee you the day will come when you will. You are young, you have plenty of time. -Matt

  22. Avatar M. Grant says:

    One last thing. The Golden Rule? You mean: do unto others as you would have them do unto you? So only the parts of the Bible that you agree with guide you? What guided you to make those selections?

    Socrates started the age old conversation by asking: what is truth? Tyrants, have made the easy and relativistic decision that it is what they think it should be, without consideration of the ruled. Free men still struggle with this question. -Matt

  23. Avatar JeffG says:

    Matt

    My point on the bible verses was that the subservience of women is a theme repeated far more often than the "sin" of homosexuality. Most Christians know not to take every verse in the bible literally, and understand that it was a document written by fallible humans years after the fact (and thus subject to the "telephone" phenomenon most of use learned about in grade school). Yet when it comes to the few and far between mentioning of homosexuality, the bible is taken as being infallible.

    As for the Golden Rule, you will find that the concept not only is found in every major religion, it also predates the bible.

  24. Avatar JimG says:

    Matt –

    just a minor point, it was me, not JeffG who made the lack of convergence comment.

    Sorry if the quoted material was a distraction from the main thrust of the discussion though, sometimes I get a little off topic.

  25. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Jim – I hate to bare my throat to the wolf, but I will admit that I confused the two of you. Eyesight or senility, either way age is the culprit! Actually, though I found the article a bit disingenuous, it was interesting that it did encapsulate and define the real debate. Jeff is still guilty of the "distraction" as it was his list of scriptures I was alluding to.

    And Jeff, I hope you don't feel that I am treating you harshly. If I get carried away it is because these weighty questions rarely go beyond invectives in today's society. These are issues and concepts that matter and have mattered for as long as the societal compact has existed. There is an arrogance in today's society that assumes that one side or another has succeeded in answering the deep questions that have alluded the greatest minds in Western Civilization. Nothing is black and white. Maybe it is not arrogance. Maybe it is convenience that causes people to make contradictory or shallow arguments, because the real answers take time and energy and that has been weighed against the benefit. I am not a cheap date! But I can be wooed. I know I don't have the answers, but my decisions/judgements/actions can be swayed by good, reasoned arguments. If I am not worth the effort, I understand. There are other girls at the ball. -Matt

  26. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Jeff, Thank you for your thoughful article. I too, agree with your view that gays should be granted the

    right to marry just like any one else with all legal rights accorded to those of hetro

    marriges.

    What the hell is wrong with these fine folks who quote these jewish fairy tales

    to justify their biggoted beliefs that this situation is wrong and shouldn't happen?

    Some are living in the past, like you said with ideas like black people shouldn't be allowed to use

    white rest rooms or water fountains and had to ride in the back of the bus or women

    should know their place and should be servents of men.

    Well, gays are coming out and want equal rights like all of us here in the land

    of the free and brave. They're taxpayers, educators, congessmen and women, mayors

    of cities and supervisors of counties, artists and authors as well as actors and talk show

    hosts. They all want equal rights and by God, they should have them.

    These bigots, however, continue to thump the bible to justify their lame beliefs.

  27. Avatar M. Grant says:

    Good, Budd, fight bigotry with your own style of bigotry. You seem to know for a fact that my holy scriptures are your "Jewish Fairy Tales". Of course if it were absolute fact it wouldn't be bigotry, would it? So go ahead, Prof. Hodges, educate me. If all you can do is justify your prejudice with some unsubstantiated feelings and/or inconclusive facts or reasonings, then you chose to be derisive either because you are ignorant or mean-spirited. If the latter, you are not in a position to proclaim or preach tolerance and should be an embarrassment to the "No on 8" side. If the "No on 8" side did not, or does not, repudiate such as you, then you should have a pretty good idea of why the majority voted as it did. -Matt

  28. Avatar don w says:

    A conservative estimate of the number of Christian denominations is well over 30,000, each one evolving over time as groups viewed what the Bible says differently. The Bible is not concrete, though many would like to belive that. Anyone who reads the Bible can glean different meaning from each and every scripture. Yes, it is true not all Christians believe or interprete the bible the same.

    I am a christian, I regularly attend, not only a mainstream Christian church, but one of the oldest denomination in this country, I am also an elder, and I am Gay. On July 20, 2008 I was married to my partner in my church with over 120 Christian family and friends attending and showing their support.

    Unless you live everyday of your life to the exact word of the Bible, who are you to tell me my belief or morals are wrong.