The New York Times has a fascinating article today on how Mormons tipped the balance in Prop 8 getting passed. Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage. The Mormon church was afraid that Prop 8 would be defeated as the election drew closer. They poured resources into passing it and exhorted church members to get involved. They planned a whole campaign to get it passed, including door-to-door canvassing. What's interesting is that the plan expressly avoided mentioning gay people. Their focus was on being "pro-marriage", not anti-gay.
Their tactics shed some light on their thinking. Apparently they believe that God created marriage, and only between a man and a woman. If a potential voter expressed religious thinking, canvassers were to emphasize this point, and that Prop 8 supports marriage and isn't anti-gay. If potential voters expressed disinterest in the whole issue ("who cares? I'm not gay"), the counter arguments included hypothetical consequences such as churches losing tax-exempt status, or people being sued for their personal opposition to gay marriage, or school children being "taught" to support gay marriage.
Obviously, these arguments have a lot of problems. The one I have a big issue with is the idea that preventing gay people from marrying somehow helps straight people get or stay married. What's the logical causation there? How does one flow from the other? How does it effect straight people at all? It seems irrelevant. They seem to believe that allowing gay people to marry dilutes the potency of marriage for everyone. But that just makes no sense at all. Their argument fails at that point. I think the thing is, they believe God mandates marriage only between men and women. That's a matter of faith. You can't argue about faith. If your position is based on faith, there's just no where to go with that. You also can't convince people who don't share that faith. Unless you rely on irrational fears about gay people, which is exactly what they did. This is where all anti-gay marriage arguments end up.
And that brings me to my other point. They say that prohibiting gay marriage is pro-marriage and not anti-gay. They don't seem to be able to see that it must be anti-gay, by definition. Denying gay people the right to marry is denying a fundamental right that the Constitution guarantees for everyone else. It's akin to saying gay people can't have children. It's separating out gay relationships for separate and unequal treatment. If you believe gay people shouldn't be able to marry, you clearly believe that gay relationships are not equal to straight ones. That's "anti-gay". To deny this is hypocrisy, plain and simple. They're trying to argue that they have no problem with people being gay, as long as they don't try to get married. That is just bullshit.
Another point: if their goal is to support marriage and not be "anti-gay", wouldn't allowing gay people to marry actually support marriage? Our society traditionally sees marriage as the culmination of a romantic relationship, the basis for families, the ultimate expression of love for another person. You'd think that "pro-marriage" people would want more people to get married, not fewer. They're saying, it's fine to be gay, but we're going to deny you what our society says is the ultimate expression of love.
They also argue that their position is "pro-family". This is also utter crap. They don't seem to be aware of or care that gay people have families too. Denying gay people the right to marry is damaging for our children. As it stands, our families are not acknowledged by the law. If we have children, one parent may be unable to have a legal relationship with their own children. For example, in my own family, one parent is the legal parent of our two children, whereas the state in which we live denies the other parent the right to adopt one of the children. That parent is the legal parent to only one of our children. We would have to move to another state in order for that parent to adopt the second child. This kind of situation leaves our relationships vulnerable to hostile family members who might go to court to obtain custody of a child in case of a death or breakup. If we break up, the courts have no laws to apply in determining custody of children or other issues that arise when families break up. Courts have to wing it. We have to try to create a legal regime through powers of attorney, wills, and other kinds of legal contracts that aren't really adequate. Not to mention the problems that are created when one parent moves to another state that may have different laws about gay relationships or parenting. None of this is conducive to creating more secure outcomes for children. If gay people could marry, we would be covered by all the existing laws about adoption, divorce and child custody. Not to mention Social Security and other benefits that accrue to married couples and their children. How is denying gay families these legal protections pro-family? It makes absolutely no sense. Unless you believe that being gay is bad and you wish all gay people would just go away.
More on the argument that allowing gay marriage would mean children would be "taught" gay marriage in school: the basis of this argument is that children must be protected from knowledge of gay people, that being gay is some kind of contagious disease that can't be allowed to sully the innocence of children, that somehow the mere knowledge that there are gay people means children are finding out about sex prematurely. Because we all know that being gay means you're a sex maniac who wants to have sex with children. Aside from these ridiculous stereotypes about gay people, this denies the reality of gay families. Do the Mormons and other anti-gay marriage people think these children need to be protected from their own parents? Our children go to school with children with straight parents. These children meet our children, they meet us, they know that Johnny has two mommies or two daddies. They think nothing of it. Often, they wish they had two mommies! Sounds good to them. The "pro-marriage" people think that gay people all live in the Castro or Chelsea and have no contact with their innocent children. They are wrong. As the saying goes, we are everywhere. And their children aren't going to suddenly turn into sex-mad transvestites as a result. It all comes down to fear of gay people. (And I have ideas about why that is, but that will be delved into another time.)
Here's one of the ads that tried to scare people about gay marriage being "taught" in schools:
Here's another one that lays out all their arguments: