November 6th, 2008


Gay Marriage and Chickens

So. Let's talk about gay marriage and chickens.

Not exactly two great tastes that taste great together. Nobody is going to say, "You got your gay marriage in my chickens," or, "You got your chickens in my gay marriage!" Nobody, that is, except California.

This past Tuesday, California had two very interesting ballot initiatives. The first was Proposition 2, "Standards for Confining Farm Animals," which "requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely." It's asking for a compassionate standard to be set, a statement that animals may not be people but we don't have to be barbaric, we can at least treat them humanely. Treat them as we ourselves would want to be treated were we in their place. And it passed with flying colors, with over 60% voting yes.

The second was Proposition 8, "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry," which "changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California" and "provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Basically what happened was, earlier this year the California Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex marriages. The only thing that could make it illegal was a state-wide referendum, and thus was Proposition 8 born. Everyone gets to get married despite sexual orientation, the court said, unless you specifically vote not to let gays and lesbians do so. You would have to specifically vote to take away this civil right.

And they did. Proposition 8 passed, with some 52% voting to strip gay and lesbian Californians of their right to marry (it is currently being appealed by the ACLU). That's right, California voters were able to put themselves in the place of calves, hens and pigs to determine how they would want to be treated, but were unable to do so for their gay and lesbian neighbors, friends, coworkers and family members. What's good for me is not for thee -- unless you're a farm animal.

Consider this: Chickens are being granted rights by the people of California, while at the same time gays and lesbians are having rights taken away.

Same-sex marriage bans were also voted into effect in Arizona and Florida this year. I'll never understand the reasoning behind voting to deny anyone the right to get married. You can explain to me all you want about the Bible or about how a form of marriage exists for gay and lesbian couples, just under a different name, but it will fall on deaf ears. To claim that the institution of marriage would be weakened by making it more inclusive makes no sense. Marriage should not be treated like a country club, where only certain people can acquire membership. It is, ostensibly, an affirmation of love between two committed, consenting adults. More than that, it has important, legally binding aspects too, and that, as much as the gooey love stuff, is just as important a reason why it must be made more inclusive. As I always like to point out, replace the word gay with black, Jewish, Hispanic, Catholic, etc., and then ask people if they would still vote for a marriage ban.

This fear of allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married -- and the decision is based on fear, that somehow all of society will crumble if it's allowed -- stands on the wrong side of history, and I remain confident that one day everyone in this country will be allowed to get married despite sexual orientation. We have to be. Because to do otherwise is to be ruled by fear, to let fear color our decisions and, worse, stifle the rights of others simply because we are afraid.

And that's just chicken.

(By the way, please note my new "all things politics" userpic!)