I first came in contact with the militancy of the Gay and Lesbian movement eight years ago. The incident occurred after the passage of California Proposition 22 in March, 2000 – the first time Californians had voted on the definition of marriage. That Proposition affirmed by a 61.4% majority, and for the first time by popular ballot, that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. As I was driving down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles on a late night shopping run, I encountered a traffic jam, with cars stranded on both sides of the road unable to move. I soon discovered the cause of the problem. Approaching us from the west was a vast crowd of marchers bearing signs and banners in defense of gay marriage. Many carried placards that read “Honk if you support gay marriage.” Since I live in one of the bluest suburbs in an overwhelmingly blue state, it didn’t surprise me that many of my fellow travelers on Wilshire Boulevard that night chose to honks their horns. But as I watched the crowd pass among the stranded cars I became inspired. Here was my opportunity to exercise my democratic right and express a contrary opinion. I did not honk. What happened next, resembled something out of A Clockwork Orange. I found my car surrounded by angry young men in tank tops and t-shirts, pounding on my hood and rocking my car back and forth. Furious voices commanded me to honk the horn, threatening further violence if I didn’t. Perhaps it was stupid, but back then I stubbornly clung to the belief (and my steering wheel) that in a democracy, my right to a differing view on gay marriage, or any other issue, would be respected. After several tense moments the crowd saw that I would not relent and began to filter away. But the incident made me realize that intolerance was not beyond the ostensibly tolerant gay community and that violence and intimidation may well be ahead for anyone who refuses to countenance state sanctioned same sex unions.
That prediction began to bear fruit last week as the opponents of the latest California proposition to ban gay marriage( Proposition 8, which, now a state Constitutional amendment, passed by a 52% majority) took to the streets to lodge their continuing protest to majority rule. Not content to ensnarl traffic in numerous locations throughout the city, gay marriage advocates have begun to intimidate the Proposition’s proponents, organizers and donors. Since donations to all political causes and candidates are required to be made public, it is fairly easy to ascertain the identity of any individual or business who gave money to the successful campaign. Gay activists have therefore pored though campaign contribution databases and “outed” Proposition 8 donors on sites such as Facebook.com and craigslist.com. More than two weeks after the passage of Proposition 8, the same opponents have shifted their protests to other arenas as well — using boycotts to target and intimidate businesses or individuals who contributed to the winning side.
Some gay rights activists went onto the restaurant website yelp.com, giving bad reviews to eateries linked to the Yes on 8 movement. Hundreds of protesters then picketed El Coyote Restaurant in West Hollywood on November 13. The picketing became so disputive that LAPD officers in riot gear had to be called in. It was all because Marjorie Christoffersen, a manager of the restuarant and a daughter of El Coyote’s owner, had contributed $100 to the Yes on 8 campaign.
Robert Hoehn, vice president of the Carlsbad-based Hoehn Motors, gave $25,000 of his own money to the Yes on 8 campaign in February. Soon after the vote he began to receive hundreds of phone calls and his Honda dealership was picketed. Since the proposition passed, he says, he has received a continuous stream of “vitriolic messages and phone calls.”
A Mormon colleague of mine, who works for a prominent human rights oganization in Los Angeles, forwarded to me some love letters – as he referred to them – that he had received from a gay activist doctor, after his name was discovered on the list of supporters of Proposition 8:
“ I live in Los Angeles, and am both an American Jew and gay. I find it extremely distressing that YOU, who works for an organization that is supposed to protect minorities and defend human and civil rights, donated a substantial amount of money to strip away the rights of gay and lesbian people in the State of California. It is mean-spirited, bigoted, and hypocritical. “
The writer then proceeded to demand that my colleague resign, retract his donation and contribute an equal amount to the campaign to retract Proposition 8. If he did not, then:
“ I intend to begin a campaign for your resignation, first thing tomorrow, by calling your organizational headquarters in New York as well as numerous regional offices here in the USA and overseas. I intend to contact as many community leaders and organizations as possible to let them know that they have someone working among them who propagates hate and bigotry.”
So this is what it has come down to: Advocates of gay marriage will castigate anyone who opposes their agenda to transform homosexuality into normative conduct as “ hateful” and “bigoted” and will harass and intimidate them until they give up their prejudicial stance. Therefore the millions of voters, in California, Arizona and Florida, who cast ballots to actually amend their constitutions to affirm that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, can expect increasing legal assaults, harassment, militancy and even violence from a class that is unsatisfied with our democratic process and demands redress beyond it.
But is it really “hateful” and “ bigoted” to oppose gay marriage? The truth is that the state sanctioned gay marriage would not substantially affect the benefits that same sex domestic partners currently enjoy under California state law. Under California Law (Family Code § 297.5) domestic partners have the same rights, protections, and benefits as married spouses. There are no exceptions. Proposition 8 would not have affected existing legal rights in any way, except to affirm that the people of California believe that two people who are of the same sex should not have the right to place themselves in the same category as a woman and man who have united in a state of matrimony. This is neither “hateful” nor “ bigoted” but the reaffirmation of moral and religious standards that a wide majority of citizens across the United States ( if the results of similar ballots in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas are to be believed) hold to be true and sacred.
Is the determination to stick to a traditional view of marriage then an abuse of civil rights? The answer is no. There has never been a “civil right” to marriage. Marriage has, until very recently, been regarded as a moral and religious union between a couple committed to fidelity, longevity and the propagation of the species. To argue that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment to all citizens does not mean that its intention was to regulate the nature of relationships between individuals or what it considers to constitute a legitimate marriage, partnership, business venture or even friendship. The suggestion that the Constitution of the United States was designed to define moral or physical relations between U.S. citizens has found no corroboration in existing legal scholarship.
A New Hampshire government commission report, released in December, 2005 which investigated the issue of whether marriage is a civil right, concluded that it is not. Collecting a broad range of opinions over 16 months, the report concluded that marriage “across essentially all societies and history has been defined as the union of a man and a woman.” The current definitions of marriage as between a man and a woman “models both natural human sexuality and reproduction that commits to the health, safety, and welfare of both the individual and the community.” By focusing on the long-standing legal aspects of marriage, rather than its divisive political aspects, the commission’s report reaffirmed that the real reason for marriage is the propagation and protection of children. If you accept that marriage exists to create and protect something beyond your own personal interests– or in other words, that it possesses a profound social utility that transcends both personal happiness and an individual’s need for fulfillment – then the traditional definition is correct and no argument about unfairness, prejudice or bigotry can dislodge it.
This, then, reflects the essential divide between gay marriage advocates and the traditionalists. Gay marriage proponents are determined to convince you that state sanctioned homosexual unions have social utility since they promote dignity for a discriminated class of individuals. It is a campaign for individual rights at the expense of social cohesion. Traditionalists will tell you that marriage between a man and a woman is a fundamental building block of social order and that to interfere with its definition is to undermine our moral and social balance and our prospects for civilizational continuity. The movement away from social cohesion and moral order and towards individual liberty and personal fulfillment has been the grand strategy, not just of gay activists, but of the entire secular humanist movement for over two and half centuries. It is a campaign against religion and against the kind of moral certitude religion promotes. For the majority then, the question at issue on November 4, was not whether gay couples should have the right to obtain happiness in life; it was whether the moral and social order of western civilization will have the means to survive.
This is perhaps the reason why the gay marriage initiative has been defeated so often and so regularly over the past thirty years. We, as a people – as a majority no less- are simply unprepared to allow one of the key components of our social order to be undermined. The battle has much in common with the struggle over whether intelligent design should be taught in schools. The scientific community, terrified by what it frames as religious coercion and bigotry, has developed its own level of absolute intolerance when addressing any challenge to the accepted means of investigating the unknown. Similarly, those advocates of gay marriage, while accusing others of hate and bigotry, have developed their own level of prejudice and denigration, a fact clearly on display to me that night eight years ago on Wilshire Boulevard. Sadly, it continues to bare its ugly visage in the boycotts and harassment of those who supported Proposition 8 and in the strenuous legal challenges now being mounted to over turn it. Those who support this anti-democratic and potentially violent movement should be warned that they may be playing with fire. For such a movement, while having succeeded through coercion and intimidation in obtaining their political ends, may thereby gain increasing force and command over our culture, resulting in demands for even more control over our hearts, our minds and our actions in the future.