Battle lines Drawn

The war over domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage in California has entered probably its most bitter stage.

Three initiatives to constitutionally ban domestic partnerships and enshrine marriage between heterosexuals were approved for signature gathering in July. All three require at least 600,000 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot next year.

The anti-marriage folks are putting out a message that will resonate with voters, even moderates who normally are supportive of gay issues.

Republican Assemblyman Tim Leslie wrote in a column carried in the August 7th Sacramento Bee: "Those advocating gay marriage often do so with good intentions, believing they are championing human rights. Unfortunately, their efforts push in the opposite direction. By discarding the foundations of human rights, gay marriage proponents ultimately work against those rights.

"Yet here is a disastrous catch for those who imagine they advance human rights by redefining marriage: What standards remain once you’ve discarded democratic rule, transcendent truths, historic cultural standards, human design and even honesty with one’s own conscience? The only authority remaining rests on the whims of those in power.

"Today in California, gay-friendly judges and legislators hold that power, and their whims could usher in a brave new world. But as the 20th century bears terrible witness, the whims of the powerful are no safeguard for human rights. If nothing stands higher than power–standards that judge its exercise and set its boundaries–we live in a world where might makes right. That is a dangerous realm to inhabit, especially for groups that have known oppression."

Leslie concluded, "opponents of gay marriage must unswervingly protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their lifestyle choices. For the sake of those rights, we must also stand firm in defending the bedrock standards that serve as their foundation."

That is a message that will sell to voters.

In response to all this, a statewide organization has been created to fight back: the Equality for All Coalition.

Jay Hubbell of the local Stonewall Democrats chapter says at least 1,700 volunteers alone will be needed in Fresno County.

Hubbell said that hundreds of house parties will be organized to recruit volunteers and raise needed dollars. Alan Jacobson of the local coalition has taken on the role of house party coordinator. He can be reached via email at <<[email protected]>>.

An unscientific poll done during a recent training session put on by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force revealed that some Fresnans initially support an amendment to ban gay marriage, then reverse themselves when they learn the initiatives would dismantle domestic partnerships.

One bothersome thing was stressed by the Task Force folks during the training: downplaying marriage in favor of domestic partnerships does not serve us well for the future.

This all-or-nothing position by the marriage advocates probably will get us nothing.

If left up to the voters, it will be years (if ever) before same-sex marriage is approved in California. The word "marriage" carries with it a host of connotations (see above), and the average voter simply reacts.

The appellate courts have already ruled that Proposition 22 bans the Legislature from allowing same-sex marriage. So, Assemblyman Leno’s bill will have no legal effect.

And, I don’t see the state Supreme Court overturning Proposition 22.

Personally, I’d rather have four-fifths of the loaf than no loaf at all.

I was hoping to write this headline: "Fred Phelps Nuked!"

But it didn’t come to pass.

Phelps and his loathsome bunch are jetting around the country picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. He cheers their deaths.

He believes that roadside bombs are God’s revenge on America for tolerating gays. He also accuses America of bombing his "church"–I use the term loosely–in the mid 1990s.

His protest tactics include dragging the U.S. flag through the dirt and stomping on it.

Phelps and company showed up in Bakersfield the first weekend of August to disrupt the funeral of a young Latino soldier killed in Iraq. The community was outraged by Phelps’ plans.

In what I agree was a wise decision, Bakersfield’s queer community decided not to mount a counter protest. The soldier’s pregnant widow asked the community to ignore Phelps and local gays agreed the focus should be on having a dignified funeral.

I was hoping the local rednecks would exterminate Phelps and his compatriots.

Phelps didn’t show.

He must have heard about the biker clubs that were at the funeral. Law enforcement was there in force.

Phelps is gutless when he knows he will be confronted by people who just might kill him and his.


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