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Prop 8 as a context for an unequal dialogue on civil rights

Marriage equality

An update on the transition to threaded comments — all the comments on old posts have now been imported in through today! Also, we solidified some things on the backend, so I approved two inadvertently moderated comments from last night. We’ll be checking out some other things noted later today.

Also, to embed YouTube videos, there is a little YouTube embed button to the top right of your comment window. Use that to paste the URL into your comment, and when you hit submit, the video will embed -Adam

By Adam Bink

Writing in the Orange County Register yesterday, columnist David Whiting — who has written in support of same-sex marriage — questions the recent and successful push for Peter Vidmar to resign as US Olympian chef de mission over his support for Proposition 8:

It was the days when Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California, rocked the state. It seemed there were protests at nearly every major intersection, especially in south Orange County.

Vidmar reportedly donated $2,000 to support Prop. 8 and joined some 250 people in a demonstration in Rancho Santa Margarita. It was low-profile, but Vidmar was quoted in The Register.

I happen to disagree with Vidmar. I wrote a column in January stating that banning gays from marrying infringes on freedom.

But does that mean I think Vidmar shouldn’t serve as Olympic chef de mission?

His colleague, Mullins, thought so. She said she was “concerned and deeply saddened” over his support of Prop. 8. She added, “The Olympic movement is about promoting equity for all.”

Equality for all. I like that. But what do those words mean?

Olympian figure skater Johnny Weir said, “I certainly wouldn’t want to be represented by someone who is anti-gay marriage. The fact this man who is very publicly against something that may be represented on the American team is disgraceful.”

Very publicly? Perhaps, but only in the context that Vidmar was quoted in an era when the Internet magnifies everything.

Vidmar told the Chicago Tribune that his appearance at the demonstration was in response to an invitation from his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Of stepping down, Vidmar said, “I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States.”

•••

After The Center’s celebration at the Bowers, I talk to Hahn. I tell her of my respect, even admiration for Vidmar. How does that square with my passion for freedom?

We agree the conversation is one of nuance. Hahn says, “We respect (Vidmar’s) right to donate to any cause he wants to and his right to free speech.”

At the same time, Hahn makes it clear she supports Johnny Weir’s statements. “I think (Vidmar) did the right thing by stepping down.”

Is that fighting for tolerance by being intolerant?

“It’s not a hard-line thing,” Hahn replies. “I think the real issue is how raw the wound still is from Prop. 8. We’re still divided and preoccupied by this.”

For now, the Olympic Committee is looking for someone to replace Vidmar.

Good luck with that.

I’m not writing to get into the debate over Vidmar’s resignation, but the context in which this all arises. On the “fighting for tolerance by being intolerant” line, I’m reminded of Courage’s Rick Jacobs recent op-ed in The Advocate: “Intolerant, and Proud of it”.

As a gay man, I can be intolerant, and proudly so. But let me explain what I mean. My intolerance extends only to those who espouse intolerance against other groups of Americans, for instance, African-Americans, Muslims, Catholics, or gays (who happen to be part of each of the foregoing communities).

Whiting seems to suggest tolerating Vidmar’s support for discrimination under a rubric of loving and educating everyone. Perhaps. The flip side is rewarding those who don’t support equality for everyone, including members of the 2012 Olympic team. Is that fair?

I am also reminded continually that there is often never an equal standard when it comes to LGBT civil rights. The “fighting for tolerance by being intolerant” line would never work today when it comes to African-American civil rights or sexism or any other treatment of minorities unequally. If Vidmar had joined a protest against inter-religious marriage, or given $2,000 to a proposition banning miscegenation, he’d be run out of town. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, fingers are wagged and calls go out for tolerance, even though support for same-sex marriage is now a majority stance in this country.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether people like Weir should have spoken out and Vidmar should have resigned, but it seems a focus on the context of the controversy is just as important.

43 Comments

  • 1. Alan E.  |  June 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Yay for comment changes! (I've been away for a bit, so this is the first time I've had a chance to even comment in a while).

    See you at the courthouse on Monday!

    As a side note, I now have to compete with my WordPress login like I used to, but that's fine.

  • 2. justjoel  |  June 10, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Please, please someone email me and tell me what to do, where to login, what account to create so that I can see the replies! I’m missing it so much!

    justjoel59 at gmail dot com

    Please!

  • 3. Trish  |  June 10, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I've often turned it around when I'm called intolerant for not tolerating discriminatory actions or beliefs. "Yes, I am intolerant of intolerance. Thank you."

    I think that the biggest problem was Vidmar's statement that he gave when resigning: “I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction . . ."

    Why do these people continue to believe that they are being harassed/assaulted/criticized for their religious beliefs? It frustrates me to no end. They are free to have their beliefs. They are not free to impose their beliefs on me. And any time they attempt to impose their beliefs on me, they are intolerant of my beliefs and therefore I am intolerant of them.

  • 4. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:13 am

    And I am intolerant to your belief that marriage is anything but man and woman.

  • 5. AnonyGrl  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:35 am

    We know, Bob.

    And we will continue to call you out on your intolerance.

    The thing is, Bob… WE are not trying to take rights away from anyone. WE are working for equal rights for everyone. So you can be upset about it, and be intolerant of the fact that we are pointing out your bigotry, but that is really just too bad for you.

  • 6. James Sweet  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

    WE are not trying to take rights away from anyone.

    I have come to realize that is not true. Recognition of same-sex marriage undermines the dominant/subservient asymmetry that has been a fixture of truly "traditional" marriage in centuries past. When we stand up for marriage equality, we are interfering with the "right" of decent hardworking misogynists to find themselves a properly obedient woman.
    http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com/2011/03/i-final

  • 7. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:57 am

    the battles of the Bob's returns,,,, this Bob is intolerant of that Bob's belief about marriage,,, and trying to impose that belief to define a word for all people that use it,,,,,,, we do not live in a society where one persons belief, can be imposed on another,,,, the word marriage is currently undergoing some challenges to it's meaning,,, in order to better reflect advancing human evolution, and the inclusion of all, and their right to the word itself,,,,,,,,,

  • 8. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Marriage definition will not be changed. You must delusional if you think it will. Now expanded civil unions with the same legal rights as marriage will be the reality but nothing more. You do your community a great disservice raising expectations and hopes falsely.

  • 9. nightshayde  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

    In an ever-increasing number of places both inside and outside the United States, the definition of marriage HAS been expanded. Not "changed," of course — considering that many people have believed for quite some time now that marriage is an institution which unites two people who love each other very much & want to share that (hopefully) life-long commitment with each other as well as with their friends and family members — and that the shape of the partners' reproductive organs has nothing to do with loving another person.

    Your acceptance of the evolving, expanding definition of the word marriage may never change — but when the government finally puts an end to governmentally-sanctioned discrimination, your personal acceptance will be completely irrelevant.

  • 10. Carpool_Cookie  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Re: "I think that the biggest problem was Vidmar's statement that he gave when resigning: “I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction . . ."

    Right. His quote would have more rightly been, "I am sorry that my attempts to legally impose my religious beliefs on others, including Olympic team members, have become a distraction."

  • 11. nightshayde  |  June 10, 2011 at 9:48 am

    It's not Vidmar's religion with which I have a problem. It's the fact that he donated money to support discrimination.

    Back in the pre-election days, I was having a discussion about Prop 8 online with someone. He said that he didn't endorse or support discrimination, but that he did believe in "traditional marriage." I pointed out that if the method used to support "traditional marriage" happened to result in discrimination, then he WAS actually endorsing and supporting discrimination. I think a lot of people who were sucked into the "support traditional marriage by voting for Prop 8" mindset really didn't stop to think how their actions were hurting other people.

    I have the same reaction now when I hear people say "I have nothing against gays – I just support traditional marriage." CLEARLY you have something against gays. You don't work to deny rights to or take rights from someone with whom you have no problem. If you have nothing against gays, you should, logically, have no problem with treating people equally regardless of sexual orientation/identity.

  • 12. David Henderson  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I think a good response to that is, "Yes, I support traditional marriage as well. I don't want to do anything to stop or interfere with traditional marriage. What I do want is to allow others who don't fit the mold of 'traditional marriage' to get married also."

  • 13. James Sweet  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:06 am

    There's an important difference about the interracial marriage thing, in terms of how much it should affect our assessment of someone's ability to do a job: To oppose interracial marriage in 2011, you have to be a pretty hardcore bigot. You've given some thought to this position, and have decided to go against pretty much everybody else. To oppose marriage equality in 2011, you might be hardcore bigot, or you might just not have thought about it very much, or you could be a gullible idiot, or you could just mindlessly do whatever your church tells you to do, etc.

    That doesn't make it okay, and I don't know enough about this particular Vidmar issue to have an opinion on it… And to be clear, I am NOT saying that a reprehensible opinion is made any less reprehensible simply by virtue of its being popular. I'm just saying, plenty of basically good people oppose marriage equality because of some dumb-ass reason or another, whereas not very many basically good people oppose interracial marriage — though plenty did a few decades ago. I guess the difference is whether we can tell if the person is a committed bigot, or just casually bigoted. ;D

  • 14. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

    It's because race and sexuality are nowhere near the same thing.

  • 15. davep  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Of course they are not. But anti-gay bigotry and discrimination and anti-racial bigotry and discrimination are EXACTLY the same thing.

    Bigotry is bigotry.

    Discrimination is discrimination.

    and only Equality is Equality. Nothing less is acceptable.

  • 16. RichardLavigueur  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I normally lurk here, rather than posting, but this seems to demand clarification.

    Nobody is saying that race and sexual orientation are the same thing, one is completely independent of the other. What are comparable though are racism and homophobia, and in this case, racist views toward marriage and homophobic views toward marriage.

    There's nothing fundamentally different between your belief that marriage just "is between a man and a woman and same sex marriage is just wrong and a racist's belief that marriage just is within races and that marriage between races is wrong. In both cases, you feel the need to impose your own discomfort or fears, which have no rational basis, upon others who do not share them.

    There's another feature these forms of bigotry share too, namely that both are becoming less and less popular. Twenty years ago or so, interracial marriage was about as opposed as same sex marriage is today. Now do you think support for same-sex marriage is greater than in 1991 today, or lower? At the start of the 20th century, how many Americans do you think thought that interracial marriage would be legal and widely accepted by the start of the 21st?

  • 17. davep  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Weel put, Richard. No need to lurk, feel free to chime in any time!

  • 18. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Actually there is a huge difference! Its not about discomfort or fear although they are convenient beliefs for you to have.

    Its makes things much simpler to simply label anyone who opposes your belief as a bigot or homophobe. Convenient but not based in reality. Sure there are bigots on both sides and homophobes but they are a minority.

    Civil unions is the best you can or should expect. And once they occur more widely almost all of those who say they support marriage equality will say "that's good enough!" As well as most gay people. It's only a very tiny majority who won't accept that.

    It's over! Get on with your lives and don't worry about what other people think. Why do you need acceptance to be happy?

  • 19. nightshayde  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    The issue isn't "acceptance." The issue is "equality."

  • 20. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I don't need acceptance to be happy…I need EQUALITY to be WHOLE!!!
    I am an American, and will NOT be made less than or accept second class citizenship!!!
    What part of EQUAL don't you get?
    Seperate but equal is NOT equal and NEVER will be!!!

  • 21. Steve  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Civil Unions are so 2000. Most people in the gay community reject them as an unnecessary and unwanted compromise these days.

    Also because they simply don't work. They provide some necessary rights, but even at the state level they aren't the equivalent to marriage because many people don't know what they are or don't recognize them. Not so with marriage. See New Jersey and Vermont for example

  • 22. JonT  |  June 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    … Separate but Equal isn't Equal.

  • 23. davep  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    " Actually there is a huge difference! Its not about discomfort or fear"
    Bob, if that were true, someone on your side of the argument would have been able to explain precisely HOW anti-same sex marriage discrimination and anti-interracial marriage discrimination are different. Or exactly WHAT the objection to same sex marriage is based on if it's not based on discomfort or fear. Or just WHY legal civil marriage should be denied to same sex couples.

    But nobody on your side has ever been able to articulate ANY of these things. Just go read the trial transcripts. Your best lawyers couldn't even begin to make a valid argument on the issues. There is NO rational basis for denying equal civil marriage rights.

  • 24. davep  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    "Civil unions is the best you can or should expect. And once they occur more widely almost all of those who say they support marriage equality will say "that's good enough!" As well as most gay people. It's only a very tiny majority who won't accept that. "

    Where on earth do you come up with these odd assumptions? Are you somehow connected to the internet via the year 1980?

  • 25. Chris in Lathrop  |  June 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    "Why do you need acceptance to be happy?"

    The same reason you do: because human beings are social creatures, highly subject to peer pressure and the need for peer approval. Because we live in a nation where, if things ran as they were supposed to, the government would stay the out of your and my bedrooms and let everybody who is a citizen be treated equally. Because marriage is one of the most important rites of passage in this life, which you and your ilk choose to attempt to deny people based on the genitalia involved. Because "civil union" and "marriage" are decidedly *not* the same thing–try it for yourself and see!

    And if you suppose you are not a bigot, why don't you explain which secular, non-homophobic reason(s) prompt(s) you to oppose marriage equality?

  • 26. JonT  |  June 10, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Wow, what planet are you living on evil-Bob?

  • 27. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Well said Richard!!

  • 28. James Sweet  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    The definition of marriage is one man and one woman of the same race, and that definition will never change. You're fooling yourself if you think it will.

    Oh shhhhhh…..

  • 29. Kathleen  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Trying to subscribe again

  • 30. Kathleen  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

    It's still not working. Initially, I was getting the activation emails, but even after activating wasn't getting notices. Now I'm not getting the activation emails.

  • 31. Adam Bink  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Which account are you using

  • 32. Alan E.  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Sometimes it takes a couple clicks on the link in my email, but I can finally subscribe after a few tries. However, I am not getting email notifications of new comments even though I subscribed. I am using the "guest" info instead of my WordPress login.

  • 33. adambink  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    As far as we can tell on the tech side, Intense Debate is managing all the notices, and take WordPress out of the equation, so it's hard to resolve this problem. I have written to their tech support to inquire about it. I have some trouble too.

  • 34. Sagesse  |  June 10, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Moi aussi.

  • 35. James Sweet  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    You're wrong, marriage equality undermines the asymmetric master/slave relationship that was a feature of "traditional" marriage before these liberals came along and started saying that maybe women aren't property. If same-sex couples are able to have loving relationships where they treat each other as equals, maybe Bob's wife won't let him boss her around any more. Did you ever think of that?

    Of course not, because you are insensitive and intolerant towards wifebeaters. You bigot.

  • 36. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for letting us see your true colors. You are one reason why your community will never get what they think they want!

    Continue the self-sabotage!

  • 37. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Tracy Morgan Criticized for Anti-Gay Remarks at Nashville Show

    http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/tracy-morgan-criticized-

  • 38. Bob  |  June 10, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    If you think this rests on DOMA you will be extremely disappointed.

  • 39. Maggie4NoH8  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    What I find most stressing about the whole debate, is how utterly incapable most people are in separating faith from civics, holy matrimony from marriage.

    America accommodates the christian faith (and any other for the most part), not the other way around. There are examples of other countries/governments in which faith/religion accommodate the government (the middle east)… Unfortunately, as history shows, this just does not work, it will never work.

  • 40. Sagesse  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Scribin' (or not… we'll see).

  • 41. Clift  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I am intolerant of intolerance too. And I agree that supporters of Prop 8 have a difficult time separating faith from civics and holy matrimony from marriage. My belief is that there is no downside to same sex civil marriage. In fact, I am confident that letting members of the LGBT community get married will only strengthen marriage in our society. Loving gay couples who want to be married should be able to be married, especially those couples who are raising children. My hubby and I got married in San Diego during 'the window' when it was legal. The domestic partners paperwork we had done months prior to our marriage was like paying taxes. Our marriage… it was awe-inspiring and meaningful beyond words.

  • 42. Jennifer Reitz  |  June 11, 2011 at 1:28 am

    We are fighting a social and political war to win equal rights in this nation, a war initiated against us by discrete and identified groups.

    Either we fight this war to win it, or we should just give up now and admit our moral inferiority immediately. Our opponents intend to win, they try every strategy, and they are relentless. To win, that is what one MUST do, and to win one MUST be ruthlessly committed to victory. That is war.

    NO person who would deny full and equal civil rights to GLBT people can be tolerated. There is no toleration in war. Our enemies know this utterly. To even question this is to waffle uselessly while those that would deny our equality march further ahead. If you want to win, then fight without hesitation, without remorse, without quarter, without debate. This is the secret of how Prop 8 was passed against us. They know this. We must play the game by the rules to win, and the rules are that war is absolute. You win, at all costs, or you WILL lose.

    No person who is against equality can be tolerated.

    They cannot be allowed a moment of legitimacy, a moment of acceptance, a moment of anything that in any way validates them as a person. To do so automatically offers sympathy with the evil they believe.

    That is how all GLBT people are minimized and disenfranchised. It is the basic tactic. It is the primary act of this war and the fundamental weapon. To fail to consistently use it is to willingly consent to accepting oppression and domination. If you don't fire your gun, you don't win the war. You just die in a hail of bullets from the enemy. The basic gun is zero tolerance. They do not tolerate our right to exist.

    We MUST return that sentiment by offering zero tolerance to their right to deny us existence. And equality.

    Any person that is party to, any any degree, those that oppose equality, MUST be routed. The MUST be minimized and excluded and rendered laughable and useless. That is the game, that is the process, that is what has been, and is being, done to us. That is the rules and the path and the mechanism of victory.

    Whichever side is disenfranchised the most, loses.

    So far, that has utterly been the GLBT community.

    Fight to win, or just get used to whimpering about your nonexistent equality… forever.

    Our enemies depend on our hyper-civility and willingness to debate and give quarter and generally avoid the taint of serious, ruthless, determined effort in order to beat us. They have no argument; they need us to submit through weakness to win. We submit constantly. We waffle. We 'try not to be like them'.

    That is foolish. They have been winning. Period. Either learn from their tactics, or fail.

    Do not tolerate the anti-equality person or organization. Not for a moment. Not ever. Not for any reason.

    Zero Tolerance.

    Or, if you want to 'forgive and forget', well, the closet is right there. Step in. Be sure to close the door behind you. It is only polite.

  • 43. Sheryl Carver  |  June 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Right on, AnonyGrl! Everything you said, exactly!

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