As you may have noticed, the 2008 elections caused flurries in the news for races that were a little further down the ballot than usual: Arizona, California, and Florida all passed ballot measures banning same-sex marriage. (Arkansas also passed a measure that banned any single person from adopting a child, a law that many also saw as aimed at the gay and lesbian community.)
California’s Proposition 8 has garnered the most attention because the measure called for an amendment to the state Constitution to eliminate the right for same-sex couples to marry – a right 18,000 couples from both in and out of state had exercised since California courts ruled gay marriage legal earlier this year.
The passage of Prop 8 sparked nationwide protests for two solid weeks, and the high feelings on both sides have sparked more than a few rumors. Let’s take them down, shall we?
If you’re straight, nobody is going to sabotage your wedding.
My friend Tim called me Thursday afternoon after the election. He was listening to a talk radio host who was making wild claims that gays and lesbians would be sabotaging straight weddings in retaliation.
The evidence? One bride called in to say that her groom’s tux had been delivered in the wrong size, and another to say that her flowers were wrong. Not much of a nationwide sabotage effort.
The reality is that gays and lesbians don’t live in a vacuum. They have straight siblings, cousins, and friends, and they certainly don’t want to see their weddings ruined. Your plans are safe.
If you’re gay, Proposition 8 has not invalidated your wedding.
If you are a part of a same-sex couple who got married in California before Prop 8 was passed, you don’t have to worry. The California State Attorney General has released a statement saying that, since the marriages were legal when they happened, they will continue to be honored.
No one can force your church to perform a gay wedding if Prop 8 is overturned.
Separation of church and state is designed with the protection of churches in mind. Even if Prop 8 or one of the many “Defense of Marriage Acts” that have passed over the years is invalidated, your church cannot be forced to perform gay weddings. Just as a Catholic church can’t be forced to perform a Jewish wedding, no church can be made to perform gay marriages if they are counter to church doctrine.
Legal same-sex marriages don’t mean that any church in the state has to perform them. It just means that same-sex couples within the state are free to find a church or church official that will.
Your church will not be taxed and your pastor will not be jailed if Prop 8 is overturned.
The state can’t tell a religion what it can and can’t believe, so churches will not lose their tax-exempt status for preaching that homosexuality is wrong, and the idea that church leaders can be jailed for doing so is simply ridiculous.
There is some confusion over this issue because a church can lose its tax-exempt status for becoming too involved in a political candidacy or cause – in effect, when it stops acting like a church and starts acting like a political action committee. But a church can’t lose its tax-exempt status for sticking to its beliefs.
Schools will not be forced to teach children about same-sex marriage if Prop 8 is overturned.
California law does not require schools to teach about marriage at all, and certainly would not require them to teach about gay marriage. California also already allows parents to opt their children out of lesson plans that they’re not comfortable with.
A series of ads that ran in California and over the Internet fed fears among parents that gays and lesbians might want to “teach” their kids to be gay. In fact, almost all gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people believe that they were born as they are – they don’t believe that a child can be taught to be gay any more than a child can be taught to be straight.
What to do if you don’t know what to say
You may have friends or relatives who have had to cancel a planned wedding because of Prop 8’s passage, or who simply seem upset – many gays and lesbians feel that they’ve been told that they are second-class citizens. Like any other painful situation, your kind words will most likely be welcomed. Just letting your loved one know that he or she is in your thoughts can be a help. You don’t have to be brilliant – just let him or her know you’re there.
Where to go if you’re not sure where you stand or if you need to know more
If you have a friend, relative, or co-worker who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, he or she may be willing to answer any questions you have or talk about the issues with you. (If you live in a state where gays and lesbians can still be fired due to sexual orientation, be careful about bringing the topic up at the workplace.)
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) can also be a great resource. You’ll find people who have dealt with the same issues and can understand why you might be uncomfortable. To get started, you can find a local chapter at http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=539