Milestones, Political Apathy, Prop 8

I have so much social frustration right now. Aside from the landslide win of Barack Obama, this has been an aggravating week for America. I feel the need to vent. Hold on to your pants.

Milestones and Political Apathy
I’ve heard a lot of nonsense this week about how people are making too big a deal about Obama being the first black president. Most of it comes from the naive viewpoint that his race is ideally irrelevant and how any progressive nation should just view him as a person and not an African-American. That’s all well and good, but blowing off a milestone of this magnitude is more a response to not wanting to deal with the sociopolitical structure of our nation.

From this point forward, since this particular die has been cast, race becomes a non-issue in politics. This doesn’t signal a perfect America or the end of racism. This isn’t a shining moment because suddenly butterflies are erupting from cotton candy cloud. But it’s important. Obama’s election is the moment in which change begins to happen, but not just the kind he built his platform around. Every child’s history book going forward will suddenly show possibility and hope. A type of equality that changes the protocol of 232 years of American politics.

I didn’t vote for Obama because he was black. And despite insistence to the contrary, most people didn’t. While I don’t agree with everything Obama stands for, I felt he was the most qualified candidate for the position and stood a better change of leading us closer to an America I’m more interested in living in. I’m glad he won on those grounds alone. For the actual campaign and election, I couldn’t care less what color he was. But now that he stands as our first black president, that should be recognized and celebrated. Obama’s election is a milestone. Pretending it’s not is apathetic and showcases a lack of understanding of the very structure of America and the struggles it has taken to even to get to this point.

That being said…

Prop 8 And Backwards Motion
I have yet to see a compelling reason for California Proposition 8, which was actually listed on the ballot as Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. We have actually been through an election in which a proposition designed to eliminate rights was approved. This is horrifying, Stone Age thinking.

Step away from the actual issue for a moment. I’ll get to that shortly. Let’s look at the fact that this amendment proposal was put out to strip away a right that had already been granted. On a civil rights level, this is a social atrocity. Rights have been taken away and people were okay with it. At this point, let’s take away minority voting rights. Why not? What’s the difference? Let’s get some racial segregation going again, too. I’m sure minorities pose just as much of a threat to the organizations who backed Prop 8 as those horrible, society-threatening gays do. Rights were taken away. Rights. How does that happen in 2008? We’re never going to get the flying cars and sassy robot maids that The Jetsons promised us if we keep moving backwards.

A lot of the pressure for Prop 8 came from religious groups who feel same-sex unions threaten the sanctity of marriage and the very foundation of society (like the state of Massachusetts, which has broken down and completely stopped working since legalizing gay marriage in 2004). What it really comes down to is a threat to their way of belief and there’s a feeling that their sense of society will crash down around them if two people of the same gender marry. The ability for religious groups to back an initiative to affect state legislature is frightening. As a citizen, you may think that gay people doing their gay thing is icky or whatever, but what purpose is served by not letting them have the same basic rights as you? What’s the harm in marriage being an institution between two people, not two people of opposing genders?

I will actively and openly listen to opinions on either side of this issue. I will not accept answers that deal with the religious nature of marriage because they are irrelevant. A lot of weddings happen in churches, but you’re not married until your local government signs off on it. I will not accept answers that involve homosexuality as “wrong” or a “sin” because believe what you will…sinners get married all the time. I need a valid, rational, secular argument on the other side of this because until I get one or until this situation is resolved, I am angry and will actively seek ways to turn the tide.

Any takers?


19 Responses to “Milestones, Political Apathy, Prop 8”

  1. IAFC says:


    This is an excellent, articulate post that makes solid points. The last paragraph in particular is great: “sinners get married all the time” is a wonderful statement I’d like to see someone try to counter. I’m still attempting to process the joy of Obama’s win with the absurdity of Prop 8. How do these two events occur in the same week?! Yargh.

  2. David C. Garcia » More On Prop 8/Civil Rights says:

    [...] EDIT: Brandon has written a well-worded, insightful bit on his site: Mlestones, Political Apathy, Prop 8 [...]

  3. Brandon J. Carr says:

    Thanks, IAFC! I’m beyond frustrated right now with the whole situation. I’m excited and happy about Obama, but even that doesn’t really become a reality until January. Until then, this Prop 8 nonsense hangs over everything.


  4. says:

    I agree with you on proposition 8, despite what the stereotypes regarding my religious beliefs may be. You hit a couple nails directly on their heads. First, LOTS of sinners get married all the time. You said you don’t want a religious argument, but I’m going to give you one…one that supports you. If you are a Christian, then you probably follow a certain moral code and believe certain things to be absolute truth. One of these absolute truths is that ALL PEOPLE fall short of the glory of God and all people are sinners. Without this universal shortcoming, Jesus’ sacrifice is rendered meaningless. God doesn’t see some sin as better than others. Sin is sin. Black and white (but not like Obama vs. McCain black and white…more like “is vs. is not”). More importantly, how can a Christian expect a non-Christian to follow a moral code laid out by a God they don’t believe in. Wouldn’t it be more effective to love people far from God so that they could experience the completeness found in a relationship with Him? My relationship with God has changed everything about my life…for the better…and though sometimes difficult, I hope to live my life in a way that reflects God so that perhaps others will experience what I have.

    Second, politically speaking, I feel there is a disconnect in the semantics surrounding marriage. If you think of the word “marriage” as a religious ceremony or rite, (which if you are religious, you probably should) then you are going to get very tied up in the spiritual implications laid out by your particular religion when discussing marriage. This plays into my earlier argument about holding people to standards they don’t believe in or don’t understand. What if we thought of the word “marriage” more along the lines of “contract?” Isn’t that how the state sees it anyway. These two individual taxpayers are entering into a mutually beneficial collaboration or merger. When we take away the religious side and look at it from a business-side, a capitalist (read American Dream) perspective, then our view has to change. Isn’t marriage, in the eyes of the state, just a merger of two individuals’ assets? To the state, you are a social security number, not a male or female. Why can’t two social security numbers merge?

    Finally, an argument against same-sex marriages. Under laws that prevent same-sex marriages, these couples are unable to secure the tax benefits of a married couple, therefore keeping the taxes of the rest of the state down. As more people are married and receive the associated tax benefits, then overall taxes have to be raised to make up for the deficit.

    Note: I don’t actually think this argument is worth voting to take someone’s rights away after they have been granted, but you asked for someone to provide a secular argument, and I obliged.

  5. Matt says:

    I think there’s a larger issue at play here that I so rarely hear discussed it makes me want to go live on top of a mountain.

    Actually … there’s probably 2 larger issues.

    First let’s just go along the lines of separation of church and state. There’s no reason the states (and certainly not the Federal government) should be banning this legally. If a church wishes to not marry homosexuals, then fine, but for the government to be stepping in on it? Give me a break.

    Secondly, and the larger problem, is that the government thinks it has the right to give us the right to gay marriage. If that’s not the biggest WTF moment since the birth of our country, I don’t know what is. This is the one that really makes me want to claw my eyes and ears out/off. The government is a body which the people allow to have power, and allow to have rights. It is in no way, and was never intended to be, the other way around. The people of this country hold ALL of the rights.

    An interesting story I’ve heard is that there was opposition to the Bill of Rights being added to the Constitution. Why? The people opposing it were afraid that eventually it would be twisted to mean that those were the only rights the people had, and the rest belonged to the government aside from any further rights the government “gave” us. 232 years later, I guess we owe those people a, “you know … you were right.”

    We need to remind our elected officials of just what the situation is. The rights have been ours all along, not theirs.

  6. says:

    Well, first of all Murphy, if two Social Security numbers combined, that would make one REALLY LONG number, and no one would ever be able to remember it, effectively causing the immediate and total breakdown of society as we know it.

    Secondly, I don’t see that there’s any way Prop 8 is going to stand for long. The CA Supreme Court just ruled that it’s legal for homosexual couples to marry, and three lawsuits have already been filed in opposition to the ban.

  7. Brandon J. Carr says:

    One important distinction I’d like to make here is that while I hold in contempt a lot of religious groups, I’ve befriended many a person over the years whose spiritual views differ from mine (even if just dogmatically). I don’t think that every Christian is some crazy, conservative nutjob. But the actions I see taken by religious organizations or companies backed by religious organizations (the Salvation Army, for instance, refuses to hire homosexuals and threatened to close all NY-based soup kitchens if gay-rights initiatives stuck there) leaves me embittered.

    Matt, I’m with you on pretty much everything you laid out. And I appreciate you supporting the issue within a non-secular viewpoint. Because it comes down to an issue of love and people and that seems like something the Big Guy should be all about. Obviously, I’m no Bibletarian, but Jesus really dug the “judge not” approach.

    As we discussed outside of this post, the tax issue, while a concern, isn’t quite the money pit that it’s feared to be. Based on the number of homosexuals in this country, I can’t imagine the impact being too terribly devastating. And if that’s the price for an unprecedented level of equality, I’m all for it. And even that number reduces down ever further…it’s not like every gay person in America wants to get married all at once or even at all. I know of several gay couples who are perfectly fine with being unhitched partners. Hell, I know a lot of straight couples like that. HOLY CRAP, IT’S LIKE THEY’RE ALL JUST PEOPLE!

    Separation of church and state starts to blur when church can hold propagandic (real word now) sway because it has a lot of money to throw at a cause. To be fair, the opposition group wound up spending about the same amount as the pro-Prop 8 group…I mention that for the sake of full disclosure. But if not for the originators of Prop 8 putting everything into motion and for an overwhelming number of religious organizations from Catholics to Mormons to Jews backing it, it wouldn’t be a concern in the first place.

    And Jess, agreed that it will eventually be overturned (maybe), but it still stands that there was a moment in history that a majority of citizens in a state voted to strip people of rights. That stings.


  8. Seth says:

    There a many arguments against such a thing but I’ll try to be concise and focus on what I see as a crucial point.

    First, the whole undercurrent of this debate has a subtle but distinct bent to it. Like it or not, marriage, as a social agreement between a man and a woman, has been a foundational aspect of virtually every human society that man has record of. Adherence to and respect for this institution serves a multitude of functions like limiting quarreling over mates, compelling parents to care and provide for their own children so they don’t become a burden of society at large, and forming a well balanced unit by which said children can be reared and the species propagated, etc…

    Now considering that this is a long standing (eons) species wide (present in some for in most every society) tradition it is not the burden of those who wish this demonstrably successful institution (at least in a legal and governmental sense) to remain as it is to “prove” that it should. That not only turns western jurisprudence on it’s head it just doesn’t make common sense. The burden of presenting a persuasive and compelling argument lies on the shoulders of those who want to fundamentally alter it. Indignation, smears, and these “why not” slippery slope type arguments don’t come close to cutting it.

    That said, I have yet to hear a compelling argument for altering the legal definition of marriage and apparently neither have the majority of voting Californians. But then again I guess the democratic process is only valid when it works in your favor right?

    There are a lot of other things in your post I’d like to comment on but I’m supposed to be doing work right now. So I’ll limit it to your paragraph on “rights” being overturned. A law defining marriage as between a man and a woman was passed in 1977 and reaffirmed by referendum in 2000. The California Supreme Court arrogated power and basically ruled by fiat in giving legal standing “gay marriages” in the first place. That is where the violation of rights took place. But I guess it’s ok for a small group of judicial elitists to overrule the express will of the majority of the voting public as long as they’re ruling in your favor.

  9. john says:

    brilliant, brandon. i am impressed but not surprised. keep after the nonthinkers.

  10. Brandon J. Carr says:


    You can quote historical precedent all you want, but, relatively speaking, the majority of societies past represented a lack of equal rights in general and slavery as a matter of course. We see it still in less-progressive societies who repress their people based on race, gender, and other factors. One of the nice things about being American is that I’d like to think we’re kind of above all of that kind of bigoted, limiting thinking. However, as we see in your response, it still exists and while it is intelligent and strong-willed, it’s still limited and bigoted.

    And it’s the little pockets of “liberal elitists” that make the change happen. Were it not for those radical, uppity ladies at the turn of the century, women would still not be eligible to vote on the national level. But 144 years of American history happened before that moment as the nation dealt with an unhealthy, bent status quo. It took a redefinition of a woman’s place in society before it could happen and I’d like to think most people these days are fairly content with the outcome after 88 years. It’s been even less time since the strides of racial equality gave us the jumpstart to some kind of integrated society. When our parents were kids, black people sat at the backs of buses. That wasn’t too terribly long ago.

    So it takes time. And it takes effort to shake off the small-minded who clamor for the status quo. I know gay parents who care for the children who are cast off by the straight ones that can’t provide for them, so that argument is out. And, according to most studies, the number of homosexuals in the world isn’t going to pose a threat to the species at large. In an overly-populated world, I can’t see in any way, shape or form how letting gay people marry will suddenly toss us on to an endangered species list.

    I’ll agree that the average liberal does only cling tightly to the power of democracy when it swings in their favor. And I’m sure if Obama hadn’t won the election, there would be screams and shouts at the failures of the system. That’s not how I work. But when I see the system used to take from American society, I’m going to stand up against that. If America isn’t going to wake up on its own and change itself in the face of a changing world, I’m going to do my part to start setting alarms.


  11. Ryan says:


    You could make the exact same argument *against* women’s suffrage. There has been eons of tradition supporting the idea that a wife is akin to property and ought to be subjugated to her husband’s will. Women have long been prevented leadership positions and been referred to as the weaker sex, with their only acceptable roles being housekeeper, nanny, and sexual object. That’s been a longstanding tradition in countless cultures, sure. Does that make it right? Of course not.

    Claiming that something has been socially acceptable for a long time does not make it socially acceptable now.


  12. says:


    Thank you for your perfectly on-target post on both issues. I think it’s sad that some people who didn’t vote for Obama are trying to downplay the significance of it. They are missing out on history because of their bitterness and in some cases prejudice.

    On the Prop 8 issue:
    Brandon already articulately gave a compelling argument for altering the legal definition of marriage. In essence, it is that two people who love each other and want to commit to each other should be able to marry. Gay couples can do everything that you suggest marriage gives society: commitment to each other, parenting, forming a well-balance unit, and sometimes even propagation of the species, if not by traditional means. I sometimes here the whole “the species will die out if we let gay people marry.” That’s a bunch of bull. There have always been gay people, there will always be gay people. They just are gay, it’s not a choice, and it’s not caused by some ‘mistake’ their parents made in raising them or by the degradation of society. People should not have to hide who they are, and should not have to be denied love and the marriage that straight people enjoy just because of who they are. I think it would actually help stabilize our society more, if gay people are allowed to commit to these social contracts, which can take a higher level of commitment than simply living together.

    As for religion, yes, the constitution absolutely states separation of church and state. This is a nation of many religions, not just one, and also of many people who feel complete without a belief in God. Christians (and I’m speaking as a formerly fairly fundamentalist one) often forget that people are JUST AS valued in God’s eyes whether they’re ‘saved’ or not. A belief in God can be a great spiritual help to people, but let’s not forget that God speaks to people in many different ways, not just through the Christian faith. Christians believe that everyone should be saved, and as a way to help the unsaved (at best) or to prevent corruption of society (in their own view), try to prevent others from ‘sinning’ by encoding into law their own morals. But this is where religion gets mixed up in politics. I value people of faith, who often come with a high sense of integrity and love. However, this isn’t always the case, since they are just people (‘sinners’) like the rest of us. We should each allow our faith-based (or non-faith-based) morals to regulate our personal choices and behavior, but to force these religious morals onto others who have a different view of Life, the Universe, and Everything is crossing the constitutional line.

    And actually, I don’t think God considers homosexuality to be a sin. If He makes people gay, then there’s no way he would consider it a sin. I think it’s just something people are often uncomfortable with, so they like to rationalize it as a ‘sin’. Just like slavery used to be defended by the Christian church in our own nation. In the times of the Bible, slavery was more common. Genocide was even promoted in the Old Testament. But as a society, we have progressed beyond those things (at least in most parts of the world). I think most would agree that slavery and genocide are no longer considered okay by our society and the Christian church. It’s time for us to look at our prejudices and admit that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. It doesn’t harm anyone else, and why is someone else’s sexual life our business, anyway? I would be fairly offended if society decided it needed to regulate what my husband and I do in the bedroom. And, as girlysmack points out on Garcia’s page, men in the Bible have more than one wife, so why don’t we also legalize polygamy? Just like the slavery issue, we need to let our hearts lead us on this. Other people’s choices actually DON’T threaten your own choices. For a more complete Biblically-based discussion, I urge you to go to this link; it says it a lot better than I could.

  13. says:

    Just found this online. Slight tangent, concerning the hijack of the republican party by the religious right, but one part that caters to our conversation:

    “Does any reasonable person not believe that gays and lesbians deserve respect and equality? Not today’s Republican Party. Expert translators from Arabic have been dismissed for being gay. And applicants for the post of certified public accountants in the Iraq Green Zone have been asked about their view of Roe v. Wade.”

    Really? Are we allowing our government to discriminate against people based on religious moral opinions?

  14. Seth says:


    Unsurprisingly you ignored the crux of what I was expressing and resorted to the tired smears of “narrow minded” and “bigoted”, couched it in a paternal tone and delivered it with a practiced air of smug moral superiority. True, it’s more diplomatic than appeals to defunct religious principles and nonsensical chants of “god hates fags” but it’s judgmental, condescending and spurious all the same.

    The force of tradition and historical precedent is not dismissed by petulantly tossing out a few shopworn clichés about how bad things (by modern ethical standards) happened in the past and therefore historical precedent is invalid. Race has nothing to do with this. Women’s suffrage has nothing to do with this. Broadening the scope of the argument is a form of evasion. Nowhere did you counter that marriage has been a central institution in virtually every society, and you offered only a weak argument about knowing some gay couple who adopted a kid and pretended that that somehow invalidated my point about the importance of children being raised by their own parents and the importance of the societal structures that compel them to do so. Until recently adoption has carried a heavy stigma and it has always been considered a path of very last resort. It’s not an ingrained cultural institution where abandoned children are doled out indiscriminately on a first come first serve basis. It is a regrettable exception, not a given. The reason your “my gay friend” argument doesn’t hold water is that you seem to have mutated what I said (“Parents raising their own children is important”) into something absurd that you would have a canned response for (“Every single gay is utterly incapable of acting in some capacity as a parent”) and then spit out a pathetic dismissal (“I know a gay couple who adopted a kid, therefore that argument is ‘out’”). Typical straw man tactics and compelling only to the already indoctrinated. Same goes for the “Mass. Legalized gay ‘marriage’ and their society didn’t immediately collapse” nonsense. No reasonable person claimed that it would create instant anarchy and decay, yet you seem to think that because some people did actually claim that and that those people also happened to oppose gay “marriage” that it must follow that anyone who opposed gay marriage believes that. This isn’t abstract set theory. Invalidating the predictions of a small group within a larger group doesn’t invalidate the group as a whole. Try harder. You’re better than that.

    Marriage at the legal/governmental level is an agreement between a man and woman (the only pairing capable of producing offspring) and society. The man and woman agree to establish a family unit beneficial to themselves, their children and to society as whole as it ensures that it will continue on for another generation. True, not all men and women who enter into marriage care to or are capable of reproducing, but the key difference is that a man and woman entering into marriage reinforces society by perpetuating the institution of marriage (whether they reproduce or not) and alternative unions defined arbitrarily as marriage do not. In fact, they do the opposite. They reinforce the notion that marriage and family is simply some abstract construct formulated for egoistic gratification and a false sense of equality and not a crucial part of societal edification and perpetuation.

    On another note, the duty of law and government in our society is (ideally) to enforce equality under the law for a restricted set of circumstances. Equality under the law means equality of opportunity for the restricted set of functions that the government oversees. It is not the government’s job to enforce equality of outcome. Legally sanctifying something as equal when it clearly isn’t doesn’t solve any problems it just creates more. Passing a law declaring that you must have a BMI of 35 instead of 30 before you’re considered obese doesn’t change physical reality on iota. It may provide some psychological comfort to someone with a BMI of 30 who is tired of being “obese” but reality is unaltered and the comfort derived is completely false. Same goes for legally declaring gay couples as “married’. Barring the use of some ghastly reproductive science a human female and another human female cannot create a child. The same obviously goes for human males. Like with the obesity example all that occurs is a deprecation of the definition of the term.

    The more I consider it the clearer it becomes that what you’re aiming for is Orwellian both in scope and intent. Driven by facile intellectualism and an obtuse sense of equality you push forth with a myopic and doctrinaire confidence; Manipulating legal institutions against their express intent in order to impose a belief on a society that has rejected it repeatedly (en masse and through the democratic process) in order to arrogate and redistribute status to those who you think deserve it. Rock on comrade.

  15. Seth says:


    I never claimed that something being socially acceptable for a long time meant that it was right or that it is or should be socially acceptable now. I said that when considering “a long standing (eons) species wide (present in some for in most every society) tradition it is not the burden of those who wish this demonstrably successful institution (at least in a legal and governmental sense) to remain as it is to “prove” that it should”. You’re just oversimplifying what I said.

    Furthermore, you claim that the *exact* same argument can be made but: 1. You didn’t make the argument you just claimed that you could. 2. I don’t think you can make the *exact* same argument because beyond the passing resemblance of tradition and notions of equality the issues don’t have much in common. 3. I think what you’re going for is argument ad absurdum, and if it is you didn’t make it.

    If I had claimed that:
    All tradition is good and shouldn’t change;
    Marriage as presently defined is a tradition;
    Therefore marriage as presently defined should never change;

    Then yes, you could say that lack of suffrage is a tradition that isn’t good (along with a litany of other examples) and probably make a compelling case that the above argument doesn’t hold water. However, that’s not at all what I said. It’s just what you reduced my argument to.

    Though it’s off the subject I can’t help but comment on the somewhat feminist view of history you espoused. I’m not going to try to make a long winded argument against it just offer up a few observations. Take them as you will:

    1. From an evolutionary standpoint men, as a class, have consistently gotten the raw end of the deal. Recent genetic studies (I’ll try to find the link) show that 80% of women throughout our species history have successfully mated whereas only 40% of men have. Meaning women have, throughout history, been twice as likely to ‘succeed’ from an evolutionary standpoint and pass on their genes.

    2. While it’s true that men are typically far more prevalent in positions of power than women they’re also far more prevalent among the ranks of criminals, junkies and the homeless.

    3. When the Titanic sank a higher percentage of female 3rd class passengers survived than did their 1st class male counterparts. In other words, in a life or death emergency, the lives of women of the lowest social order were still valued more than the lives of the men at the top of the heap.

  16. Robyn says:

    I didn’t read most of it, because I don’t care about politics/ they make me ridiculously angry. But good job on Finally posting.

  17. David C. Garcia » Gay Marriage is not a Liberal Issue or a Conservative Issue, it is a Civil Rights Issue says:

    [...] write this, there is a very thought-provoking back-and-forth going on at Brandon’s website.  I encourage you to go over there and chip in.  Regardless of your opinions on the gay-marriage issue, I think you should [...]

  18. Steve says:

    No one is arguing that marriage is not a long standing social tradition. But as with other traditions it will have to adapt to a changing society. Expanding the argument to compare gay rights to the rights of African-Americans and women is not an evasion. It’s a legitimate comparison. To deny the comparison is to justify the narrow minded and bigoted reaction that you and so many others have. All you’ve offered are justifications to maintain a status quo. Women and African Americans being granted basic rights is a sign we are moving toward the goal of equality. It may be a slow trudge, but we are moving forward.

    If we want to honor the founders of our nation we need to address this issue. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” We have failed. What of the promise to allow people “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is what Chief Justic Warren had to say on the matter of marriage, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

    As to your claim “that a man and woman entering into marriage reinforces society by perpetuating the institution of marriage (whether they reproduce or not) and alternative unions defined arbitrarily as marriage do not.” I do not see how denying someone the right to marry benefits society. I do see that denying anyone rights based on their sexual preference is clearly discrimination. It is time for the definition of marriage to adapt. I’ve been married for 8 years, and I am not going to have to turn in my marriage license if the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered community are allowed to marry. Instead I see anyone getting married as a boost to society. By allowing members of the gay community to marry, they will see they are not being treated as second class citizens. You may not like (and you don’t have to), but they are queer, they’re here, and it’s time we treated them as any other American.

  19. IAFC says:

    Steve, you rock.

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