Lies about Prop 8, Part I
posted by Kaimipono D. Wenger
Jaya’s post examines the issue on a micro level — should a Proposition 8 opponent allow a misperception to go uncorrected, in order to support their political goals?
But really, the same story plays out on a much larger scale. This is not limited to either camp; I’m sure that lies have happened on both sides of the debate. Politics brings out the worst in many people. However, one thing that has particularly bothered me as a Californian this election season has been the systematic dissemination of lies and misinformation by Prop 8 proponents.
This election has seen a number of specific, legal claims made about Prop 8 and gay marriage:
Churches will be closed. Ministers will be jailed. Gay marriage will be taught to kindergarteners as “just as good as traditional marriage.” Adoption agencies will be forced to kowtow to gay couples. Churches will be forced to perform gay weddings, contrary to their doctrine. Photographers will be forced to chronicle gay weddings. Churches will lose their tax exemptions. I’ve heard every one of these (often in multiple iterations) from friends and associates who support the proposition. And to top it off, of course, cute little girls will be sent home with copies of _King and King_. “Think it can’t happen?,” asks one commercial. “Think again!”
It is true, of course, that the _Marriage Cases_ opinion had some legal effects, and that Prop 8, if it passes, will have some legal effects as well. That said, it seems clear that a number of greatly exaggerated, misleading, or downright dishonest legal claims are being advanced by Prop 8 proponents. This is particularly disappointing since some of these arguments are being made by individuals linked to religious organizations which have a stated institutional commitment to honesty and integrity as a religious value.
Now, I have no doubt that a number of laypeople make these arguments in good faith. Still, they are ultimately making legal arguments, and these arguments come from somewhere. It appears that they come from lawyers who support the proposition, and who are willing to mislead in order to advance their political views. And these arguments are circulated by often well-meaning, but underinformed laypeople — laypeople who will be voting next week.
Let’s look at a few of these claims. We’ll start with the religious freedom claims.
These claims are certainly attention grabbers. It would be reasonable to be concerned if the Marriage Cases opinion actually forced churches to change their doctrines. But nothing in the _Marriage Cases_ decision will result in forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages in their churches or temples. In fact, the court opinion itself says exactly the opposite. The court states directly that Section 4 of the California Constitution would prevent that from happening. The _Marriage Cases_ majority opinion actually states:
“No religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 4.)”
This statement is linked to the court’s holding, too, so it won’t easily change. That is, it is partially _because_ no church will be forced to perform same-sex marriages, that the court comes out the way it does; if it were otherwise, the court would have had to examine that interest, in its strict scrutiny analysis.
So the _Marriage Cases_ opinion does not force churches to perform same-sex weddings. Nor will it result in churches being shut down if they oppose same sex marriage. Thus, claims that the decision will close churches or force priests or bishops to perform gay weddings, are flat-out wrong. That claim is one of the more pernicious lies about Prop 8.
Up Next: Antidiscrimination, Hate Speech, Taxes, and Education