After the election, it's time for a political post! Everyone else is doing it...
So firstly, it's not at all surprising, but it's certainly heartening to see Obama elected. I'm not going to spend any time talking about the significance of a black president because you've read that fifteen times over - I just wanted to give him a nod before moving on.
Of course, more was decided than just the presidency. More than a third of the senate was up for election, and democrats expanded their majority in both houses of congress. I myself would have liked to see democrats get a filibuster-proof 60 senators, but I'm willing to concede that it might actually be just as well that they didn't (or seem certain not to at this point). Yes, I actually believe in pluralism and all that jazz, and bringing Republicans into the innovative "sane government" strategy is going to be very important to securing the future of American democracy.
But congress isn't really what I want to talk about, either. I want to talk about Proposition 8, the real downer of the evening. For those who don't know, Proposition 8 is a proposed amendment to the California constitution that would ban gay marriage. Even though San Francisco is one of the most liberal cities in the country, much of inland California is conservative, and many liberals in California are also religious enough to vote yes on proposition 8 even while voting Obama into office (who officially opposes prop 8).
As I suggested above, I am a pluralist, and I fully support the right of people to hold whatever beliefs suit their fancy. However, in this country marriage carries with it legal as well as social benefits, which makes it fairly clear that this is a civil rights issue - a minority of the population is being denied legal rights by virtue of personal characteristics that have no impact on the rights of the majority.
That said, there actually is another reasonable side in the debate - it's possible to be for gay rights without being for gay marriage, and it's a not a separate-but-equal copout. Part of the problem is that marriage is a religious concept for many people. A marriage is a religious ceremony, and typically takes place in a church (or other religious structure). Then isn't it fair to say that denying gays the right to marriage is itself a right - the right to freedom of religion? I say sure, but that carries with it a cost, for if marriage is a religious issue, then it isn't the role of government to be dictating who can and can't marry in the first place.
So the obvious solution (well, obvious to me) is to get rid of marriage as a legal status altogether. All of the rights now associated with marriage would be instead associated with domestic partnerships (or whatever we want to call them), all current marriages between individuals are immediately converted to such partnerships (so married couples aren't affected at all), and marriages are purely understood to be religious affairs, meaning that any church is free to decide who it will or won't marry (and can even offer special marraiges or super marriages if they want - I really don't care). While we're at it, we won't just define a domestic partnership to include same-sex couples, but to include any group of people who are close enough to extend rights concerning themselves to the other members - so if a pair of close friends or siblings lived together, they could function as a family unit like a husband and wife can. After all, why should a sexual relationship between partners be a prerequisite for what amounts (when you remove the religious terminology) to a legal contract about sharing rights and resources?
Of course, at this point I've gone far enough to be considered radical, even though I maintain that this solution should please everyone. Religious individuals get to hold onto their religious freedom, churches GAIN religious freedom by not having their right to perform religious ceremonies restricted by the government, and currently unmarried family units gain equal legal rights. If everyone gets what they want, what's the problem?
The problem is that anyone claiming that "religious freedom" is their reason for wanting to ban gay marriage is lying. They don't want religious freedom. They want theocracy. They're not voting for prop 8 to defend themselves from anything - they're voting for prop 8 to make the lives of other citizens worse (as punishment for their devious behavior). This will seem obvious to many, but it's also important to point out (again and again), because words do make a difference. It's easier to argue that you're "pro-life" than to argue that you're for throwing women who have abortions in jail. It's easier to argue that we should teach the flaws in evolution than it is to argue that we should teach religion in science class. It's easier to argue that we should "protect marriage" than to argue that we should "punish heretics."
We need to take hold of the language if we want to take hold of the culture. Here's a short list of terms we should adopt:
Liberal > Progressive
Conservative > Regressive
Global Warming > Global Climate Change
Intelligent Design > Creationism
Pro-life > Anti-choice
Same-sex Marriage > The Rights of Families
P.S. To everyone who reads this for my posts on video games, consider posts like this "bonus posts," or if you prefer, "sidequests."