Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Prop 8



I know some don't like Keith Olbermann, folks I respect, like my dad. I know some absolutely despise him, folks I like, like Thom Zahler.

This special comment, offered not with the usual anger (which I love, quite honestly) but with a sincerity and a genuine hurt that maps almost exactly to how I feel about this puzzling, backwards anti-gay marriage, forgive me but there is no other word *bullshit*, is exactly why I like Olbermann.

Like Olbermann, I have no personal stake in this. I don't have any close gay friends that I can think of, just gay acquaintances. No one in my family, at least no one that I know of, is gay. I've never been to a gay wedding, I don't see any invitations in my future. On a personal level, this affects me not at all.

But on a basic human rights level, the notion that we should treat a group of human beings as other, just disgusts me. If you voted yes on Prop 8 or one of its compatriots, if you would vote yes on a ban on gay marriage, then part of you is a bigot, and you need to deal with that part. Really examine why this is so important, really examine how much of a difference there is between laws preventing gay marriage and the laws that, until the late '60s, prevented mixed race couples from marrying. The same arguments were used then, that allowing mixed race marriages would change the definition of marriage, would destroy the institution.

We've managed to simultaneously move the country forward one giant leap and yet stumble backward several important steps. And as happy as many of us are about President Obama, it's hard to celebrate when that election also came with this awful, dehumanizing price for so many.

7 comments:

Nate Southard said...

Complete agreement here.

Jim B. said...

I also watched Olbermann's comment last night. I was moved by how saddened, rather than angered, he was at this whole mess. As you point out, how can this nation move so far forwards and backwards on the same day?

I do have close friends and family who are gay. And, like Randy, I'm married with two kids. Marriage is a lovely institution, and it has peaks and valleys like any other endeavor -- reading comics, having a job, participating in politics.

How can anyone believe that offering the right to take part in this institution weakens that institution for anyone else?!? My marriage is no stronger or weaker for the number of divorces in a given month or year. My marriage would be no weaker if my gay friends or cousins were able to marry their longtime companions. How anyone can believe otherwise still baffles me.

Note: In some media outlets, African Americans in California are taking quite a hit for voting for Prop 8. Allow me to point out that the proposition would have passed without their support. The residents of the state as a whole need to look at their own consciences.
Millions of California voters checked both the "Obama" box AND the "Yes" box on Prop 8. The cognitive dissonance of these votes have to be addressed. You, Obama/Prop 8 voter, simultaneously chose to take this country in a new, more positive direction, AND chose to amend your state's constitution to DENY civil rights to many of your neighbors. A killing blow against racism, and a crushing victory for homophobia. Any psychologists or Californians who can explain this to me, please feel free.

Peace,
Jim

M. Robert Turnage said...

I actually agree with you, but, for the sake of being a devil's advocate...

1) What are you, a monarchist? This is democracy in action. Democracy doesn't mean you get your way all the time. Democracy means everyone gets a voice. The people have spoken and a state constitutional amendment was passed. No, it is not optimal, but it is better than any of the alternatives. If your ideas are right, give it time. Be patient and don't think that becoming sad or angry about it is enough. Because the emotion will burn out before the next election cycle. Be confident your ideas are right. Build a bridge to the people who can be swayed, and then get the legislation repealed. That is the beauty of democracy.

2) As a Texas resident, you cannot do anything about California state law. If you sign a petition, the California state government won't pay attention. If you go to a protest rally or blog about it, you are satisfying your own emotional needs about the issue, but you aren't doing anything to solve the issue.

3) What are the advantages of marriage over civil unions from a government perspective? I am sure there are plenty, but no one has provided an adequate response. With civil unions, you file your taxes the same way, you can get on each others insurance, and be considered a relative when visiting a hospital. From strictly a government perspective, what else is there besides the name? Please educate me on this one, because I honestly don't know.

4) Can someone have a contrary opinion on the issue without being called a "bigot" and a "homophobe"? Seriously, this reminds me of a certain campaign that used the words "terrorist" and "socialist" to describe people who disagreed with them. The conviction that your ideas are right should be enough to win over people. There is no need to insult them.

Now that it out of the way, let me restate - I agree with you. I think two consenting adults in love should be able to express their love in whatever way possible without government interference. If gay people want to be married then they should be married. I am frustrated with the grousing I see on the internet which I perceive to be not practical. This is a state government issue and should be handled by the state of California. If there are lawyers drafting new legislation then give them money.

This is going to be a really difficult issue to overturn because it was passed by a popular vote and was on the ballot in the first place to override a state Supreme Court ruling. The only thing that will change this is another popular vote.

It is time to build a bridge and win because your ideas are better.

Jim B. said...

1. I have no problem with democracy. My problem is only with groups who believe that some Americans, by accident of birth, deserve fewer rights than I have. Look at our history: Constitutional amendments (almost) always provide rights to those who were previously disenfranchised in one way or another: Non-landowners, then black people, women, the handicapped, and on and on. It is hardly an assault on democracy to point out this fact, and that Californians have strayed from these precedents.

2. I am a resident of North Carolina, about as much a bastion of liberalism as Texas. That said, the difference between marriage and civil unions, which took me about two minutes to Google, is largely a matter of state borders. A civil union which is legally binding in Vermont is null and void in New Hampshire. Those marriages consecrated in California for residents of other states are now in a legal limbo. If those married couples are not fortunate enough to live in a state which recognizes civil unions, those couples are now out of luck.
Conversely, if a straight 17-year-old boy wants to marry a straight 17-year-old girl, but their home state's age of majority is 18, they can marry in a neighboring state where the majority age is lower. They are now a legally married couple in their home state, which would not allow them to marry in the first place.
The difference in these cases is that by statute, "marriage" is recognized across state lines. "Civil unions" are not. That's the bottom line.

I hear you say, so what? Well...

3. Here are some of the legal rights that married couples have and gays and lesbians are denied:

1. Joint parental rights of children
2. Joint adoption
3. Status as "next-of-kin" for hospital visits and medical decisions
4. Right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains
5. Immigration and residency for partners from other countries
6. Crime victims recovery benefits
7. Domestic violence protection orders
8. Judicial protections and immunity
9. Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
10. Public safety officers death benefits
11. Spousal veterans benefits
12. Social Security
13. Medicare
14. Joint filing of tax returns
15. Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
16. Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner or children
17. Child support
18. Joint Insurance Plans
19. Tax credits including: Child tax credit, Hope and lifetime learning credits
20. Deferred Compensation for pension and IRAs
21. Estate and gift tax benefits
22. Welfare and public assistance
23. Joint housing for elderly
24. Credit protection
25. Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

These are just a few of the 1400 state and federal benefits that gays and lesbians are denied by not being able to marry. Most of these benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for within the legal system.

4. "Bigot" and "homophobe" are loaded words, true. Try absorbing the following thought process:

I am heterosexual/ white/ able-bodied. I see people over there who are not. They are different from me. I don't think it's proper that those people should have the same rights I do. I am going to take action to see that those people do not have the same rights I do.

This is admittedly, over-simplified and without nuance. But those who voted for Prop 8 must have gone through a sequence of logic like this, and come to this conclusion. This is only assuming any logic was involved, rather than a knee-jerk "I don't like fags and dykes" mindset. Either way, the resulting action is commensurate with that which a bigot or a homophobe would do.

I do believe change can come from letters to the editor, letters to Congressional representatives, and yes, even blog postings. I am hopeful that gay men and lesbians will eventually have the same rights I do, but I know nothing will change when people who agree with me, and with you, are silent, or when they blame the structure of the American democratic republic for the poor judgment of some of its citizens.

Randy said...

Note: In some media outlets, African Americans in California are taking quite a hit for voting for Prop 8. Allow me to point out that the proposition would have passed without their support.

That's true, and a worthy point. But I think the reason African Americans are being singled out is because the stats show that 70% (!) voted Yes on Prop 8. 70% of a people who have been subjected to 200 years or more of prejudice, in an act that once and for all affirms how far we come, vote simultaneously *not* to extend that branch of equality to another group.

It looks hypocritical, to say the least. I'd go so far as to call it shameful.

I actually agree with you, but, for the sake of being a devil's advocate...

Y'know... I can argue both sides of many issues. The environment vs. industrial growth, anti-smoking vs. freedom of choice, gun control vs. the second amendment, even pro-life vs. pro-choice. It's not that I don't have strong views one way or the other, it's that in most cases, I can see the other point-of-view, find a reasonable point there even if I don't agree with it.

I extend no such courtesy to the anti-gay marriage folks. It's an irrational, cruel position, and fuck them. They don't deserve devil's advocates. Their position should not be dignified by arguing for it, even in the abstract. Because all that does is grant them the ability to justify their viewpoint. I don't want to give them that luxury. You want to be against gay marriage, hey, it's a free country. But I want you to fully realize what it means that you're against gay marriage.

1) What are you, a monarchist? This is democracy in action. Democracy doesn't mean you get your way all the time. Democracy means everyone gets a voice.

This is true. You might notice that this post is my expressing my voice. ;) As you note, I don't get to vote on this proposition. In fact, in Texas, even though I *do* get a vote, I'm completely outnumbered by those who hate gays and have no problem admitting it, never mind hiding behind some bullshit religious justifications.

But I don't buy into your premise that to talk about this is a waste of time. I have neither the money to contribute in any significant amount to a lawsuit or the free time to go and campaign for the issue in California. What I have time for is to talk about it on my blog, which has a decent-sized readership. And no, I'm not going to convince those who have already decided on this issue, especially with what is often a belligerent tone. But I would hope that some folks who respect my opinions in other areas might consider what I'm saying in this one, and along with similar criticism and analysis from other folks, they might start to reconsider their positions.

I believe this can work because it has worked on me. I was pro capital punishment for a long time, until I saw just how many people I respected were completely against it. So I changed my mind.

Be patient and don't think that becoming sad or angry about it is enough. Because the emotion will burn out before the next election cycle.

I've been angry about this issue for 16 years. It's not going away. Dispassionate intellectualism is great for debate, but don't underestimate the power that anger or frustrated sadness can have in motivating social change.

3) What are the advantages of marriage over civil unions from a government perspective?

Irrelevant. Even if it's the same in everything but name, it is, de facto, separate but equal. Which means not equal. Either everyone gets civil unions or everyone gets marriage, or there's an injustice at work.

4) Can someone have a contrary opinion on the issue without being called a "bigot" and a "homophobe"?

No. Not on this issue. If you want to deny the rights to a group of people, or worse, take them away as the Californians who voted yes on Prop 8 did, than you need to own the responsibility for it.

Seriously, this reminds me of a certain campaign that used the words "terrorist" and "socialist" to describe people who disagreed with them.

I respectfully disagree. The words "terrorist" and "socialist" were being thrown around with no regard for their actual definition. Here is the definition of bigotry:

1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

Is that not accurate? To me, this seems like a case of "if the shoe fits."

The conviction that your ideas are right should be enough to win over people. There is no need to insult them.

These people used the power of their vote to cause deliberate, willful injury to their fellow man. Slinging a few insults their way is the least they deserve.

Look, I know we're all supposed to forgive and forget, forge forward in a bipartisan spirit, but... some things deserve to be remembered. In all too many cases, especially with liberal causes, compromise has meant surrender. Compromise has to come from both sides, and calling these people bigots is much more conciliatory than what they've been willing to offer to the gay community.

This is a state government issue and should be handled by the state of California.

See, I don't believe this is a state government issue. This is a larger moral issue. It's kind of like our war in Iraq, or the response to Katrina... we can throw up our hands and admit that there's nothing we can do about it, but that doesn't mean we give up our right to talk about it, in the hopes that our voices will reach those who *can* do something about it.

Suzanne said...

It is an issue with the state of California that we don't agree with. Whether we can or should affect their decision directly has nothing to do with whether we can or should agree or disagree.

In practice, couples in a civil union don't tend to get all the rights they're promised as easily as couples who are married. There's often more paperwork and red tape for things like hospital visitation rights and adoption. You have to deal with the biases of people, misunderstanding of the law, etc.

Like with education, separate but equal is rarely truly equal. If it was no one would feel the need for the separation.

Personally I'd like to see the government hand out nothing but civil unions to anyone. No more marriage licenses. Couples can decide whether, how, where and through what institution they want to be married without government involvement. Anything conferred legally through the state should be separate.

Elayne said...

I agree, well done. It's not the usual sort of thing for pundits to talk about stuff like love. Doesn't jibe with all those maacho factoids and breast-beatings. So when one of them shows what I think is the proper emphasis on one of life's driving forces, folks sit up and take heed. He also downplayed his delivery pretty nicely.