Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Signs of the Proposition 8 Debate

I submitted this letter to the editors of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Scotts Valley Banner, and I figured that readers of my blog might want to read it as well. NOTE: This letter refers to California Proposition 8, which changes the state constitution to define marriage strictly as the union of a man and a woman. Reading between the lines, you'll catch a hint of some of the debates (and some commonality, too) in my own home on this contentious issue.


To the editor:

I have observed the public response to Jenny Wood's Santa Cruz Sentinel article (Prop. 8 does not take rights away from gay couples -- see also comments) from a unique perspective, as her spouse. At the outset, let me provide just a bit more context. I know Jenny, I love Jenny, and I disagree with her entirely.

Government should no more define marriage than a church should define municipal boundaries. The spheres are, or ought to be, distinct. And given the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, neither federal nor state governments should set about defining social relationships -- say "marriage" vs. "civil unions" -- as being separate but equal. Therefore I stand with those who will vote against Proposition 8. But only to a point.

Where I differ from my friends who resist Prop 8, beyond my disgust at the occasional vitriol heaped (usually from the protective anonymity of the internet) upon my spouse, a person of good will and good character, is the choice by some partisans to tear down Pro-Prop 8 signs. I see it on a daily basis. Pro Prop-8 signs put up in the morning are stolen, torn, shredded, or just knocked over within hours, while adjacent signs are left standing. And not just in one spot, but in several places near where I live. This happens each and every day.

Hey, you, tearing down the signs. What are you thinking?

You advocate understanding, and yet you tear down a piece of political speech because it offends you? You resist a government that would unreasonably restrict the most personal form of expression, a declaration of marriage, and yet you would deprive a fellow American her or his right to express an alternative opinion? Where's the much vaunted open-mindedness in that?

Here's what those of us who reject Prop 8 should do: We should march, we should protest, we should write letters, and we should passionately argue with those on the other side. And on November 4th, we should vote this proposition down. But we should never, never attack their signs, any more than we would attack their bodies. After all, tearing down a campaign sign isn't "freedom of speech." Quite the opposite, it is theft of speech. It's as entirely wrong as those who would deprive some people the right to marry simply because of their sexuality. It's un-American.

If you really believe in tolerance, leave the signs alone.

(Photographs by Jenny Wood)


Carol said...

I would love to read your wife's article, but it seems as though the link is not working.

I refuse to get into a debate over Prop 8. My students have tried, friends have tried, family has tried, but I flat out refuse, even with those I agree with. The decision about Prop 8 is a personal one that people make for many many reasons. Either way I vote, I ABSOLUTELY agree with you 100% about what you have written here, and I CANNOT emphasize that enough!!!! Whether someone is a supporter of a prop, rejects it, or is indifferent, there is NEVER a reason to get so violently angry that one silences another by actions or by words. Well said Andy!

Andrew Wood said...

Yep, I posted a bad link - and have now fixed it.

Thanks for your comments, Carol.

Even while folks of good will may disagree on this issue, I'm glad we agree on the need to protect free speech.

Reamworks said...

NO on 8 is gaining! Perhaps that's because some Evangelical Ministers are starting to tell people to vote NO on Proposition 8

Also, shouldn't Christians be more concerned about the Parental Notification initiative? I think California Christians have been bamboozled by out-of-state special interests.

Andrew Wood said...

Thanks for your post, "Reamworks," though I must add that the NO on Proposition 8 link you include rests on anti-Mormon fear-mongering with which I share no agreement.

Ed Buczek said...

Great comments from both you and Jenny. Although a similar prop is not on the Georgia ballot I have notice similar behavior with political signs. Here's the latest
During our primary, the current sheriff had his deputies go out (in uniform) and remove his opponent's signs. Fortunately it pissed people off enough and the GOB (Good Ole Boy) was voted out of office. It is a sad commentary when we can no longer have civil discussions regarding our political views with friends and neighbors without being ridiculed or worse. Ed