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)