Saving gay marriage in California

Concentrate on the cruelty of retroactively *un-marrying* thousands of people.

There’s irony in the fact that the three groups spending money to defeat gay marriage in California are Mormons, fundamentalists, and conservative Catholics (as represented by the Knights of Columbus).

The fundamentalists think that Mormons and Catholics aren’t actually Christians, and that therefore they’re going to Hell. The Catholics think the fundamentalists are heretics and the Mormons either heretics or non-Christians, and that therefore they’re going to Hell. I’m less clear on Mormon theology, but if I understand correctly they believe that non-Mormons, including fundamentalists and Catholics, aren’t doing what it takes to get into Heaven but that they can be retroactively converted, and thereby saved, when their descendants become Mormons. (In my view, all three groups can go to Hell, but that’s a different problem.)

But they’ve spent enough money, and told enough lies (Did you know that if the proposition is defeated, California public schools will proselytize in favor of gay marriage? And that churches that refuse to marry same-sex couples could lose their tax exemptions? No? Then you haven’t been watching your TV) to put the proposition within an ace of carrying.

Confusingly, a “No” vote is a vote to retain marriage rights for gays; if the opposition had a rich enough campaign fund and low enough morals, they could win by flooding conservative areas of the state with last-minute robo-calls and fliers encouraging people to “Vote No on gay marriage.” But I know they don’t have the financial resources to match their opponents, and I doubt that they can match their cynical ruthlessness either.

Several people have noticed that the current pro-marriage campaign ads are remarkably lame, while the bigots’ ads are technically excellent, in a rather demonic way.

Actually, it’s not hard to figure out which side God is on in a campaign where one side is lying and the other is telling the truth. I don’t see how any Christian could imagine that ads containing flat-out falsehoods are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, one might suspect a different source entirely. Can you say “Father of Lies”? I thought you could.

However, as Screwtape tells his nephew, God is simply no match for Satan when it comes to practical propaganda.

As far as I know, all of the pro-marriage arguments are prospective, arguing that it’s not fair to put barriers in the way of marrying the one you love. It’s a good argument, but perhaps not persuasive to the swing voters. What pro-marriage ads might be effective?

I haven’t seen any mention yet of the fact that if the amendment passes it will retroactively un-marry thousands of people. (More than 11,000 couples, by one not-very-reliable estimate.) My guess is that there are voters who don’t support same-sex marriage as an abstract proposition, but who would be moved by the sheer cruelty of cancelling vows already made.

(You might even call it “un-Christian,” if by “Christian” you meant “according to the ideas expressed in the Gospels.” The attitude behind such actions – denying that married people are actually married if one disapproves of their marriages – is not, alas, unprecedented among actual Christian clergy. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Rogers, the first Anglican priest burned at the stake for heresy under Mary Tudor, asked to bid his wife farewell before his execution. Lord Chancellor [and Bishop] Stephen Gardiner responded coldly, “He is a priest. He has no wife.”)

The ad I imagine would show dozens of wedding photos – concentrating on older couples and on women, since it’s young gay men who pose the greatest cultural threat to the Red-minded – with a voice-over by one couple explaining what it would mean to them to have their vows of lifetime fidelity cancelled by the voters. I’d conclude with a video of the end of a wedding service, with the preacher intoning, “Those whom God has joined, let no man put asunder.”

Update A reader writes:

I just persuaded an extremely right-wing relative not to vote “yes” on Prop. 8 by pointing out that precisely the same groups of people who would like to undo all those gay marriages would also be happy to arrange for him to wake up on Nov. 5 no longer married to his current wife. He was divorced when he married her.

To my surprise, he found this point powerful enough that it changed his vote.

Right. As to Biblical literalism, R. Yeshua bar Miriam isn’t recorded as expressing any opinion about same-sex marriage, but is credited (once in Mark and again in Matthew) with a furious denunciation of divorce and divorced persons who re-marry:

The Gospel According to St. Mark, Ch. 10, vv. 2-12:

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away [his] wife? tempting him.

And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put [her] away.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;

And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same [matter].

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Naturally, most of the folks voting for Prop. 5 are also voting for an unrepentent adulterer for President. You have to love selective literalism.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: