Friday, November 14, 2008

Prop 8 and the Right to Vote Your Conscience

Here's a no-brainer: The people who voted in support of Prop 8 and the people who voted in opposition to it disagree.

Here's a partial-brainer: Both sides who are party to this disagreement are convinced that their inalienable rights are or would be violated in the event the other side prevails.

Here's a full-brainer: This disagreement extends beyond what is inherent in the proposition itself to what either side subjectively believes will happen if their side does not prevail.

Here's an open-brainer: Both sides are fully convicted in their positions because those positions spring from deeply held, core beliefs. Personal identity issues are involved in both sides, and neither side has a monopoly on being right. The only thing people on either side have a monopoly on is being right according to their own value system.

Democracy isn't perfect, but it does provide a process for resolution in situations where two parties (both endowed with inalienable rights) hold positions so diametrically opposed to one another that mutal agreement or some form of compromise cannot be reached. That time-honored process, known as "free elections," affords every American citizen the right to vote his or her conscience.

I realize that many gay people view same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, and I respect their position. I would simply ask and expect that gay people respect my belief in return, as well as my right to hold it. Such respect for others is what living in a free country is all about, and my religion is no less intrinsically a part of my core identity than sexual preference is theirs. Any perceived violation of my rights is no less a civil rights issue than perceived violation of theirs.

Here is the definition of civil rights, as taken from Webster's dictionary: "the nonpolitical rights of a citizen; especially: the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to United States citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments of the Constitution and by acts of Congress."

The following is a more detailed definition borrowed from a web site for state attorneys: "A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another, gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude, and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class [author's note: whether Gay or Mormon]. Statutes have been enacted to prevent discrimination based on a person's race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin and in some instances, sexual preference."

My point? Religion and the unencumbered practice of it are protected under civil rights law, too. Honorable people on both sides of this issue feel that their vote on Proposition 8 is a vote to protect their civil rights. Both sides deserve respect, whether or not they agree with one another. Both sides deserve the right to vote their conscience, without fear of retribution.

Do we really want a country where voters are threatened and intimidated to the extent that they do not feel free to exercise their right to vote with equanimity and without reprisal? Should people's livelihood be threatened because of the way they voted on a controversial issue? Should their sacred places of worship be violated? Should their names be blacklisted? If such things are condoned, are we not all demeaned by their acceptance? What group or group of voters will be next? Can democracy ultimately survive such actions taken against citizens exercising their right to vote? The answer, to any fair-minded person, is clear. Both sides should have the grace to abide by the election results, and if they disagree with them, they have every right to use the democratic process to address their concerns.

We are Americans, every one of us, and the level of freedom we enjoy is a blessing we sometimes take for granted. Will we live up to our privileges? I hope and believe that the answer is yes. When we disagree, as we inevitably will, surely our charge as free citizens of a great democratic nation is to respect the process...and the people participating in matter what their vote. No one's civil right should, in and of itself, trump another's. In cases where such conflict is unavoidable, the only fair compromise is the historic one: Let the majority rule.


Adhis said...

Oooh... good post!

Christine said...

I believe the question is (and this will probably never be solved):
WHO can define WHAT a civil right is.
Because some supreme court justices defined "marriage" as a civil right, the no on 8 community believes voting on this issue is a mute point.
If, however, you see "marriage" as a social institution set up to further societal is necessary to make a distinctive definition of it and to encourage individuals to act to preserve it.
I like the book by David Blankenhorn, "The Future of Marriage", in which these aspects are discussed along with the historical definitions of marriage.

Sue said...

Yep, that's definitely the crux of the problem, Christine. But if No on 8 supporters are convinced that adjudicating marriage is the province of the Court and that voting by the populace is a moot point, I can't help but question the efficacy of their harassing those voters who voiced their disagreement in a statewide election. Regardless of how all this pans out, it's clear that their energies could be directed in a more productive direction, for them and for others.

Natalie said...

I found you on Segullah. I have not read anything more well-written on this topic...and like so many others, I have read a lot about this lately. You have addressed the issues beautifully, and I appreciate your words. Could I have permission to put your post on my blog, with a link to your blog as well?

Sue said...

Sure, Natalie...feel free. (And thanks for your comment!)

Natalie said...

I wrote about you Sue! :)

Becky said...

Very enlightening, Sue! Great post.

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