LOS ANGELES - As a child of the '50s and '60s, I'm well aware of what bigotry is. I remember when I was in third grade, traveling to Clearwater, Florida with my parents, and stopping along the route in the Carolinas, Georgia and parts of Florida and seeing restroom signs that said "Whites Only."
Here's a simple rule: When you decide that some person, because of his/her skin color, religion or sexual orientation, deserves fewer rights than you have (assuming you yourself aren't a member of a discriminated class - and sometimes, even if you are), then you're a bigot.
So it's been with particular interest that I've been reading about how the most populous state in the union, the one with the third-most land area, the one whose population is more than one-third Hispanic (many of whom have some experience with discrimination), could both vote overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama for President, and yet through a slim majority pass Proposition 8, which would remove the right of gay people to get married.
Make no mistake: When it comes to bigotry, Gay is the new Black.
So I thought, as an exercise, I'd find one of the many pro-Prop 8 screeds that are out there on the Web and see how tough it would be to just change a word here or there to transform it into a polemic against another type of marriage that used to be illegal.
And wouldn't'cha know, just today I saw one on National Review Online, from Jennifer Roback Morse , who styles herself "Your Coach for the Culture Wars." A lapsed Catholic who got her doctorate during her freedom-from-religion period, she eventually "found Jesus" again when she found she couldn't seem to get pregnant. But apparently, God intervened, and she gave birth to a daughter shortly after she and her husband adopted a Romanian boy. She's also recorded a workshop on CD, "Smart Sex," which tells you, among other things, "Why Smart Sex means more than not getting pregnant and dodging STD's"; "Why Dumb Sex is superficially appealing, but has disasters lurking beneath the surface"; "The difference between Consumer Sex and Organic Sex"; and of course, "Why Hooking up is for losers."
Anyway, here's what Morse might have said 40 or so years ago, before the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia:
I can hardly believe the campaign for Proposition 8, the California White Marriage Amendment, is over and that we won. I will miss the cheerful yellow signs with their happy blue family people on them.
Now that it is over, it is worthwhile to reflect on the significance of what the Protect White Marriage coalition achieved. The people of California did not do anything rash or drastic here. They simply voted to enshrine the definition of natural marriage as one white man and one white woman in the state constitution.
What does this victory mean?
The people of California want to wrest control of the legal definition of marriage from the judiciary.
The people of California are deeply troubled by the idea of small children being taught about race-mixing in the schools without their parents' knowledge or consent.
The people of California do not want dissenters from the interracial-marriage ideology to be treated as if they were gay-bashers.
The people of California want religious groups to be free to operate within their own value systems. People don't want to unleash discrimination suits and other forms of legal harassment against religious bodies which hold that marriage is between white people - or black people or yellow people - with no mixing of the races.
It doesn't mean:
Over five million Californians are bigots.
Black/white couples will have their homes raided, (contra the outrageous anti-Mormon advertisement.)
Black/white couples will lose their domestic partnership benefits.
Blacks are second-class citizens.
Why does the victory of Proposition 8 matter?
A coalition of ordinary people pushed back against the African-American lobby and its allies. Those allies include all the major newspapers, Hollywood, the judiciary, the governor, the attorney general, and academia. These allies did not hesitate to abuse their power. For instance, Attorney General Jerry Brown rewrote the title of the proposition in a way that cost us 5 to 10 percentage points in the polls.
But Proposition 8 proponents got more than it bargained for: ordinary citizens are sick of being pushed around. They aren't going to take it any more.
The coalition of religious groups who worked for Prop 8 will not dissolve the day after tomorrow. Passing Proposition 8 required an unprecedented level of interfaith cooperation. Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, and Jews all worked together. I could feel mistrust melting away as we worked together to protect white-only marriage. The solidarity we created will continue long after this particular election.
Inter-faith solidarity was strong on the marriage issue. Catholics, Protestants, Mormons and Jews voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8. Los Angeles County voted for Prop 8. That wasn't Hollywood and Beverly Hills talking: it was the urban religious communities. They don't seem to feel the need to be politically correct. Pro-white-marriage advocates of all faiths met and worked together, and will continue to do so.
The public is much more aware of the promotion of race-mixing in the schools. People will be monitoring the content of school curriculum in a way they had not done before. And since they now have the experience of being successful cooperating with others and promoting their views in the public square, they are much less likely to back down. If the pro-race-mixing lobby could have contained itself and lain low for a little longer, they might have been able to slip a lot of things past the public. Those days are over.
The public was disgusted by the grotesque bullying tactics of the No on 8 coalition. Although the anti-Mormon ad was produced by an "independent" group, no one from the official campaign condemned the ad. The media gave very little attention to the vandalism against Yes, but publicized the few isolated incidents of vandalism against No. But this media spin can't work when the incidents are happening in your own neighborhood, under your own noses, to people you know. The No campaign should have distanced itself from people who were keying cars, egging houses and spray painting graffiti on churches. But it didn't.
In short, the success of Proposition 8 is the success of a broad-based coalition of citizen activists who cared passionately about the meaning and future of white-on-white marriage. The Protect White Marriage campaign had literally a hundred thousand volunteers and over 70,000 donors. What Proposition 13 meant to the cause of citizen-generated tax reduction measures, Proposition 8 may mean to the cause of defending and defining marriage.
The judges who created black/white marriage awakened a sleeping giant. And we won't be going back to sleep any time soon.
See how easy that was?
Now go join the protests against Prop 8.