03 November 2008

A resort to religious bigotry

Unfortunately, it almost goes without saying that an initiative on as emotional a topic as Proposition 8, the California measure that would in effect reverse the California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, will be promoted with distorted facts on both sides. Indeed, that is what has happened. Both sides seem to have forgot what that court decision and Proposition 8 are all about — almost nothing in terms of traditional legal rights. It is about whether a state-sanctioned same-sex union can be called marriage or not; if it passes, same-sex couples will still be able to get "married" and get every legal right except to call the union marriage in a legal sense. In at least a technical sense, Proposition 8 has nothing to do with what is taught in schools, as proponents have claimed, or with whether same-sex couples will be discriminated against in terms of government protections, as opponents have claimed.

Yet the campaigns of both sides have restored to distortions and half-truths, sometimes with outright misstatements, at other times when statements that are defensible in only the most technical of senses, and at other times hinting at things that aren't true (such as possibility that churches could be required to marry same-sex couples) without saying so directly.

And both sides, too, have resorted in one way or another to fear. Yet, at least until now, the campaigns haven't devolved into championing of outright religious bigotry. That is no longer the case, as this new TV ad shows:

True, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church, has opened itself up to this sort of attack by getting involved in the political process. But that doesn't make the attack acceptable as a part of the political process.

Imagine, if you will, if an ad had pictured two stereotypical rabbis doing the same thing (some Jewish groups have supported Proposition 8); the ad rightfully would have been seen as anti-Semitic. Or, to put the shoe on the other foot, suppose that one of the pro-8 ads had shown had shown scenes of stereotypical gay men molesting young boys they hope to adopt once they're married. Such an ad rightfully would have been condemned as bigoted and criticized as a new low. This ad should as well.

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