The debate over same-sex marriage has cooled in many parts of the country. People have turned their attention to the healthcare bill and the new possibility of being blown up by guys with explosives strapped to their underpants.
In reality, however, the same-sex marriage fight is now being joined in earnest. Opponents of California’s Proposition 8, which provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized in California, have sued in federal court. The plaintiffs–Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeffrey Zarillo–allege that defining marriage as a monogamous union of opposite-sex couples violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment.
The case is currently at trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, but it is likely to end up in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision regarding Prop. 8’s constitutionality likely will, for all intents and purposes, permanently determine whether states can limit marriage to its traditional meaning. Of course, it is theoretically possible to amend the constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage in the U.S., but practically speaking it’s almost impossible.
I’m not going to discuss the case’s legal issues in this post. Instead, I would like to bring some attention to an issue that is peripheral to the case, and yet goes to the heart of the issue. The issue is the harassment, even persecution, of ordinary citizens who supported Proposition 8. This is a prime example of the “win at all costs” mentality shared by many on the Left. During and after the Prop. 8 campaign, the Left attempted to win through intimidation and silencing dissent. Unfortunately, those tactics are resurfacing now that Prop. 8’s constitutionality is being challenged in federal court.
Let me say, for the record, that gay and lesbian people have been the victims of discrimination. Discrimination in employment, or even just personal unkindness, is always wrong. It’s wrong whether it’s directed toward a gay person or against anyone else. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” includes “people I don’t really like.” In the current climate, however, it’s the supporters of Prop. 8 who were subjected to abuse and discrimination, not gays and lesbians.
The current trial threatens to expose supporters of Prop. 8 — such as 96-year-old Lorenzo Hoopes — to renewed harassment, much like the type of persecution aimed at Prop. 8 supporters last year. Here are a few examples, all matters of public record, whether from news stories or as part of testimony given under oath in the Prop. 8 litigation:
The acts of harassment were widespread and varied. Thousands of pro-Prop. 8 signs were stolen all over the state. Spokesmen for the campaign received death threats, which were serious enough that the campaign hired private security guards (declaration given under oath in the Perry litigation). Churches were vandalized. Incredible hatred was particularly directed toward the Mormon Church and individual Mormons, perhaps most notoriously in the “Home Invasion” ad that portrayed Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple:
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Off-screen, opponents of Prop. 8 marched on LDS temples around the country, not just in California. Maybe it somehow slipped past me, but I failed to notice angry hordes of Prop. 8 supporters storming the gates of Episcopalian churches that opposed Prop. 8.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, ordinary citizens who had donated as little as $100 to the Prop. 8 campaign were subjected to vicious personal attacks. Three of the most notable examples of this type of personalized persecution were a restaurant manager, the director of the California Musical Theater, and the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival.
The restaurant manager, Marjorie Christofferson, managed a family-owned restaurant known as El Coyote (which, incidentally, employs many gay and lesbian employees.) When her donation was disclosed pursuant to California’s donor disclosure laws, she became the target of vicious personal attacks and the restaurant became the target of a boycott.
The theater director, Scott Eckhern, resigned after his donation to Prop. 8 became public. The composer of the musical “Hairspray” refused to allow his musical to be performed by the California Musical Theater, and a producer of “Avenue Q” publicly castigated Mr. Eckhern. Similarly, Richard Raddon, the director of the LA Film Festival, also resigned after his donation became public.
Like Ms. Christofferson, Mr. Eckhern and Mr. Raddon are Mormons, a fact that did not escape their critics.
So what is the point of these anecdotes from a year ago? The point is that some–not all, perhaps not even a majority–of those who support same-sex marriage are prepared to win through fair means or foul. They will try to use intimidation to silence those who oppose them, even if they had once been friends, patrons, or colleagues. And you know what? Sometimes it works.
Over the past few weeks there has been an ongoing battle in the courts over whether the Prop. 8 trial should be televised (for the details, check out Ed Whelan’s piece here.) Thanks to a smackdown by the Supreme Court, the proceedings won’t be televised, but there for the vote of Anthony Kennedy went the witnesses. A number of witnesses expressed to the attorneys defending Prop. 8 that they would be unwilling to testify if the proceedings were televised. The danger to their families and livelihoods was simply too great. Should the proceedings be aired, the pro-Prop. 8 witnesses (especially ordinary people) would be branded forever as bigots, and left open to strangers stalking their homes and families — and if that seems far-fetched, bear in mind that many websites list the names, home addresses, and employers of Prop. 8 donors, some with helpful interactive maps.
The point, I suppose, is that in cultural struggles of this type, you often can’t depend on the other side to play by Marquess of Queensbury rules. Does that mean that proponents of Prop. 8 should stoop to that level? Absolutely not! But it does mean that if you’re involved with a contentious cultural issue, you should be prepared to pay a price. Often the people who are the ostensible oppressors (52% of California voters, in this case) are the ones who are subjected to harassment and mockery. In the Left’s playbook, a few thousand damaged lives are worth societal transformation.