Daniel Eran Dilger
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What Prop 8 Means to America

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Daniel Eran Dilger

Californians voted to give factory farmed pigs and chickens new rights under Prop 2 but voted to take rights away from its gay citizens with Prop 8. How was it that one of the bluest states in the Union turned against its progressive values and voted to write discrimination into the state constitution?

The simple answer: a hard hitting ad campaign costing over $70 million that pretended the measure was about “protecting families” rather than being a religious assault on minority rights. In reality, Prop 8 was the last hurrah for a group seeking to push its influence before losing its access to the Presidency that had granted it legitimacy over the last eight years.
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The Battle of Prop 8.

Proponents of Prop 8 were angry that the state’s Attorney General changed the bill from the cheerily named “California Marriage Protection Act” to the more accurate title “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” They were upset because the bill wasn’t designed to create controversy; it was intended to silently rob citizens of their existing rights in an effort by blindly religious groups to poke out the eyes of the state’s populace so that the blinded could be led by the blind.

Arguments for Prop 8 were all presented as panicky fear-based scenarios, with parents being warned that their children would be hauled off to witness same sex marriage without their consent, and that state law mandates that children must be indoctrinated into homosexuality by public schools, even though that wasn’t happening. Prop 8 supporters were apparently unfazed by the fact that under California law, cousins can marry. Their version of “protection” only targeted gays.

The “protection” promised by Prop 8’s backers was enough to result in violent confrontations, such as the 6’2”, 250 pound Polynesian man who knocked down and punched a 17 year old girl who opposed Prop 8 in San Mateo, while 35 year old Ivan Schaumkel spit in her face. Both assailants, along with another juvenile male who punched a resident in the face who tried to intervene, were proudly supporting the “protection” afforded them by Prop 8. Two of the three supporter-assailants were arrested before they could flee.

How could religious groups possibly be involved in stirring up anger and violence through a political fight over imposed morality that scapegoats a minority population? The religious groups behind Prop 8 tried to keep a friendly face on the measure while at the same time appealing to prejudice and latent hatred against gays in the state, a particularly effective strategy among black voters, where Prop 8 was supported by 70% of those voting.

Police: Girl assaulted during Proposition 8 rally, two arrested – San Jose Mercury News

The Response to Prop 8.

The first response to the passing of Prop 8 has been a series of legal challenges brought by the ACLU, Santa Clara County and the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and a third case brought by a married lesbian couple.

One challenge maintains that the measure was illegal because it it was presented as a simple amendment to the state constitution when it was in fact a much broader constitution revision. The difference relates to the scope and impact a constitutional change involves. An amendment only requires a majority vote, while a revision demands passage in the Legislature before going to voters.

“The magnitude here is that you are effectively rendering equal protection a nullity if a simple majority can so easily carve an exception into it,” attorney Jennifer Pizer told the LA Times. “Equal protection is supposed to prevent the targeting and subjugation of a minority group by a simple majority vote.”

Gay rights backers file 3 lawsuits challenging Prop. 8 – Los Angeles Times

Another impact related to Prop 8 is a promise voiced by California Senator Mark Leno to introduce legislation to bar anyone from exploiting children for political purposes by using their images without their parent’s permission. The Yes on 8 campaign prominently featured a video of children in San Francisco whose parents had signed their approval for them to attend their teacher’s same sex wedding. The footage was used in their commercials to suggest that the children were forced to attend without their parents’ consent.

Ironically, the Yes on 8 campaign’s dire warning about the potential threat that gay marriage would cause in subjecting children to the reality of the existence of gays and subsequently their potential interest in marrying each other… was itself the largest publicity campaign ever waged for informing the state’s children about gay marriage.

The Impact of Prop 8.

Apart from teaching children attached to the TV about gay marriage, Prop 8 also threatens the ability of state businesses to attract and retain top talent, particularly in highly competitive markets such as biotech and software development, a key reason why Apple, Google, and other Silicon Valley companies took sides against it. Outlawing same-sex marriage will also cost state and local governments an estimated $64 million in lost revenues.

The real impact of Prop 8 however is reflected in the true identity of the effort: a last ditch plot by religious extremists now at the apex of their political influence to push their intention to remake America into a religious theocracy that bases its policy not on rational thought and liberal democracy, but rather upon emotionally propelled fascist propaganda where people are told what to believe based on the interpretations of scriptures deciphered by a powerful elite clergy class, and threatened with eternal damnation or at least social stigma if they resist.

If that sounds far fetched, consider two of the proposition’s biggest individual donors, as noted by investigative journalist Max Blumenthal: “Elsa Broekhuizen, the mother of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., the reclusive theocratic millionaire who inherited $300 million from his famous father at age 18.”

Red Sex, Blue Sex: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

Ahmanson: God’s Rich Gift to the Right.

The reclusive Ahmanson described his political views in a 1985 interview, where he stated, “my goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.” Blumenthal noted that Ahmanson’s “politics are derived from the radical Christian Reconstructionist theology of R.J. Rushdoony, a far-right theologian who advocated replacing the US Constitution with biblical law.”

Blumenthal cited Rushdoony as writing “God’s government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” “Those eligible on Rushdoony’s long list for execution,” Blumenthal explained, “included disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, astrologers, adulterers, and, of course, anyone who engaged in ‘sodomy or homosexuality.’”

The threat of Prop 8’s defeat in California was not about the undermining of “traditional marriage,” which had only existed in California for all of eight years since the “one man and one woman” definition had first been added to California law by 2000’s Prop 22, but rather the fear that a failure of Prop 8 “would represent a decisive repudiation of the theocratic fantasy outlined by Rushdoony and mainstreamed by Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Lou Engle and countless evangelical minions,” Blumenthal wrote.

Ahmanson donated at least $900,000 to the passage of Prop 8. He obtained his $300 million inheritance as a teenager after witnessing his own parents’ marriage fail at age ten, and then being orphaned by 18. Plagued with Tourette’s syndrome, he was diagnosed as as schizophrenic and spent two years in a psychiatric institution in Kansas. The rest of his life has been spent embittered and isolated due to his mental health issues.

The young Ahmanson was enchanted with Rushdoony’s philosophy of “Christian Reconstructionism,” which “outlined plans for the church to take over the federal government and reconstruct it along biblical lines.”

“Calling for the literal application of all 613 laws described in the Book of Leviticus, Rushdoony paid special attention to punishments. Instead of serving prison sentences, criminals would be sentenced to indentured servitude, whipped, sold into slavery, or executed.”

In 2001, the year Rushdoony died, “Ahmanson gave $1 million to the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a conservative outfit in Washington focused on weakening the political influence of historically liberal mainline churches.” By smearing any religious group that didn’t support Rushdoony’s extremist views, religious influence over politics under the Bush Administration tilted abruptly into the extreme fanaticism of the fundamentalist fringe.

Max Blumenthal – The Mystery Man Behind Prop 8

The Unlikely Republican Coalition.

While not entirely new, the odd coalition between coldly rational corporate interests and hotly impassioned but irrational fundamentalist religious groups working together within the Republican Party shifted into overdrive as President Bush took office eight years ago.

Bush ran on a platform of restoring moralism to the White House after the Republican Party led President Clinton through years of false accusations related to Whitewater fraud, allegations of rape, a story of Arkansas troupers who were supposedly paid to arrange sexual liaisons for Clinton but were actually found to have been paid to testify falsely against him with a concocted story, and even the suggestion that he had something to do with the suicide of an associate.

In his bid to take the Presidency, Bush promised fundamentalists political patronage and faith-based funding for their support, and fundamentalists helped sweep him into office. After 9/11, Bush was able to maintain power by infecting the country with fear, a strategy that worked well enough to enable him to ignore many of the demands of fundamentalists.

Unintended Consequences in Abortion.

For example, while paying lip service to religious political goals such as outlawing abortion, Bush did nothing to actually slow the number of abortions performed. In fact, Catholic Democrats report that “during the Reagan Administration, the number of abortions rose significantly and peaked during the George H. W. Bush Administration. In contrast, during the Clinton Administration the number of abortions fell significantly (to 1.3 million a year from 1.6 million a year during the Bush 41 Administration), and were performed at a significantly earlier stage in pregnancy. During the current Bush Administration, these declines have slowed almost to a standstill. In fact, rates of abortions for teenagers and poor people appear to have increased.”

A study by Catholics United indicated that “lower unemployment, higher rates of health insurance coverage, and greater availability of Head Start centers are more effective at lowering abortion rates than lower availability of abortion providers,” and “suggests that abortion reduction is best achieved by addressing the root causes of abortion than restricting access to abortion services.”

Bush’s defunding of the UN’s Population Fund, a program supported by both John McCain and Barack Obama, prevented international access to birth control in the form of condoms, contraceptive pills, and IUDs for the poor, resulting in an estimated 157,000 unwanted pregnancies, 62,000 abortions, and 660 women dying in childbirth.

So while the right hailed Bush for claiming to be “Pro-Life,” in practice their leader caused more abortions both in the US and internationally, an ugly irony for many religious voters who only based their decision on a single issue: abortion. They were handed state-sponsored torture and killings of uncharged detainees and mass civilian deaths in the Iraq war as an ironic bonus for supposedly voting “Pro-Life.”

Catholic Democrats: Abortion Questions & Answers
Can This Be Pro-Life? – NYTimes.com

An Irrational National Agenda.

Bush crafted other public policy based on irrational religious ideas, such as the idea that no consideration need be given to environmental issues such as climate change, the protection of animal species, or clear air and water because extremist fundamentalists only recognize short term profits, thinking that long term impacts to the earth are irrelevant because they plan to ditch the planet soon in the coming Rapture.

Foreign policy was also crafted around fundamentalist ideas that suggest endless war in the Middle East is the only way to get God’s attention and subsequently trigger the Last Days. For true believers, the death of a million innocent people and the loss of thousands of American soldiers is nothing compared to invoking the Rapture.

Along the same lines, while Bush is given credit for being “strong on Israel,” Edgar M. Bronfman, the former president of the World Jewish Congress and a staunch supporter the nation of Israel pointed out that Bush has so “badly mishandled” things that “Israel is further from peace than it was at the end of the Clinton administration,” and that “the result of the Bush doctrine in the Middle East has been an America and an Israel that are regarded with hatred and fear.” Bronfman endorsed Obama as being “the leader who can begin to undo some of the damage done by Bush’s policies.”

Edgar M. Bronfman: Israel’s Best Interest is a Morally Strong America

Prop 8 is the Beginning of the End for Hate in America.

The fundamentalists’ attack on gay rights in Prop 8 signals a watershed moment in history. While the extremists so far appear to be ahead, their margin of victory is within a few points. Just eight years ago, Prop 22 passed the same language in California with whopping 61% approval before being struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. Backers also had to spend far more to push Prop 8, and did so against an extremely weak campaign that failed to expose its ties to radical religion and instead meekly suggested it was simply “unnecessary.”

That indicates the religious right has slipped dramatically in California despite two terms of a radically fundamentalist-friendly administration, as many years of Fox News to propagate its policies with enthusiastic endorsement rather than any criticism, and a nationwide religious call for Yes on 8 advertising funding that made it a record-setting milestone in paid-for legislation.

The attempt to codify religion into the state constitution under the guise of “protecting marriage” is now closely associated with the disastrous course of the Bush Administration and its failed policies often based on a willing adherence to irrational religious dogma. Its attack on the civil liberties of gays is a clear parallel to the fundamentalist’s coy attacks on science, which don’t outright demand a return to the 13th century, but subtly hint that all knowledge is simply unknowable.

As heroine to the religious right fringe, Sarah Palin did just that during the debates when she said she didn’t want to argue about the cause of global warming, suggesting that everything is questionable and that nothing is knowable, so even the most crackpot ideas are on the same level as internationally accepted scientific thought. Palin also didn’t want to discuss whether being gay was a “choice” after saying that a gay acquaintance had made a “choice” she wouldn’t have made.

The abrupt liquidation of the religious right’s dream to instill Palin as “Queen Esther,” the biblical figure who ingratiated herself into power and enabled her people to slaughter their enemies, has been a crushing setback to those seeking to push an agenda of hate using fear, and to hide it all under the guise of ‘an innocent upgrade of values’ attempted through codifying religious morality rather than spreading it as a voluntary, personally held matter of faith.

The Very Real Danger.

Extremist religious groups want to leave every question of science wide open in order to suggest that the only real authority is theirs, based on their interpretation of who should be stoned and why. This leaves very little room for telling fundamentalist Christians apart from fundamentalist Islamists.

The main difference is that Islamic radicals currently pose little immediate threat within the US, while radical groups associated with Christian Reconstructionism, the Constitution Party, and its “Patriot” umbrella movement that includes everything from Alaska separatists to the fringe militia terrorists who bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building pose an immediate threat that is likely the most virulent, dangerous, and unrecognized danger ever posed to the United States and its two century history as a liberal democracy.

Once a radical group decides that its influence over society is waning and that its wealth has a limited ability to buy favors and that its political affiliations are no longer working in its favor, the only path left is to incite violent terrorism to achieve its goals, something that has already become a common subject among right wing talkers and will very likely bloom into something even uglier under a new administration that has little regard for its radical agenda to reconstruct the US under the scriptures of Leviticus instead of our liberal Constitution.

Other articles on current events:

Mormons, Fundamentalists, Islamists Back Prop H(8) with Big Bucks
Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt: Issues the next president faces in technology
McCain vs. Obama Presidential Pop Quiz: Socialism
McCain, Palin Push Ashley Todd into Limelight. Oops.
Apple gives $100,000 to fight California gay marriage ban
Terrorist Criminal Links to the Presidential Candidates
Obama-Biden, McCain-Palin: Scandals by the Numbers
Terrorist Criminal Links to the Presidential Candidates
The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack
Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse
You Know the Drill?
Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain
Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech

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  • rwahrens

    “Which is the root for all Christian denominations…”

    Yeah, Christian. Not all Americans now are Christian, which is why using Christian traditions is wrong. With a changing population, changing traditions is usually something that changes too. Religious values are not the basis for our legal system, and should not be used to force a multi-cultural population into adhering to values thy do not believe in. Besides, there are any number of Christian denominations in California that opposed Prop 8 and support gay marriage. So much for your Christian traditions!

    No, just CALLING it a slippery slope may not make it so, but the fact that those issues are NOT genetically based behaviors does. You use those issues to scare the conservative base into opposing something based upon fear instead of human rights. This issue is not about behaviors that are not genetically based, as homosexuality is.

    I think you need to stop trying to bring red herrings into this debate. I couldn’t care less about the child molestation practices of Muhammed, that has squat to do with this debate. We are talking about the ability of two gay folks being able to marry and enjoy the same legal and social benefits the rest of us do without being subjected to discrimination based upon ignorance.

    The attempts of other people that are not gay to change what I assume you are talking about is the Canadian Charter is not relevant to this debate, and your attempts to bring them in here are simply red herrings to attempt to divert the argument into areas where you can beat the scare drums.

    Fact is, Prop 8 violates the 14th Amendment, and will eventually be overturned on that basis.

  • http://www.alexcurylo.com alexcurylo

    “Yeah, Christian. Not all Americans now are Christian, which is why using Christian traditions is wrong…”

    Agreed. And as polygamy has been — and is now! — practiced by virtually all non-Christian traditions throughout the world, outlawing polygamy is also using Christian religious values “to force a multi-cultural population into adhering to values thy [sic] do not believe in”, ’tis it not?

    “So much for your Christian traditions!”

    Oh, they’re not _my_ Christian traditions, friend. Very, very, far from it, in fact; my gods don’t get nailed to sticks. I discuss them only to point out the incompetence of your reasoning and the bigotry and prejudice you display in your stunning hypocrisy.

    “This issue is not about behaviors that are not genetically based, as homosexuality is.”

    Actually, the latest research is that it’s no such thing, I understand; sexual orientation is almost completely determined by testosterone exposure levels during gestation. But even accepting your position for the sake of argument, are you seriously proposing that human rights are subject to biological determinism? What if it is proven — as some have alleged, but without convincing evidence to date — that pedophilia is also determined by genetics? That would make it alright by your alleged logic, would it?

    “I couldn’t care less about the child molestation practices of Muhammed, that has squat to do with this debate.”

    Precisely the opposite, in fact. The point is that by Islamic tradition — forgive me, the incorruptible word of Allah — those practices are not child molestation. That you believe otherwise demonstrates incontrovertibly that you subscribe to the same Christian-based bigotry and prejudice against differing cultural traditions that you decry in all but the single exception of gay marriage. This shows that you are hypocritical and ignorant, and until you accept that other contraventions of Christian mores have just as much right to be rejected as the particular one you champion, your opinion is worthless.

    “Fact is, Prop 8 violates the 14th Amendment, and will eventually be overturned on that basis.”

    That would seem to be a logical development from its use to eliminate miscengation law, indeed. However, I note with interest from Wikipedia that the Defense of Marriage Act which President Clinton signed in 1996 explicitly states that gay marriages are of no federal effect, and it passed 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House; and throughout the nation, acceptance of gay marriage is … spotty, shall we say?

    “Including the results of the 2008 general elections, two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) allow same-sex marriage, five states recognize some alternative form of same-sex union, twelve states ban any recognition of any form of same-sex unions including civil union, twenty-eight states have adopted amendments to their state constitution prohibiting same sex marriage, and another twenty states have enacted statutory DOMAs.”

    Let me count that up … why, yes, as a matter of fact, I believe that works out to quite enough support to rather more than comfortably pass a Constitutional amendment under the Article V rules elevating the DOMA text from a mere federal law to Constitutional status. You want to bet that’s not more likely to succeed than a 14th-based challenge is? Well if you do … I’ll certainly extend you long odds. Very long odds indeed, actually!

  • rwahrens

    “…outlawing polygamy is also using Christian religious values…”

    Yes, thank you, I agree. But this discussion is not about polygamy, as I stated. Why do you insist on bringing up these red herrings?

    ” I discuss them only to point out the incompetence of your reasoning and the bigotry and prejudice you display in your stunning hypocrisy.”

    Ah, I see, when you cannot refute the central argument of your opponent, attack the opponent. Very good, but you need to try again.

    “But even accepting your position for the sake of argument, are you seriously proposing that human rights are subject to biological determinism?”

    Don’t put words in my mouth, or set up your straw man again. This discussion is about marriage, and allowing gays to partake in that institution. Period, end of story.

    “Precisely the opposite, in fact. The point is that by Islamic tradition — forgive me, the incorruptible word of Allah — those practices are not child molestation. That you believe otherwise demonstrates incontrovertibly that you subscribe to the same Christian-based bigotry and prejudice against differing cultural traditions that you decry in all but the single exception of gay marriage. ”

    No, this shows that this discussion is about gay marriage, and not your red herrings. Get back to the subject and tell me why gays should not be allowed to marry.

    “…acceptance of gay marriage is … spotty, shall we say?”

    Sure it is, and we’ll see that slowly change as the under 30 crowd that voted by over 60% in that election against Prop 8 get older, and the older bigoted crowd dies off. I never said it wasn’t spotty.

    “You want to bet that’s not more likely to succeed than a 14th-based challenge is?”

    Not at issue in this discussion. If that’s the way you feel, go ahead, start the ball rolling. Once the new President gets the chance to appoint a couple of less conservative and bigoted Supreme Court Justices, someone WILL challenge it, and it will be overturned.

    Wanna bet on which one happens first?

  • argon

    Uncomfortable truth – “gay marriage” sounds like an utter nonsense to those not versed in euphemisms. Just like human rights for apes, it’s an astonishingly bad idea – ostensibly good intentions notwithstanding.

    State-sanctioned marriage is a form of discrimination. It’s time for the state to get out of the marriage business and leave it to church. But instead of fighting the marriage discrimination, some of the discriminated ( viz. the gay lobby) decided to demand admission to the privileged class.

    It’s interesting that the queer elites, comfortably ensconced in NY or SF, think that marriage is a higher priority that dealing with the bigotry that poorer gays, who live in constant fear of being exposed, have to face every day. But the gay leaders’ desire for social recognition have trumped all of that.

    The genius idea of gay marriage has given Rove and his ilk the ammunition they needed in 2004.

    Screw marriage.

  • mmbossman

    I figured I’d be able to come back to RD after the election to find some insightful comments regarding Apple and technology.

    Instead, I found some biased reporting focusing on how money bought Prop 8 (which happens to be a correlation, not a causation). If a proposition outlawing guns in CA had passed, and it had been supported by a large marketing campaign, you would have crowed about the great victory for the state.

    I guess I’ll just stay away for another few months.