Just Say No: A God-fearing approach to California’s Proposition 8

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I no more believe that marriage should be only between a man and a woman than I believe the world is flat.
It’s definitely not, even if you live in hilly parts of San Francisco’s Sunset District.

But try telling that to the supporters of California’s Proposition 8, the last-gasp attempt to codify a discriminatory definition of marriage into the California Constitution.

The Prop 8 folks insist on their limited worldview and want to memorialize their bigotry by making it state law.

It’s the kind of proposition slaveholders would have circulated after the Emancipation Proclamation. Won’t you please reconsider slavery?

Prop 8 is what I call the “recourse for sore losers.” The California Supreme Court already ruled in May that any law that would narrowly define marriage as between a man and a woman was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause. That should have ended it. But the Prop 8 folks are trying an end run on both the Constitution and the Supreme Court with this last plea for exclusion.

What makes it harder still is if you’re a church-going Asian American, especially a Catholic. Ever see any Filipinos at church? Depending on what diocese you’re in, churchgoers are constantly being harangued from the pulpit in these final days before the election and urged to push Prop 8 with an evangelical zeal.

Can you be a practicing Catholic and resist the guilt-laden pitches of your parish priest? Hey, this is America. Of course, you can. It’s your duty. And God said so in the Gospel.

That’s right, I said God and the Gospel

You don’t often see media folks use such words as God and Gospel in public, let alone in the same sentence. But religion and spirituality play a big role in the campaign of Prop 8. In the absence of political logic, guilt does wonders.

If you were at Mass last week (if you weren’t, the bishops can thank things such as their stance on Prop 8), you probably stood for the Gospel and heard the line “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

Matthew 22:21 couldn’t have come up in the church calendar at a better time. It’s Jesus answering his doubters who try to expose his spiritual hypocrisy. It’s been interpreted and reinterpreted by biblical scholars, but for the most part the line has shaped the idea of the separation of church and state.

Use it as your firewall to ward off bullying priests who go Prop 8 on you.

So what is Caesar’s besides that omnipresent wreath on his head? Among other things, it’s all this proposition nonsense in the material world. And when leaders of organized religion play in Caesar’s world, they are exposed for what they are: imperfect, human, fallible.

If you need a reminder of this, just think of the Catholic Church’s multimillion-dollar sex scandal, and you can see how wrong organized religion and men in long cassocks can be.

When the men of the cloth cross over from God’s world, they tend to make mistakes. Prop 8 is one of them.

Render unto God
On the other side of the firewall is all that is God’s. It’s the side of all souls living and dead: black, white, Latino, Asian, straight, gay or celibate.

This is the realm where the truth registers, where you see your friends and relatives in committed gay and lesbian relationships. This is the world of love, not hate.

I get that feeling when I visit my cousin Pauline and her partner Jill. They’ve been married for some time now. I wrote about their wedding in a column, “My Big Fat Lesbian Wedding,” a coming out, of sorts, for me. As someone who likes women, I declared my solidarity as a lesbian.

Recently, I visited the couple in their home on a typical night. Imagine, they were playing with their daughter
— now two and a half!

Their daughter was a bundle of energy. She ran around the house, rolled on the floor, tossed her ball in the air, all while talking out her world for all to hear.

I recognized the moment instantly. With my wife, I have raised three kids. Were the parenting, the family structure, really any different from anything I knew? Not one bit, right down to the bath-time routine. By any definition, I was in the presence of a marriage with strong family values.

Given the 50-percent divorce rate and the other alarming failure rates in family- and child-rearing issues, straight folks don’t have such a great record. The traditional definition of marriage has wrought its share of pathologies on society, of which no one can be proud.

I thought of that as I saw my cousin’s happy family focused totally on their toddler, who had been put up for adoption with a precarious, uncertain future until she was given two mommies and a traditional home filled with real love.

A rigid law on marriage undermines the very thing we should celebrate. The love I saw in my cousin’s family that night is an example of what makes our society great at the core. On Election Day, we must affirm that belief by voting NO on 8.

Emil is thinking at amok.asianweek.com.
E-mail him: emil@amok.com

About the Author

For almost 15 years, Emil Guillermo wrote his "Amok" column for AsianWeek, which was the largest English language Asian American newsweekly in the nation. "Amok" was considered the most widely-read column on Asian American issues in the U.S. His thoughtful and provocative social commentaries have appeared in print in the San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate.com, San Francisco Examiner, USA Today, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Honolulu Advertiser, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and in syndication throughout the country. His early columns are compiled in a book "Amok: Essays from an Asian American Perspective," which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 2000. Guillermo's journalistic career began in television and radio broadcasting. At National Public Radio, he was the first Asian American male to anchor a regularly scheduled national news broadcast when he hosted "All Things Considered" from 1989-1991. During his watch, major news broke, including the violence in Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of dictatorships in Romania and Panama. From Washington, Guillermo hosted the shows that broke the news. As a television journalist, his award-winning reports and commentaries have appeared on NBC, CNN, and PBS. He was a reporter in San Francisco, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. After NPR, Guillermo became a press secretary and speechwriter for then Congressman Norman Mineta, the former cabinet member in the Bush and Clinton Administrations. After his Hill experience, Guillermo returned to the media, hosting his own talk show in Washington, D.C. on WRC Radio. He returned to California where he hosted talk shows in San Francisco at KSFO/KGO, and in Sacramento at KSTE/KFBK. Guillermo's columns in the ethnic press inspired a roundtable discussion program that he created, hosted, executive produced, resulting in more than 100 original half-hour programs. "NCM-TV: New California Media" was seen on PBS stations in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, and throughout the state on cable. Guillermo also spent time as a newspaper reporter covering the poor and the minority communities of California's Central Valley. His writing and reporting on California's sterilization program on the poor and minorities won him statewide and national journalism awards. Guillermo, a native San Franciscan, went to Lowell High School, and graduated from Harvard College, where he was an Ivy Orator and class humorist, a distinction shared by fellow Lampoon members like James Downey (Saturday Night Live) and Conan O'Brien. Find out what he's up to at www.amok.com.