Out here on the left west coast people are pretty tolerant and open-minded, by and large. For example, in a few months Californians are going to vote on legalizing marijuana. Oregon probably will follow in 2012.
So I was surprised when a ban on gay marriage passed in California a few years ago.
Now that a federal judge, Vaughn Walker, has declared the ban unconsitutional, it's becoming more obvious why voters were taken in by the spurious arguments of Proposition 8.
Religion is the main culprit. A front page story in yesterday's The Oregonian contained these telling quotes:
Walker, in a 136-page ruling, said California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions."
"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples, Walker wrote. The ruling struck down Proposition 8 as a violation of federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Walker cited extensive trial evidence to support his finding that there was not even a rational basis for excluding gays and lesbians from marriage.
Evidence. Facts. Rationality. These are the minor details that the proponents of Proposition 8 failed to bring to the courtroom. So it's no wonder their case fell flat.
But when I saw them interviewed on cable news, the gay-marriage haters were completely in denial. They obviously continued to believe that mere belief was sufficient justification to strip citizens of their constitutional rights.
This is a great example of how religiosity causes true believers to distance themselves from reality. They end up inhabiting a solipsistic world where their saying so supposedly makes it so.
Fortunately, this isn't how the American legal system works. Judge Walker's ruling shows that religious belief should carry just as much weight as any other sort of belief. Namely, essentially zero.
"State your case, counselor."
"I believe my client is innocent, judge."
"That's it? You're not going to present any evidence?"
"No, your honor. I trust you will believe like I do."
That legal strategy isn't going to win over any competent judge. Nor should a similar sort of theological strategy convert people to religion, but unfortunately it does.
I think this is why the supporters of Proposition 8 are so hugely irritated at Judge Walker. He saw through their simplistic evidence-less moralism. He recognized that religious bigotry is an emperor who has no clothes and boldly said you're naked in those 136 pages.
Same-sex couples are no different from opposite-sex couples in their ability to raise children and form a loving, harmonious marriage.
That's a fact.
So if someone wants to object to gay marriage, they can do so -- but they won't be able to support that opinion with demonstrable research-based facts. This was made clear in Judge Walker's well-reasoned ruling.
Here's a collection of his most pointed statements.
I've shared some that discuss the role of fact-less religious belief in this case. If the existence of God were on trial, a judge would also have to rule that the defense has failed to prove its point. Walker wrote:
During closing arguments, proponents again focused on the contention that "responsible procreation is really at the heart of society's interest in regulating marriage." When asked to identify the evidence at trial that supported this contention, proponents' counsel replied, "you don't have to have evidence of this point."
Blankenhorn lacks the qualifications to offer opinion testimony and, in any event, failed to provide cogent testimony in support of proponents' factual assertions. ... His opinion lacks reliability, as there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion Blankenhorn proffered. ... Blankenhorn was unwilling to answer many questions directly on cross-examination and was defensive in his answers. Moreover, much of his testimony contradicted his opinions.
An initiative measure adopted by the voters deserves great respect. The considered views and opinions of even the most highly qualified scholars and experts seldom outweigh the determinations of the voters. When challenged, however, the voters' determinations must find at least some support in evidence. This is especially so when those determinations enact into law classifications of persons. Conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough. Still less will the moral disapprobation of a group or class of citizens suffice, no matter how large the majority that shares that view. The evidence demonstrated beyond serious reckoning that Proposition 8 finds support only in such disapproval. As such, Proposition 8 is beyond the constitutional reach of the voters or their representatives.
Plaintiffs questioned [political scientist Kenneth] Miller on data showing 84 percent of those who attend church weekly voted yes on Proposition 8, 54 percent of those who attend church occasionally voted no on Proposition 8 and 83 percent of those who never attend church voted no on Proposition 8.
That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as "fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."
Proponents' argument that tradition prefers opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples equates to the notion that opposite-sex relationships are simply better than same-sex relationships.
Tradition alone cannot legitimate this purported interest. Plaintiffs presented evidence showing conclusively that the state has no interest in preferring opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples or in preferring heterosexuality to homosexuality. Moreover, the state cannot have an interest in disadvantaging an unpopular minority group simply because the group is unpopular.
The evidence shows that the state advances nothing when it adheres to the tradition of excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Proponents' asserted state interests in tradition are nothing more than tautologies and do not amount to rational bases for Proposition 8.
California's obligation is to treat its citizens equally, not to "mandate [its] own moral code."
"[M]oral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest," has never been a rational basis for legislation.
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.