This coming election day we will all be asked to vote for President, Vice President, and among several issues, Proposition 8 which eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.
This ballot proposition aims to amend the state constitution so that all marriage other than that between a man and a woman will be illegal. Such a drastic measure as amending the constitution to specifically disenfranchise an entire portion of our population and exclude them from the governmental benefits of marriage seems like a desperate and pitiful attempt to legalize discrimination. On the heels of a landmark California Supreme Court decision explicitly declaring “marriage protection” laws that prohibit same sex marriage as illegal, Proposition 8 seems more like a blatant and reactionary attempt to keep marriage and its benefits reserved for some but not for all.
The California Supreme Court struck down previous statutes and effectively legalized marriage between any two consenting adults, regardless of each person’s gender. In an unusually eloquent and moving decision, the court based its reasoning on principles of basic fairness, equality, and dignity, noting homosexuals as a group have been subject to discrimination historically.
Ironically, these are three of the overarching principles that are taught here at USF and other Jesuit institutions under the heading of Social Justice. I say ironically because the California Conference of Catholic Bishops has indicated its support of Proposition 8 on religious grounds, believing only in marriage between one man and woman as ordained by God for the purpose of procreation.
However, the Court’s decision in May and Proposition 8 have absolutely nothing to do with marriage in the Catholic Church or any other – it merely extends the same rights and privileges of marriage to same sex couples as opposite sex couples as recognized by the government. In fact, very little is really changing since most of the rights in question were already extended to same sex couples who registered as “Domestic Partners.”
But in creating a separate group with a different name, the government essentially created a second class citizen, a group of married people who somehow were not worthy of the word “marriage.” It is the unjust nature of this separate and unequal system that the Court decided to repair, attempting to give equal dignity to all citizens of California who love each other enough to spend their lives together and even raise a family together.
Dignity of the human person and justice are the basic tenets of Catholic social teachings. Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote in his 2006 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”) that justice is the primary concern of the state, and the very basic and central question of politics. He emphasized the Church’s social concern as one of charity, and gave the laity the responsibility to pursue civil justice. Whether you consider yourself a Catholic or a California citizen, it seems that your responsibility is the same: vote no on Proposition 8 as a matter of fairness, equality, dignity, and of course, justice.
Patrick Phillips is a senior politics major.