By Ron Selkovitch
First, my thanks to the
for giving me this opportunity to respond to James Tapscott’s commentary of May 28.
James’ commentary was the last of a number of discussions in the
on the merits or otherwise of Proposition 8.
Unfortunately he has strayed from the subject, and has instead concentrated on the alleged abuse of Prop. 8 supporters. He has mixed accusations of verbal and physical abuse with actions by government to curtail his freedoms. So before progressing to the real issue, I would like to respond to those accusations.
The abuse he claims, even if true, in no way is comparable with the abuse endured by gays. The current hate crimes bill is named after Matthew Shepard who was tortured and killed because he was gay and more recently a woman was gang raped because she was perceived to be a lesbian. If you go back in recent history, the stories are even more horrendous. To suggest that the suffering of gays and the harassment of Prop. 8 supporters are in any way comparable is like saying reverse racism is comparable to racism against blacks.
James claims that the hate crime bill will inhibit his freedom of speech. I can’t believe he has read the bill, but I have to assume he has relied on others to provide an interpretation. I did read it, and I see nowhere where it places a restriction on speech. In fact, the opposite.
James attacks the ACLU, a favorite target. Well if he can find a concrete example where they have done anything but pursue their mission, which is to defend the Constitution, please let me know so we can confront them together.
He brings up the old argument of the slippery slope—acceptance of homosexuality will eventually lead to pedophilia. Well, contrary to a slippery slope I see a very bright line, and that line is crossed when a relationship is no longer willing, consensual behavior between adults.
James quotes Martin Luther King, a hero of mine and every progressive I know: “We should be defined by the content of our character.” James is making my case. Would King have accepted Proposition 8 as consistent with his dream of equality for all? I think not.
Let’s get to the real issue: Do we have the right, constitutionally or morally, to deny gay couples a secular marriage?
I am not an attorney or constitutional scholar but I would assume that if we wanted to, we could, by amendment, change the Constitution to deny rights to any minority group, we could even reinstitute slavery, but should we—and that brings me to the real basis of our difference—is Proposition 8 moral?
There are two very divergent approaches to morality and that’s what makes productive dialogue on the subject so difficult: The fundamentalist approach and the humanist approach.
James takes the fundamentalist approach. To him it is sufficient to refer to legacy beliefs. He talks about family values as if there is no need to discuss what makes up family values and if, or why, they are valid.
He refers to our Judeo-Christian values as the basis of USA morality, implying they are not capable of dissection, analysis or criticism, and of course, being able to quote (selectively) from ancient religious documents is considered to be the definitive answer.
As a humanist, I don’t have the luxury of relinquishing my moral compass to a superior entity. I am compelled to use my limited brain to analyze each situation, testing it against a criterion of logic and compassion. How does a situation affect society? How does it impact the happiness of individuals? Does a particular position help more than it hurts—and as a humanist I can find no morality in denying gays the right to marry.
James uses the treatment of Miss California as an example of intolerance by gays. I tend to agree that the judge’s behavior was not acceptable, but bad manners is irrelevant to the question. Was she a suitable candidate to represent American women? I am prepared to complement her for being honest, but there are two reasons to deny her the crown. The obvious one: We shouldn’t honor someone who is prepared to discriminate against minorities whether because of race or sexual orientation. The other, even more important reason is that she gave the classical fundamentalist justification for her position: She was brought up that way. In other words, rather than think for herself, she is an uncritical product of indoctrination.
I do believe that our young people are better than that. They are more educated, have recourse to much more information than ever before and, not coincidentally, more opposed to Prop. 8 than the general population. I believe the crown should go to a thinking person.
James, I belong to a local progressive group, the Ramona Forum, and we would be very happy to welcome you and your friends to a very informal get together so we can discuss all these issues. I promise you won’t be intimidated and I think you’ll find that your accusations of suppression of free speech are totally without merit.
Ron Selkovitch is a Ramona resident.