Daily Archives: October 30, 2008

And Now, A Discussion of Constitutional Import

Today’s discussions on state constitutional amendments reminds me that one of the things that frustrates me is that so many state constitutions — i.e., so many foundational documents of state legal systems — are so easily amended. One of the great strengths of the US Constitution to my mind is that it’s so difficult to amend: Amendments have to jump over two sets of very high bars, first on the national and then on the state levels, in order to be encoded into the Constitution. Whereas in California and other states (such as Ohio, where I am), a simple majority of voters can amend the state constitution.

So, for open discussion:

Proposed:

1. State constitutions should have a similar bar to amendment as the US Constitution; e.g., a state constitutional amendment should require a two-thirds approval of the state legislature, plus a two-thirds approval of the voting public.

2. All state constitutions currently extant should be tabled and replaced with constitutions that provide only for the mechanics of governance (i.e., definition of executive, judicial and legislative branches and the election of each), onto which amendments may be added per point one.

Discuss.

Something Worth Noting, Re: People Who Vote For Prop 8

In the comment thread to the previous post, I said the following:

Bear in mind that while I think Prop 8 is hateful, bigoted and wrong, I believe that lots of people who don’t see themselves as hateful and bigoted can see themselves voting for it because they think it’s the right thing to do. As noted, I do feel sorry for them and I hope in the fullness of time they learn to regret their actions, because they are, at heart, good and loving people.

I actually believe this. I think there are good, decent, kind and loving people who will vote for a proposition that is fundamentally bigoted and wrong and hurtful, and that they will do it out of the best of intentions, motivated by a belief in a particular religion, or fear of a changing world, or a perceived conflict in moral system, or because they want to plant a flag about the encroaching power of governments, some combination of any or all of the above, or for some other reason entirely. Good people do bad things for reasons they believe to be good.

This does not make their actions less wrong. It’s clear to me that Proposition 8 is fundamentally bad and that it would inscribe prejudice into the California constitution; it’s a stain on the law and an embarrassment for the state. People who vote for it will vote for hate and bigotry, whether of not that is their intent. But it’s equally clear that at least some of the folks who will vote for it don’t intend to vote for hate or bigotry; either they don’t believe that’s what they’re doing, or they just can’t conceive that’s what they’re doing.

This is why it’s important to talk to anyone you know who is voting for Proposition 8 and let them know that while they see themselves as good and decent people — and you believe them to be, too — that nevertheless what they do with their vote will reflect on them and will matter going forward. I firmly believe that people who will vote for Prop 8 will continue to be good, decent, kind and loving people after they vote for it. They will simply have made a horrible moral choice, and will have to live with the consequences of their actions… and have to live knowing others will have to live with those consequences as well, with fewer rights, fewer rights for their families, and marriages that would otherwise be strong torn apart by governmental fiat. I think that’s going to be a heck of a moral burden to bear going forward, which is why I pity these people.

Anyway. Keep this in mind when talking about the folks who will vote yes on Prop 8. They’re not all bad people, even if they will, through voting for it, be the cause of bad things. In time, some of them may come to regret their choice. If they do, I would say it would be kind to offer to help them with their burden, and to help them work to change their error.

What? Prop 8 Threatens Existing Marriages? You Don’t Say

The Los Angeles Times catches up with a something I’ve been noting, like, oh, forever: That if California’s Proposition 8 passes, the thousands of already-married same sex couples will find their marriages thrown into legal limbo, because Prop 8 outlaws California’s recognition of same-sex marriages, and doesn’t make provision for already-existing marriages. Here’s one little tidbit:

New York University law professor Kenji Yoshino, who favors same-sex marriage, concluded that the U.S. Constitution would offer few protections to existing gay marriages if Proposition 8 passed.

“My hope going into this was that I would find a smoking gun case that would say those marriages would be protected,” Yoshino said. “I kept looking and looking and looking, and when I couldn’t find one, I was astonished.”

He said the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected due-process challenges to retroactive legislation. The Contracts Clause, which prevents states from passing laws that impair contracts, would also offer little protection because the court has ruled that “marriage is not a contract” protected by the clause, he said.

There are others, including Attorney General Jerry Brown, who suggest that the already-married same sex couples will be able to keep their marriage status, but with all due respect to Jerry Brown, he and these other people are high. The people who whomped up Prop 8 simply won’t allow that to happen, because their position is predicated on the notion that any same-sex marriage is a threat. If literally thousands of same-sex married couples continue to exist in California, then the state is still must recognize and protect same-sex marriage, even if no more are allowed to be created in the state. Which is, of course, explicitly against the newly-amended constitution of the state of California. Lawsuits to drive that point home would be imminent.

But more to the point, the continued existence of same-sex marriages would give absolute lie to the thinking behind Prop 8: That same-sex marriages in any way constitute a clear and present danger to the nature of marriage in general. Both the letter and spirit of Proposition 8 require the eradication of all same-sex marriages in California. To do any less destroys the whole point of Proposition 8. The people who thought up Proposition 8 will fight to wipe out every single marriage that doesn’t conform to their standard. Count on it.

This is why every single potential supporter of Proposition 8 should be looked square in the eye and asked if they are truly and seriously ready to say that that they personally are prepared to destroy already existing, already legal marriages — if they are truly and seriously ready to say that they know better than the people in a marriage whether that marriage should be allowed to exist — if they are truly and seriously ready to say to two married people, “you two don’t deserve to be married, and I intend to kill your marriage now.”

These people should not be allowed to squirm out of their moral quandary by suggesting that there will still be civil unions in California, or that the relationship two people have will continue to exist whether the marriage is invalidated or not — the fact they’re going to vote against these people’s marriages points out that they recognize there is something different and valuable about being married, as opposed to not. They shouldn’t be allowed to squirm out by making some argument that the government shouldn’t be in the marriage business anyway, because here in the real world, it is, and the theoretical must give way to the practical. Rights in the real world are on the line.

They need to recognize what it is that they’re doing, not to some potential marriage, but to a single, actual marriage that exists, now. I’m going to bold this next part, because I think it’s that important: If the people voting for Proposition 8 couldn’t stand personally in front of a married couple, tell that couple they shouldn’t be married, and say that it is their right and duty to destroy that marriage, they should not vote for Proposition 8. It’s really as simple as that.

Of course, there are people who could and would do such. The best one can feel for them is pity, and the hope that one day they will be ashamed to have done such a monstrous, horrible, hateful and bigoted thing. I suspect some of them will. I would feel further pity for those that won’t.

Me in Other Places

Because I know you love following links to other places online where I’m talking about stuff, here’s two, from yesterday:

* Over at SF Signal, I am one of many responding to the question “Is Science Fiction Responsible for the Lack of Public Interest in Space Exploration?” Because Buzz Aldrin says we are. And Buzz Aldrin went to the moon! So he knows everything.

* I participate in Reason magazine’s online polling of notables regarding for whom we all intend to vote for president. Inasmuch as Reason is a libertarian magazine, you’ll see Bob Barr being selected for president in disproportionate numbers, although, I confess, not by me. Also, it’s the first and I suspect last time I’m in a list of notables with Grover Norquist.

Vote! For, Uh, B-Movies

A couple of weeks ago on the AMC site, I asked people to nominate some of their favorite science fiction b-movies for an SF B-Movie Hall of Fame. I got over 100 comments, and from those comments I’ve selected 10 finalists. Now it’s your turn to vote which two of the finalists go on to the Hall of Fame. Go to the link, read up on the nominees, and then click on the “Vote in Poll” button at the end — AMC has set up a really ginchy poll thing where you can drag and drop any or all of the films into a ranking list.

Remember, your vote counts — there will be no poll challenges in this vote. So go over, find out about the films, and vote! It will change science fiction B-Movie history as we know it, I promise you. And as always, if you’ve got comments to make, make ‘em over on the AMC site. Comments are their joy.