NOTE: Thank you for all who responded to this post. It made me realize that in wanting to put this out as quickly and efficiently as possible, I left out important clarifications and qualifications. I hope to revise and rework this argument soon to better flesh out my own argument and respond to your criticisms.
“A federal appeals court on Tuesday [Feb. 7, 2012] declared California's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional, putting the bitterly contested, voter-approved law on track to reach the U.S. Supreme Court,” reads an article put out by the Huffington Post. The Great Prop 8 Debate of ’08 has flared up again as those who oppose CA Proposition 8 celebrate a victory, while supporters plan to make an appeal to the US Supreme Court. This decision was made by the appeals court because Prop 8 was “a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians”. If this were true, it seems that supporters of Prop 8 are guilty of essentially being the same as racists who opposed the civil rights bills in the ‘60s. However, I contend that neither Prop 8 nor the entire same-sex marriage debate are in any way similar to the Civil Rights Movement. I think this for one fundamental reason.
Same-sex marriage has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
This may seem like a strange statement, especially if you are only used to hearing the (admittedly) bad arguments coming from supporters of Prop 8, or agree with virtually all of its opponents. It is, though, the most logical conclusion.
Let’s assume that the courts did not in fact overturn Proposition 8. For clarification, Prop 8 is not actually so much a ban on same-sex marriage, more than it is an affirmation that opposite-sex marriage is the only viable and ought to be the only legal form of marriage. I’m sure you can think of all kinds of combinations that Prop 8 “bans” (If you’re having trouble, think of all the fallacious slippery-slope arguments that Prop 8 supporters sometimes use: bestiality, pedophilia, polygamous etc). Still, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Consider the following situations:
A heterosexual male marries a heterosexual male.
A homosexual male marries a homosexual female.
Which of the two situations is legal under Proposition 8? That’s right, the marriage between two homosexuals! Doesn’t that entail that Proposition 8 doesn’t actually discriminate against sexual orientation? I think so.
Mirriam-Webster defines “civil rights” as “the nonpolitical rights of a citizen; especially: the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to United States citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress” [emphasis added]. So, the obvious question is “If Prop 8 is ‘a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians’, and homosexuals as individuals are allowed to marry, then in what way is a homosexual stripped of his or her personal liberty to marry?” If there is none, then it seems obvious to me that Prop 8 isn’t a violation of civil rights.
“Aha!” the defender of “gay rights” responds, “But Prop 8 does discriminate against homosexual couples!” Perhaps, in a sense. Prop 8 discriminates against marriage between two men or two women, but this is regardless of sexual orientation. We’re no longer talking about same-sex marriage as a question of civil rights, which is what my arguments sought to do. Now we can reach the actual issue at hand and stop talking past each other, as the two sides have done for almost four years. You can still object to Proposition 8, just not on the grounds of a violation of civil rights.