Prop 8 and violence against GLBT people

As with any major event, there's been a lot of traffic on Twitter this week because of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, better known as the Proposition 8 case. The supporters of Prop 8 (that's the people who are against same-sex marriage) asked the court not to broadcast the proceedings, or even make them available on YouTube, because they feared it would create a "media circus" (though I'm not sure the mainstream media spending more time on this issue is really a bad thing) and more importantly, that their witnesses might be intimidated or threatened by people who recognized them from the video of the court's proceedings. Most people seem to believe this is only an excuse, and that the real reason they don't want cameras is that they don't want the general public to hear the arguments for SSM expressed eloquently and carefully by the very intelligent team representing the plaintiffs and the pro-SSM witnesses they've called to the stand.

However--and this is what a lot of the people on the pro-gay side don't seem to want to admit--supporters of Prop 8 were intimidated and harassed right after Prop 8 passed. I remember seeing pictures of a Mormon church in Los Angeles being vandalized, and thinking that whoever did that, acting out of anger and desperation, was setting us way back. There were huge crowds of people in the streets that Wednesday night, and while I'm sure the huge majority of them were peaceful, there were lots of acts of violence and harassment not just against the people who put prop 8 on the ballot and ran its campaign, but against the individual citizens that voted for it. If that's what happens to individual voters, imagine what could happen to someone trying to defend Prop 8 in federal court.

My point is not to encourage groups like Protect Marriage to continue playing the victim (they do plenty of that without my help). And I hope it goes without saying that I don't mean to encourage anyone to commit acts of violence, vandalism, harassment, etc. against anyone. But it's conceivable that some witnesses really did have legitimate fears about cameras in the courtroom.

The reason I bring this up is that there's a very popular trend on Twitter tonight of posting videos like this describing hate crimes that have been committed against gay people. I guess the implication is that laws like Prop 8 encourage hate crimes, or at least encourage the kind of thinking that occasionally leads some people to commit hate crimes. I tweeted "Not liking all the RTing of this video http://bit.ly/6hI1oh Do people think homophobia / hate crime will disappear if we strike down #prop8?" To expand on that a little, if this case eventually goes in our favor, we'll never hear the end of it from the anti-gay-marriage crowd about "activist judges" who are "overriding the will of the people" and so on. Eventually, we would like broad societal recognition that gay relationships are equal to straight ones, not just government recognition. I worry that when we're posting these videos, people will say that we're equating everyone who is for Prop 8 with anyone who's ever killed a gay person. If we ever want people like Protect Marriage and NOM to accept gay marriage, we need to stop thinking of them as the enemy and start thinking of them as someone who is wrong but well-intentioned. That means not implying they're responsible for the occurrence of hate crimes.

Twitter user @california411 then said to me: "@tbreisacher No read the SCOTUS ruling- the US Supreme court is protecting the perpetrators of violence towards GLBT's" thus confirming my worry. You might say that attitudes like those of the Prop 8 supporters are related to the attitudes that lead to hate crimes. But that hardly means that SCOTUS was directly protecting the perpetrators of violence.

Someone named @nutrioso reacted to the videos more or less exactly the way I expected the anti-gay-marriage side would react: "Hmmm...looks like the lefties are displaying their penchant for civil discourse by swamping Twitter with irrelevant propaganda. #prop8" Basically, no one made it clear, at least not to this person, what the connection was between hate crimes and Prop 8.

I guess the point I'm really making here is that if you're going to post something about the GLBT community being victimized, in a Prop 8 discussion, it would be wise to show the connection between that victimization and Prop 8, as clearly and carefully as you can. And remember, the "other side" is not your enemy -- they are just someone who doesn't yet understand why marriage is so important to GLBT people. In the event that we have to fight this issue (or another GLBT issue -- yes folks, gay people do care about things other than getting married!) at the ballot box, we need every vote we can get. Out of the millions who voted to take marriage rights away from us, most of them did so with very good intentions and were simply misguided. Let's help those who are willing to listen to see our side of the story.

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