Sunday, September 19, 2004

Yet another victory for ignorance

Louisiana votes 78-22 for homophobia

Best headline placement of the year Posted by Hello

From today's Daily Advertiser:

BATON ROUGE — By a 4-to-1 margin, Louisiana voters on Saturday approved the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

With all precincts reporting, 618,869 people, or 78 percent, voted for the amendment, and 177,145, or 22 percent, voted against.

John Hill, the journalist who wrote this article, is clearly gleeful that this monstrosity passed. Witness his use of quotations:

Republican state Rep. Steve Scalise of Metairie, the chief sponsor the proposition in the Legislature, called the results “a huge mandate that the people want to protect marriage.”

Sharla Young of Lafayette called the results “wonderful. The community here spoke in favor of traditional family values.”

Some criticized the proposed amendment as an expression of intolerance. But “I think it’s a matter of people standing up and defining marriage as being between a husband and a wife,” Young said.

Notice the complete lack of elaboration on the anti-amendment criticism there? If I had done that in journalism school (as I sometimes did), I would have been sent back out and accused of not doing my job. Curse that liberal media!

“We’ve spoken as a state that we will not recognize as a sacred covenant a same-sex relationship.”

Oh, so states are now in the business of deciding what is and isn't a sacred covenant? Nice precedent you've set there. I guess we're due for another Plymouth rock!

Mark Stanford of Lafayette, who opposed the amendment, said he believes Louisiana residents were misled into thinking the state would follow Massachusetts by allowing gay marriages. What it really means, he said, is that he’ll be forced to get his siblings’ signatures on documents to allow him to bequeath property to his male partner.

“This was all politics, obviously,” Stanford said. “We’re a small group, and we’re easy to scapegoat.”

Wow! Finally, some balance! Even if it does completely downplay the real problems that this new amendment presents.

But enough about the reporting. Some of the stuff I wanted to say about the latest victory for the religious right just isn't fit for print even on this anarchic blog, so I'll reprint some comments I made on our grad-student listserv. Most of the students in my department were against the amendment, and some were talking about how little respect they had for Louisianians. Another was telling us that, even though the result sucked, we should have faith in the majority rule. Their comments sparked the following letters from myself, edited here for clarity:

We're going to hear a lot from the right about the 80-20, "majority rules" principle. Fair enough. But they should never forget what Alexis de Tocqueville termed "the tyranny of the majority." He argued that it was always in the majority's best interests to protect the interest of the minority, lest the minority ever become the majority. With the overwhelming passage of Amendment One, the voters have clearly not done so. No amendment that irrevocably takes away the rights of a minority is anything less than total tyranny of the majority. The majority? Well, yes, at least voting-wise. The final percentage speaks volumes about that. I don't think, as Mitch said, that our rhetoric failed. It's just that we were up against people whose very moral fabric hinges on what other people do in their bedrooms. Of COURSE every single one of them was going to turn out!

Other factors contributed as well. Two of them can be summed up by the reactions of my parents on election day. My dad, a politically aware and active man, said the issue wasn't important and that it was doomed to fail because of its across-the-board ban of all civil benefits. In other words, he would have voted against it but was too apathetic to go to the polls. My also-politically-astute mom, whom I met at our precinct to vote, had been confused about the wording for awhile. My column, she admitted, made little sense to her. When she came out of the booth, the first thing she asked me was, "What did I just vote against?" She said that, were it not for my explanation to her, she would have been totally clueless. Complacency and confusion, then, I think really hurt the "no" contingent.

Like Dan, I am ashamed of the people of this state, who overwhelmingly let their preachers guide all of their decisions. That's not everyone, of course, but a pretty large demographic chunk. Not to mention that liberal-leaning New Orleans reported a shortage in voting machines. Real nice. In any event, this decision clearly and solidly proves what I have been bandying about in my mind for years: that I am a Louisianian by birth only, and that I am simply not equipped with the tolerance to stay here much longer.

I hate to tear down Louisiana, as hard as that may be to believe sometimes. Louisiana is a complex place (almost three states in one, really: North Louisiana, South Louisiana and New Orleans), and the Cajun culture combines the tolerant sensibilities of progressive America with a convivial party spirit and the best aspects of that elusive concept known as "southern hospitality." Even LA's politics are odd: we're considered hardcore conservative territory, yet we went for Clinton both times and have only recently began to have a true Republican Party presence. Never forget, however, that this is a state that did not integrate its schools until 1970 and still follows many of the voting patterns of its fellow southern Dixiecrat states. Politically, the state still has a long way to go, as do many states. It's the pride on the part of most Louisianians and southerners not to ever change a thing that irritates me.

In this case "what's in it for me?" doesn't really apply for those who supported the amendment. After all, this amendment does nothing for the people who wanted it, because they already have their rights. If there was something in it for them, then it was the satisfaction of denying a group of people equals rights because they didn't believe those people deserved those rights. But I'd like to think that that wasn't the prime motivation. I'd like to...

Oh, and did I mention that my parents were a civil union until yesterday?


Hegemon said...

"Tyranny of the majority"? hahaha you guys are a hoot, I have a feeling that if those numbers were reversed it would suddenly be trumpeted as "the will of the people!", which in my opinion it is, isn't that what democracy is founded on? letting the people decide what is best for them? Why do you whiny liberals hate the democratic process so much?

Ian McGibboney said...

Well, you're arguing with a legendary political philosopher, not me. 78-22 is huge no matter how you slice it. I still think it's wrong, however. It really all about WHO votes, which was my point in the first place.

Ian McGibboney said...

Additionally, Tom, your side is not innocent of hypocrisy. I hear all the time from conservatives how we are not a democracy, but in fact are a republic, in that we choose people to represent us and make decisions based less on polls and more on what is right. Until something like this rolls along, and suddenly it's "Power to the people!!"

Murph said...

On a different note, I went to high school with the people in the picture next to the article on the Hate Proclamation.

Ian McGibboney said...

Based on the message that the girl has on the back of her shirt, something about an organic-food collective, I doubt that they'd like this association with the anti-gay amendment.

Kyle said...

Yay Jesus!! Another victory for morality!!

Murph said...

Yeah, Ian, I'd say that's a pretty fair and astute assessment.

ThomasMcCay said...

Hey mon,

Good article. Having grown up in Alabama, I relate to what you say about the contradictions of the South and the seeming inability of many Southerners to accept life in the twenty first century.

Good on you for what you are doing here. Keep it mon, keep it up.

Jimmy Huck said...

Ian - Great post. I, too, was stunned at the margin. I really don't think Louisianians of such wide margins are so prone to discriminatory policy. My humble assessment is that most heterosexuals who sympathize or relate to the idea of marriage as between a man and a women morally, took this vote more as an innocuous statement of their sympathies, rather than a fundamental, legally discriminatory change of the state constitution. I also think that there was an insufficient campaign to educate the electorate on the potential legal and civil rights ramifications of this vote. When Jack and Jill, who have shacked up their entire life and have 3 kids together, but never bothered to get formally "married" come face to face with the ramifications of this law in their own little "family" life, I think we'll see a change of heart. I also remain convinced that, like the civil rights movements of the 60s regarding racial discrimination, gay citizens will someday receive their full civil rights as it relates to the institution of marriage. We may not see it in our lifetimes, but the march of equality, fairness, and humaneness in America continues to move forward, no matter how desperately some crusty traditionalists want to cling to a discriminatory past.