I'm in favor of the idea of direct democracy, and the referendum system that has long been in place in the West Coast states is about as direct as you can get: Any bunch of clowns who can gather up enough signatures are able to submit laws directly to the voters.
I admit there's some problems with this process. These laws can be confused, or confusing--sometimes deliberately, but more often because the people who drafted them have IQs that span the range of readings on a rectal thermometer. Outside money can flood into the state, as in the case of recent Proposition 8, where the campaign was mounted as much from Utah as from anywhere within the state boundaries.
The Mormons were the main backers of Prop 8, asserting that marriage has been universally and traditionally recognized as a union between a man and a woman. Now anyone who has studied anthropology knows that contention is a crock of shit. Delve back into history or prehistory and it's clear that the most common form of marriage is between a man and multiple women, and we're not just talking about obscure jungle tribes here: We're talking about the Bible. (The Bible also says that a man is duty-bound to marry his brother's widow, which would make guys a lot more opinionated about their brother's dating choices.)
There's plenty of other arrangements in various cultures, including polygyny and, yes, gay marriages, and even family systems where children are raised by a woman and her brother (which turns out to make a lot of genetic sense if there's any doubt about paternity [and there always is]; a brother shares a lot of genes with his sister's children.) But polygamy is widespread, and an element of the Jewish/Arab cultures that spawned Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So the Mormons, who were polygamists from the start (until they suddenly found out that God changed his mind), were probably on the right track in terms of universality and tradition. ("Tradition" in the United States means "my personal impression of what was normal in the past based on the television shows we saw in my childhood.")
My theory is that Mormons don't really oppose same-sex marriage. It's just that the law spoiled their own fun, and so now they want to ruin someone else's day. Legislative Schadenfreude.
Note that most of the billowing smoke around this tiny fire is about the word "marriage." California already has a strong domestic partnership law, and no one seems to be attacking domestic partnerships. (At least not these days. But the poor Disney Company--they get assaulted by the left for perpetuating inappropriate stereotypes, and by the religious right for offering same-sex-partner benefits before required by law.)
In any case, I'm here today to clear up both the California referendum mess and the Calfornia same-sex marriage mess. After these three propositions pass, I, like Cincinattus, will retire from Rome to my farm, and engage in politics no more.
Proposition 97. People may not be paid to gather signatures to put propositions on the ballot in California. I'm all in favor of referenda. If the people feel strongly about something, it ought to be brought to the people without the inteference of the politicians. But the people should feel strongly enough about it to gather sufficient signatures through volunteers. As it is, any damn fool thing can--and does--get on the ballot if someone is willing to pay millions of dollars to minimum-wage workers to carry clipboards and stand in front of supermarkets and lie about what the proposition represents. Anything can--and does--get on the ballot in this state if there is enough money behind it. The framers of the state ballot initiative never intended this to become an industry--and it's a dead certainty that they didn't intend for millions of dollars to flow in from businesses or churches in other states to influence California elections.
Proposition 98. While a law may be passed by referendum with a simple majority vote, any amendment to the California State Constitution will require a supermajority. Amending the US Constitution requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate, two-thirds of the House of Representatives, and then the amendment must be ratified by the individual states. But in California an amendment to the State Constitution may be made by a referendum that wins by the barest majority vote. Although Prop 8 proponents keep talking about their "landslide," Prop 8 got only 52% of the votes. You shouldn't be able to amend the Constitution with a tiny margin. Amending the Constitution ought to be a damned serious affair that demands overwhelming support.
Proposition 99. 'Marriage' will no longer have any legal standing whatsoever in the State of California. Marriage is a confounding of religion, tradition, and legal rights into a mishmash that makes no sense and causes endless headaches for the court system. So Prop 99 will make marriage a matter of personal belief and get religion out of the public domain, in alignment with the founding principle of this country's separation of Church and State. If you want someone--anyone--to inherit your money, or make medical decisions when you are incapacitated, then designate them by legal contract. Why should those be the same person in the first place?
Our current discriminatory laws unfairly privilege married heterosexual couples over same-sex couples. But extending the muddle of interlocking laws governing marriage to same-sex couples isn't the only fair solution. Toss it all overboard. If people want to announce publically that they are 'married' and claim that 'marriage' is some sort of sacred state, let them. Some people assert that because they are baptized, or circumcized, or never cut their hair but instead wind it up in a turban, that they are in some special sacred state. Let them believe that if they like, but keep it between themselves and God as they conceive Him or Her or It or Them. The State should get out of the religion business altogether and come up with a rational set of laws.
But, I hear you cry, what about child custody and support, what about spousal health benefits, what about inheritance? Well, child custody and support is already an intractable mess that uses up uncountable hours of court time, the health system is clearly broken and needs fixing anyway, and any large inheritance ends up being contested in any case. Marriage involves people signing a contract affecting all of these without actually examining the terms of the contract. That might work out fine...if people stayed married. Ha. (And conservative Christians get divorced more than anybody in this country.)
There. Three simple propositions. If these pass, not only will it settle the whole 'marriage' controversy once and for all, but we will have hardly any further propositions on our ballots.
I think having vastly fewer propositions in California would benefit not only the long-suffering voters of our state, but also non-Californians across the country and around the globe, who at present have to listen to endless news about California ballot measures.
Once 97, 98, and 99 are law, I can stop writing blog posts like these, and you can stop reading them. It's a win-win sort of thing.