Thoughts on Proposition 8

California’s Proposition 8, which proposes a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, has certainly been a recent topic of discussion around ours and many Californian’s dinner tables. I’ve talked with friends, family members, and colleagues, listening to the various arguments people have on each side of the issue. I’m still not sure how I will vote in November, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.

What I Believe

Let’s start by framing the discussion a bit:

  • My religious faith is an incredibly large part of my life. As a Christian, I believe that living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin against God. I do not, however, believe that any one sin is fundamentally worse than another. We live in a fallen world in which all people live in sin to some degree or another.

  • In general, I do not believe that you can legislate morality. Passing Proposition 8 is not going to cause gay couples to change their lifestyles. If the Church wishes to witness to homosexuals in an attempt to save them from a believed sinful lifestyle, that is perfectly acceptable. The first amendment guarantees any religion the right to exist and express their belief system, and I don’t believe any level-headed person would disagree with the Church’s right to do so, whether they agree with them or not.

  • I believe that marriage is an institution created by God to be between one man and one woman.

  • Being a religious institution, I believe marriage has no place in government, either in being defined or performed. If governments wish to offer various rights and benefits to legally recognized family units, those rights should be equally extended without any kind of discrimination, whether based on age, race, sexual orientation, etc. I believe government should be involved only in the business of performing such civil unions, seperate from the institution of marriage.

The Ideal Scenario

As mentioned in my last point above, my ideal scenario is one in which governments perform only civil unions, which are equally available to straight and gay couples. Any and all rights and benefits currently afforded married couples are instead granted to these civil unions. Chris Messina and I completely agree on this point.

Where I do not completely agree with Chris is what we should do in our current non-ideal situation. Chris immediately jumps to the conclusion that if marriage must exist, then it should be non-discriminatory. While I agree with the sentiment, I think there’s more to it in this case.

Current Legislation

California domestic partnerships have quite a history. They were first established by the Domestic Partnership Act of 1999 and have continually been granted more rights in every session of congress since. At this point, nearly all of the state benefits available to married couples are also available to those in a domestic partnership. In fact, Equality California and the NCLR said in the introduction to their brochure for Gay couples explaining the law:

… registered domestic partners in California are provided with most of the rights and responsibilities of married couples under California law. However, registered domestic partners still do not receive any of the 1,138 rights and benefits of married couples under federal law. Registered domestic partners also continue to have less security than married couples when they travel or move outside of California.

In the absence of a recognized right to gay marriage, the state of California took the appropriate action of establishing another institution that would afford same-sex couples all the same rights (at the State level) as an opposite-sex couple. Now I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that no matter what happens with Proposition 8, same-sex couples will have no more or less rights than they do now within California.

Beyond California, the Defense of Marriage Act prevents the effects of Proposition 8 from having any effect in other states or the federal level. First, the act establishes that no state can be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Additionally, it defines marriage at the federal level as being between a man and a woman:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

While I most certainly do not agree with this act (especially the latter part) and believe that it should be repealed, it’s important to note what this law means for Proposition 8. I would love to hear an analysis from someone more familiar with these laws, but it seems to me that Proposition 8 (whether it passes or not) is likely to have little effect with regards to the actual rights and benefits available of same-sex couples.

Moving Forward

So if my understanding above is correct, then how do we move forward from here? My primary criteria at this point is to identify which vote on Proposition 8 is more likely to be a step in the direction of my ideal scenario.

On one hand, I’m concerned that if we do not pass Proposition 8 and the marriage is made available to same-sex couples, then it will be viewed as having won the war and no more effort will be spent in trying to disconnect marriage and government. If instead Proposition 8 does pass, then at the very least it protects the traditional religious definition of marriage. At most, it would emphasize the need to continue expanding the rights afforded domestic partnerships if there are any shortcomings. Over time, additional legislation could seek the removal of marriage from state law, to be replaced by domestic partnerships (or civil unions) for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

On the other hand, I’m generally in favor of small government and don’t like the idea of passing laws that are not really necessary. Even more, amending the constitution pretty firmly plants the institution of marriage within the state government, which is not what I want.

So like I said, I’m not really sure how I’ll be voting next month. I’ve got pretty clear ideas (I think) on the issue, but there’s just no way of knowing what chain reaction this proposition could set in motion in either direction. I welcome any thoughts or comments.

Comments and responses

Since I’m gay, you and I are going to disagree on the morality of homosexuality and, consequently, the definition of marriage. I hope for a day when more Christians have an inclusive view of homosexuality, where the mere definition of two members of the same sex together does not fundamentally disagree with the core values of their religion. However, I understand this requires a more fluid interpretation of the Bible and its role in Christianity, and I respect your choice not to go down that road.

I am commenting to say I appreciate that you are doing the same for me. Thanks for respecting my beliefs and for taking the time to carefully consider my rights as an American and as a person. Your attitude is a stellar model to follow amidst the rising trends of polarization and the inability to reach across boundaries.

You wrote that: “Chris immediately jumps to the conclusion that if marriage must exist, then it should be non-discriminatory.”

It’s not that Chris (and I) believe marriage should be non-discriminatory, but rather that legislation should be non-discriminatory. If marriage as a religious institution only recognizes unions between a man and a woman, that’s fine. And we both agree that this should be returned to the domain of the church. However, I believe that laws should afford equal rights to everyone (regardless of the issue), and I view Proposition 8 as a strong threat to this.

I do understand your dilemma, and I applaud you for really thinking about this issue. In fact, you’ve highlighted some points that I hadn’t thought of before either. But to your final thoughts: I’m not convinced that not passing Prop 8 will remove any further effort to disentangle marriage from government. We continue to propose new laws and modifications to the legislature all the time–why would this case be any different?

On the other hand, if Prop 8 does pass, I’m not convinced that there will continue to be a push to support domestic partnerships. I worry that people will feel the law has decided it, once and for all, and become complacent. Or minimally, if it passes, it will be incredibly hard to repeal.

Furthermore, if Prop 8 does pass, it sets a terrible precedent. First, it will enforce marriage within the real of government. Second, when other states propose similar amendments, they can look to CA (and Florida apparently, too) as a model. And this model will be one of inherent discrimination.

If I were to really try to argue my point, I would say: given your belief in the sanctity of marriage and your other desire to support equality, a Yes vote on Prop 8 is more likely to keep marriage within the domain of government and enforce discrimination–both unfortunate given your leanings. A No vote on Prop 8 will 1) encourage non-discrimination in the legislature (a win) and 2) grant same-sex couples “marriage” rights (maybe not a win for you). I think it’s also more likely that a No vote will broaden discussion of where the institution of marriage should lie, so that further down the line we can disentangle marriage from government and restore the sanctity of marriage to the church. Either way, I see no real win with a Yes vote, but at least a tradeoff (for you) with a No vote.

I’d love to continue the conversation offline!

Being Dutch, an atheist, and the brother of a lesbian & married sister, I’m hardly objective. Part of what makes this issue easy in the Netherlands is that the state marriage has long been separate from church marriage (which is entirely optional and not legally binding). In fact, a church marriage is illegal without a state marriage (essentially a form of tax evasion). A state marriage is done by a civil servant, a church marriage typically by a priest, vicar or other church representative. They’re two different things. Gay marriage in the Netherlands merely extends rights (e.g. inheritance) & benefits associated with state marriage to same sex unions.

Your believes are of course very personal and should be respected. I just hope you extend the same courtesy to other people. So, the real question is whether you believe your believes should be imposed on others, even if they don’t share your believes? This is essentially what this is about.

You are trying to use the constitution to restrict other people’s freedom regarding this. You need to change it to do that. The constitution is the way it is precisely because the people who wrote it believed that separation of state and church was a good thing and that people should not be imposing their believes on others through it.

Basically, you are telling people like my sister that she can’t do what she has done because of something you believe. Quite something to tell somebody something like that. Who gave you that right? Imagine telling it to her face instead of checking a box on some form next month. If that doesn’t help, reverse the situation in your mind and imagine being told you can’t do something because of what somebody else believes. Like, for example, practicing your religion in a place like Iran or China where they have a constitution that basically makes this illegal.

It’s as simple as that, regardless of what you believe.

This is a simple case of “Civil Rights” and equality.

Beliefs are one thing - and they’re great to have. I’m sure if the government listened to Everyone’s beliefs all the time we’d be in a different place.

Lincoln had his idea of civil rights, while the south had their beliefs. Martin Luther King, he had his ideas as well, while the paler Americans had their beliefs.

Gay marriage ranks up there with equality amongst races, and sexes alike. Women can vote, slavery’s been forgotten, now -let’s let these people marry each other already and get on with it.

Funny. If Will Norris was gay, I’m pretty sure his outlook would be different, which in and of itself makes this proposition a subjective matter of perspective, and thus - immoral.

Everyone seems to assume and virtually no one challenges the view that marriage is a religious institution.

Matrimony has indeed become a sacrament of christian churches, but rather late in the history of Christianity, really.

Marriage was for centuries a secular issue and consisted essentially on publicizing the union of the couple. Sometimes, these unions were blessed by the religious institution du jour but it was only relatively recently that christian churches took hold of marriage and made it a central part of their faith, promoting the ceremony to the status of sacrament.

So, I wouldn’t say marriage is a religious issue. It is simply a contract by which two people publicly commit to each other, which the State then recognizes for a series of legal purposes.

First, let me say I am a gay person, and my “ideal scenario” is exactly the same as yours. I see no reason to have governments involved in marriage whatsoever. If for no other reason than that, I would oppose prop 8, as it codifies marriage in the state constitution.

Further than that though, it codifies segregation, and intolerance in a way that I can’t support, and which has real impact on people. It may seem like a completely objective calculation to you, but when you’re 15 years old, realizing you’re gay, and your state passes a law saying you will never be normal, and never be allowed to marry it hurts. That person is out there. Thousands of them. To a lesser extent it hurts many more people. Many people look to “tolerant” parts of the country for hope, for the idea that maybe one day these ideas will spread, and we will be accepted everywhere. This crushes those dreams.

To address some of your specific points:

“If instead Proposition 8 does pass, then at the very least it protects the traditional religious definition of marriage”

Why should religious definitions be protected in the secular constitution?

“Over time, additional legislation could seek the removal of marriage from state law, to be replaced by domestic partnerships (or civil unions) for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.”

It could, but what are the chances in that? Do you think a bill to remove marriage would be popular? Christian groups frame prop 8 failing (meaning no changes to the current situation) as somehow an attack on marriage. The idea that an actual prop or bill to actually remove marriage would be feasible is wishful thinking.

We have a namespace collision with “marriage,” and while we figure out how that collision relates to government, which way should we lean? Should we err on the side of closed and then open up new avenues, or should we keep the laws open, and then gradually narrow down applications?

The difficulty I see with your argument is that same-sex marriage is the incumbent here, so I’d argue that if Prop 8 IS passed then the “war will be won.” I don’t have sources available, but I understand Yes on Prop 8 is better funded and better organized, being backed by religious organizations. These organizations won’t give up the fight if Prop 8 does not pass. Indeed, they may instead move for the ideal situation you propose. Same-sex marriage does not have as strong a lobby.

Personally, I can’t in good conscience vote for something that may, depending on how overzealous people may apply law, infringe on the rights of my fellow citizens. When it comes to imperfect propositions, I’m erring on the side of open.

I do not, however, believe that any one sin is fundamentally worse than another.

Jesus would disagree with you. He said to Pilate:

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

So yes, in one sense we’re all sinners, and it’s not for us to cast judgement. But in the eyes of God, there are greater and lesser sins. But that’s a tangent. I believe in rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s – that is, I believe in separation of Church and State, and I’m comfortable pushing for things like legalized drugs, legalized prostitution, etc, even though I may have moral or religious objections to them. Freedom and human rights are worth the price.

Being a religious institution, I believe marriage has no place in government, either in being defined or performed. If governments wish to offer various rights and benefits to legally recognized family units, those rights should be equally extended without any kind of discrimination, whether based on age, race, sexual orientation, etc. I believe government should be involved only in the business of performing such civil unions, seperate from the institution of marriage.

Absolutely. As a libertarian (and as a Christian), I detest the idea that I have to have permission from the state for my marriage to be recognized by anyone.

I’m with Chris: as long as the State is interfering with marriage, it should interfere equally. Unfortunately not many people like us are pushing to have the concept of marriage separated from the concept of a civil union. But consider: this might be a back door to getting the “one-man-one-woman-mandated-by-law” folks on board with that separation. They’re fond of using the “the gays are peeing in our marriage pool” argument. Let’s use it to our favor. We can sell it as a way of making marriage a personal/religious institution, completely up to your personal beliefs. Their main goal is to not have the State recognize homosexual unions as “marriage.” I think having the State also cease calling their unions “marriage” would be an acceptable cost.

I use this line of reasoning to sell that point:

“If you found out that your Best Man forgot to file your marriage license and that you weren’t actually legally married, would you consider your marriage null and void?” (Rhetorical question, answer for them: “Of course not! Your marriage doesn’t depend on recognition from the State… it was sealed with your vows!").

In Florida, I have a much easier choice to make. We have “Amendment 2” here, which seeks to write banning of both homosexual marriage and homosexual civil unions into our State Constitution. They’re not even currently legal! It seeks to write discrimination into our Constitution, which makes me furious.

I do agree with you when you say no sin is greater or less than the other. I’m conflicted as to Proposition 8, mainly because it’s too complex for as it stands now. By supporting it does it mean I’m judging, a sin and arrogance by itself, homosexuality? On the other hand, does my opposition mean I condone gay marriage? Either way, I don’t think I’m in a position to choose one over another, without being judgmental. So, it’s complicated for me.

While I am absolutely biased and cannot pretend otherwise (http://tr.im/give5), I’m inclined to agree with Brynn, Mark, and others (if I’ve understood them correctly) when it comes to getting closer to your personal ideal.

If Proposition 8 passes, I think the “right” will feel vindicated – if they can pass this kind of Constitutional amendment in California, then surely it’s possible anywhere. We’ll continue to see states writing discrimination into their constitutions instead of out of them, and marriage will be more and more entrenched in the politics of the state.

If 50%+1 of Californians can write this kind of discrimination into the Constitution, what is next? Amending the Constitution should be a big deal. Why should 50%+1 of the people get to do what it takes 66% of our elected officials to accomplish. As I said, I’m biased, but I’d like to think that even if I wasn’t gay and legally married I would vote NO. Consider this my pledge to vote NO on future Constitutional amendments brought to the ballot and not by the legislature – unless the ratification process is changed.

If Prop 8 fails, and more states legislate “in favor of gay marriage,” I think that may actually get you closer to your ideal. At a certain point, the “right” will have to choose their battles. [quote comment=“25821”]Unfortunately not many people like us are pushing to have the concept of marriage separated from the concept of a civil union. But consider: this might be a back door to getting the “one-man-one-woman-mandated-by-law” folks on board with that separation. They’re fond of using the “the gays are peeing in our marriage pool” argument. Let’s use it to our favor. We can sell it as a way of making marriage a personal/religious institution, completely up to your personal beliefs. Their main goal is to not have the State recognize homosexual unions as “marriage.” I think having the State also cease calling their unions “marriage” would be an acceptable cost.[/quote]

Thanks for your honesty and sincerity. Now for some of my own: I hope you’ll choose equality. Tell the state to recognize my marriage the same way it recognizes your’s.

Hillary legally married since 6/18/08 in love since 2001 friends since 1993

I agree with your ideal as well. I think this is where the “right” gets tripped up wrt marriage issues. There’s marriage as a civil, legal contract between two people, and then there’s marriage as a religious union performed in and/or recognized by a church. They should be two separate things. But, I think that as a society, the train has already left the station on that one. I’m not sure we can untangle it now.

But because we’re talking about the state constitution and law, we can only really look at the governmental (civil) and legal angle. And I agree with what others have said… if the government is going to interfere, it should interfere equally.

I also wanted to address your thoughts re: domestic partnership. This was actually the basis of the CA supreme court ruling that made same-sex marriage equal this past spring. It basically boils down to “separate but equal is not equal”. Because the rights under CA’s domestic partnership law equalled that of the rights given by the state under its marriage law, the court held that the separation of the two, including the alternate name, was unconstitutional. Because it’s the same thing, you can’t call it something different for a subset of citizens. It may be true that the domestic partnership law stays intact if Prop 8 passes, but it puts people right back into that “separate but equal” bucket. It also enshrines discrimination into the state constitution. I believe that it’s wrong to take away rights from people.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a lesbian. I entered into a domestic partnership in 2006, and I was legally married to my wife in 2008. My family (Methodist Republicans from Alabama) and my wife’s family (Mormon Republicans from Missouri) both celebrate, love, and support us. They don’t treat us any differently than their straight children. They all think we should have the right to marry. My mom is fond of saying that Dolly Parton had it right – “they have a right to be just as miserable as the rest of us”.

Thank you for your thoughtful analysis and being willing to listen to all sides. Regardless of how you decide to vote, I respect your decision because you took the time to examine all sides of the issue. Too many people don’t do that. That said, I’m voting No on 8, and I hope you’ll join me.

I’m gay and as you’d expect I don’t want to redefine marriage and loose my right, but there’s an even more important issue underlying all this I haven’t heard anyone talk about.

Not all churches are opposed to same-sex marriage. The United Church of Christ is just one example of a church which has embraced same-sex marriage, and they along with any other church which supports equal marriage rights would loose the freedom to marry who they want because they don’t share the official state interpretation of the bible. This is the establishment of religion, plain and simple.

As things stand right now, your church is not being required to marry same-sex couples unless you want to and you are free to condemn me all you want.

Wow, I must say I am a bit overwhelmed by the number of well thought-out and useful comments. Apparently there were a couple that still thought I was making a moral argument or that I was advocating discrimination or something. Nevertheless, thanks to everyone else.

It seems that I was making a pretty basic (and incorrect) assumption… that it is the civil rights advocates who would be the only ones interested in removing “marriage” from the law. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that the religious right would be just as interested in doing so if they felt the marriage pool was being “polluted” (Thanks Mark, for that awesome analogy). I would still love to hear any additional comments other people have, as this has been extremely thought provoking.

I though I would try and take a different tack on this and look at the biblical basis for this belief.

It’s always dangerous for an atheist to trade scripture with a committed christian but hey ho.

I have questions about the church’s pix-and–mix attitude to enforcing the ‘homosexuality is an abomination’ line. The principal passages that deal with homosexuality in the Bible are Leviticus and the writings of Paul.

I think we can safely assume that the church has taken a somewhat relaxed attitude to most of the abominations in Leviticus. Hence the prawn cocktails and cotton-polyester cassocks at my local church. These abominations face the same penalty as homosexuality and yet are relaxed.

Likewise with the writings of Paul in Corinthians and Romans he refers to homosexuality as an abomination. However, he also gives the same penalty to women with short hair and men with long.

This for me is the problem of the church. If the church is deciding to stand firm on some abominations but laughing others off when the biblical strictures are the same, we can say that the position on homosexuality is not based upon the bible but instead some later prejudice.

One might reference Sodom and Gomorrah, though I think using the mass gang rape of two tourists as the basis for denying a committed consensual relationship between two people is rather spurious.

Even post-bible, the church’s relationship with homosexuality has been variable. The early Roman church used to punish monks for homosexuality, but the punishment was equivalent to missing curfew. Hardly the grave sin it is now seen as.

Given the fact that more than 40 species have been recorded as engaging in homosexual activity, I find it hard to believe that God would find homosexuality an abomination for humans but ok for seagulls.

For me, I’d go with Emerson. To think that God can be pinned down, unchanging in the pages of a book or by the words of mortal men, is to kill God and make him pointless. Instead, a direct communion based upon observation of the world and true morality is the closest way to touch god.

but that’s just my opinion :)

Great book on homosexuality and the church if you fancy it: A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality

The State’s role in society is to guarantee fairness, freedom, and opportunity for all its citizens. State-defended fairness guarantees everyone the right to express faith however they choose. Churches can and should be able to practice however they choose.

It must also guarantee everyone the right and opportunity to express their love and commitment however they choose.

No on Prop 8 isn’t about compelling any Church to change its definition or recognition of marriage. I don’t think I would support that. No in Prop 8 is about giving all Citizens equal rights under the law.

I’m for fairness and will be voting No on Prop 8.


Thanks to Will and all the commenters for such a civilized discussion. It’s a nice treat to find a welcoming place outside the standard echo chambers. Civilized discussions like these are what keeps America on the path towards being a evermore perfect union.

Tony, I certainly understand your point. Unfortunately, I’ve not studied apologetics very much, so I don’t have an immediate answer for you. Each of the four principles I mentioned at the beginning of the post could all be scrutinized and argued ad nauseam, but it would really miss the point of my argument. We all have principles that we do and do not believe, and those principles guide the decisions we make everyday.

What this discussion has proven so far, and how I’d like to continue to steer it, is that we don’t need to agree on everything. I’m not sure that anyone who has commented has entirely agreed with what I believe, and that’s okay… in fact that’s the point. It seems we do however all agree that governmental law should be non-discriminatory, and that the legal unions between two people should be separate from religious unions between two people (whatever labels you want to attach to each).

I think the path to convincing conservatives to vote NO on prop 8 is not to try and convince them that they are being intolerant and should accept homosexuality as a morally acceptable lifestyle. I promise you won’t win that argument, because it is based on an individual’s personal beliefs about homosexuality. I think a better approach is to help them realize that they have every right to their view, but that the California Constitution is not the appropriate forum for it… the church is.

Great discussion on your blog. You know, you and your brother never cease to amaze me in how you make me think about things! =)

Here are my issues.

  1. I don’t think that Government should define marriage. I think that is treading on dangerous territory.

  2. It is discrimination to say that you can’t marry due to your particular sex practices. (What is next, you can’t marry if you don’t have sex in the missionary position?!)

  3. I agree that I believe homosexuality is a sin, but why is it that christians harp on this one so much. The Bible talks a whole lot more on divorce and yet our churches are full of divorcees.

  4. Lastly, I think that it comes down to a violation of civil rights and humanity when you deny a person what most of us consider the right to live. (Of course this is highly influenced by my view that all people, disabled included, are human beings and should be afforded the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.) It is not right to tell a gay couple that is committed to each other that they can’t visit in the hospital if their loved one is sick or that they don’t have any legal rights, or that after their partner dies they are entitled to nothing.

I think that Christ loves everyone equally. By putting that kind of language in the constitution you are stating that the rest of us “sinners” are entitled to more human rights than “those” sinners. No one would think of immpossing the same kind of law for an addict, or an adulterer, or a lier.

From 1850 to 1977, California’s marriage statutes used gender-neutral language, without reference to “man” or “woman,” in providing that marriage is a personal relation arising out of a
civil contract to which the consent of the parties capable of making the contract is necessary.

To me the above is as far as the government should go. Beyond that and it should be up to the churches to decide.

Will,

It’s great that you started with your four presuppositions, because it’s really easy to see where you are coming from. And if they were all correct, then your argument may well hold. But I want to take issue with a couple of them :-)

In general, I do not believe that you can legislate morality.

That may be so. But it does not therefore follow that morality should not be reflected in legislation. God seemed entirely happy to have morality reflected in legislation during the time of the Old Testament. But that brings us on to the question of “the separation of church and state”, as it’s normally called.

My points on this question are these: firstly, a lot of American Christians (and I’m not saying you are one, although leading off your justification for the church’s witness with the First Amendment is a bad sign) seem to look to the US Constitution first and the Bible second to see how a country should be governed.

Secondly, the relevant clause in the Constitution says two things: 1) no established church (like the Church of England in the UK) - “establish” was a technical term at the time - and 2) no-one should be prevented from freely exercising their religion. It doesn’t say anything like “Anything the federal government or any of its agencies, appointees etc. does should have nothing to do with God.”

(I realise there are Constitutional interpretative minimalists, who take it to mean what it says, and maximalists, who take it to mean whatever they’d like it to mean which is vaguely related. My description of the two positions makes it fairly clear with whom I have most sympathy. And I don’t think Christians should buy into the maximalism.)

Thirdly, almost everyone seems to quote the story of Jesus and the coin with Caesar’s head on it as being Jesus' endorsement of the principle of separation of church and state in exactly the way the person concerned defines such a separation. Yet careful exegesis seems curiously lacking.

It seems to me that the clear message of the parable is: Caesar has a claim on your money - a piffling trifle in the grand scheme of things - but God has a claim on your entire life. (And you Pharisees and Herodians who think you can trick me need to pay attention to that.) There is no “two kingdoms” theology here.

Having said all that then, I think that the premise of your fourth point is flawed. There is no way you can divide the world like “This is the way we run things when God is involved, which is ‘discriminatory’, and this is the way we run things when God isn’t involved, which is fair to everyone”. What exactly does that sort of view say about God?

Jesus is Lord of all, or he’s not Lord at all. There is not one single square inch of the universe over which he does not cry “Mine!”. And that includes the civil government and all the members thereof, and it includes the laws that they should write. The fact that not everyone agrees with this, and some seriously disagree, doesn’t make it not true.

hi will. not that you have to disclose your vote, but i am curious how all of this shook out for you. i’ve had several encounters lately with christian friends who have had their own (pardon the expression) “come to jesus” moments lately and are voting for obama. i know a vote for obama does not equal a vote against prop 8, but it’s been interesting to have rational, thought-provoking discussions with someone at the other end of the spectrum from me without it devolving into invectives and ugliness.

also, just curious is you saw larry lessig’s video re. prop 8: http://blip.tv/file/1404208

an interesting argument about what exactly strengthens or protects marriage…

hope that if you didn’t vote early, you don’t have to wait in line too long tomorrow. take care.

@HIllary: I voted by absentee ballot last week… no on prop 8, and Obama for president.

I had not seen Lessig’s video on prop 8, thanks for that link. I do find it interesting that he opposes prop 8 on a completely different ground, and he does make a very interesting argument.

I just want to give props to Will. I’ve known him for a while and he’s always shown a disposition towards critical thought on difficult issues

Also, Will, good thing you voted correctly. It would have been a long flight from Z├╝rich to smack ya in the back of the head. ;)

I came here looking to see if the latest Wordpress (2.7) release was compatible with the openid plugin – and stumbled across this discussion.

It’s unusual finding a good, civil discussion about this issue. It was incredibly encouraging reading this.

When people have beliefs of right and wrong that are founded in morality, rather than ethics, it’s generally a very nasty conversation, since morality doesn’t always sit on very solidly on rational foundations.

But Will, you somehow moved beyond this inherent bias. It’s a testament to both your intelligence and to your empathy. And without empathy, intelligence alone is dangerous.

You’re a rare bird. I am impressed, and inspired, that others might one day allow themselves to see more broadly.

Though it’s probably a silly thing to say, since you are who you are, thank you for being so thoughtful and concerned enough to explore what the right thing actually might be. And further than that, to take that step into standing up for it.