Poetry lecture compares gay marriage ban to segregation laws
October 3, 2008 6:12 PM
Lois Lyles read passionately from a stack of poems in front of a half-full classroom, her knit-red cap bobbing above the podium like a balloon.
“You’ve got a tombstone heart and a graveyard mind, 32 years old and not afraid of dying,” she read aloud, a reference to a song written by the recently deceased rock n’ roll icon, Bo Diddley.
The allusions are subtle but her opinions are not. The plight of the gay community, Lyles said, is a struggle equal to the civil rights movement. It is a controversial opinion that comes at a pivotal time for homosexuals. Come November, voters will decide on Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage within California, a point she mentioned during the Women Studies Lecture Series, held in the Humanities building on Oct. 1.
Lyles, who has been a professor since 1988, compared Proposition 8 to mid-20th century anti-miscegenation laws, which made it illegal for blacks and whites to marry.
“In both cases, the government is intruding into the private domain and trying to legislate who should marry who,” Lyles said. “I don’t believe that private freedoms should be encroached upon by laws dictated by prejudice and discrimination.”
But many in favor of a ban on same-sex marriage don’t see Proposition 8 as discriminatory. The proposition does not ban domestic partnerships or civil unions, which provide gay couples with the same legal rights as married couples, a point supporters say is not mentioned by the opposition.
“It has nothing to do with being anti-gay,” said Bill May, the chairman for the Catholics of Common Good. “It doesn’t take anything away from gay or lesbian couples, because they have all the benefits of marriage under state law.”
In looking at May’s opinion next to Lyles’, the proposition becomes all the more complex. Sixty-one percent of California’s voters banned gay marriage in 2000. Eight years later, the proposition was overturned by a 4-3 margin in the California Supreme Court, a decision that left those opposed to same-sex marriage feeling unrepresented. While Lyles said future generations will view the same-sex marriage ban as ignorant, May represents a segment of Californians who don’t think Proposition 8 is discriminatory.
Lilia Tamm, a spokesperson for the organization “No on Proposition 8,” said much of the problem is definitional. While many opponents believe Proposition 8 comes out of hatred or a desire to discriminate, Tamm said many supporters just define marriage sans homosexuals, which is where much of the disagreement stems from.
“To have a big segment of the population believe that it’s definitional issue, they think that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman,” Tamm said. “The problem is they don’t see it as discrimination to not allow that. They actually define it differently. So it’s tough to try to get across to those voters who are undecided because for them, it may mean that they don’t want to deny rights, and they don’t want to deny freedoms and respect. They just see it as something that is defined a certain way that they don’t want to change.”
Even though Tamm does not believe Proposition 8 is rooted in abhorrence, she still agrees with Lyles’ opinion, which equates Proposition 8 to a breach of civil rights. Tamm said while same-sex couples will not lose any significant legal rights, a homosexual exclusion from the institution of marriage is discriminatory in itself.
“There is a whole lot of dignity and respect that comes with marriage that just is not afforded by things like civil unions or domestic partnerships,” Tamm said. “We’re just trying to educate people and let them know there are fundamental differences between being married and having a domestic partnership. That’s really what it comes down to.”
The Women Studies lecture series starts at 2:10 p.m. every Wednesday in Humanities 108, and is open to SF State students.
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University