(The following is a statement from the Editorial Board of the Fresno Bee concerning Proposition 8) Proposition 8, which would define marriage in California as only between a man and a woman, raises a number of issues. But one question stands out: Should we use the state constitution to take the right to marry from a particular group of people? We believe that notion is wrong, and recommend a "no" vote on Proposition 8.
We understand that many Californians, because of religious or personal convictions, oppose same-sex marriage, and these are deeply held beliefs. But there are others who believe that marriage should not be limited to heterosexual couples.
In May, the issue took a legal turn. Same-sex couples won the right to marry when the state Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22, the ballot measure that banned gay marriage in 2000.
The court said that was discrimination, and unconstitutional: "An individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights," wrote Chief Justice Ronald M. George in the majority opinion. He got that exactly right.
Proponents of Proposition 8 have offered several arguments for their position.
They complain that "activist judges" overturned the will of the majority. But that’s what judges are supposed to do when the majority seeks to deny the rights of a minority.
The notion that same-sex marriages somehow threaten the sanctity and strength of heterosexual marriages is simply absurd. Those who worry about the health of heterosexual marriages should focus their attention on divorce, which is the real threat to marriage.
No church will be compelled to perform same-sex marriages if Proposition 8 fails.
The claim that schools will be forced by the state to teach "gay marriage," featured in TV ads flooding the airwaves, is a flat lie. Local school districts control such curriculum, and state law permits parents to withdraw their children from lessons they find objectionable.
Proposition 8 proponents claim that same-sex partners can enjoy the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. That’s another falsehood. Domestic partners don’t share Social Security benefits, health insurance or pensions, for instance. They don’t get family leave and cannot file joint tax returns, nor do they share rights to retirement benefits.
This nation outgrew the thoroughly discredited theory of "separate but equal" decades ago, yet proponents of Proposition 8 would have us enshrine that notion in our state constitution.
All loving, committed couples should have the right to marry, with all the benefits and obligations that relationship incurs. That’s the law now in California, and it should remain the law. The state constitution shouldn’t be used to turn some people into second-class citizens. Vote "no" on Proposition 8.
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