In Defense of the Defense of Proposition 8 and DOMA

27 Mar
Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do realize that opinion is shifting, and some might say rapidly, towards legalizing gay marriage.  Nearly all the articles/stories devoted to the subject talk about the ‘when’ and not the ‘if’ about its legalization.  Whether it be conservative, liberal, or in-between media outlets, the polls, proponents, and opponents recognize that attitudes towards marriage equality is changing from hostile to indifference/tolerance to acceptance/advocacy.  Now I will state my opinion on this subject at the end, but I’d like to explain my subject line with two other hot button and (possibly equally) divisive as they personally relate to me (which happen to be a ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ viewpoint, respectively) and why I believe that we shouldn’t be so harsh against those that are for the “one man, one woman” definition of marriage.

Abortion/Pro-Life/Pro-Choice

I used to believe that a woman’s choice to have or not to have a child is their decision wholly.  Why should society tell them what their body can or cannot do?  If you yourself were having a baby, would you like someone to tell you what to eat, how to nurture them, or the proper preparation before the birth?  Since I was not a woman, why should I even get to dictate the right way to have a baby?  Didn’t women already have too few rights, and being told what to do with a baby was infringing on one of a woman’s innate rights to have control of their body?

My pro-choice stance has gradually turned to pro-life, but I (feel like I) understand both sides.  It was not until I learned that a person I knew had an abortion that I became a little ill at the thought.  I never thought of it as a conservative or liberal position, just the fact that the baby never existed, and how I may never have existed if my mother chose that route.  I would even argue that the baby has a right to exist at conception is a progressive position, because it is giving them rights that never existed before, in line with many progressive stances.  If abortion is so great, then why does almost everyone hide it that they had one?  If I think that the baby in the womb is a fetus and not a living child, then why have I never seen a “fetus shower”?

My position on this issue, though, is a lot more nuanced than the next.  I personally don’t know, and will never know, what it’s like to have a baby that I just can’t handle to term.  I do believe that there should be exceptions for health of the mother, rape and incest, but I don’t really know where to draw a hard line for the ‘grayer’ areas such as what can really be defined as a mother’s health being danger versus maybe just their comfort.  Maybe it seem daunting, and possibly even impossible, to care for the child to term and thereafter, but the (potential) mother might regret it.

If it wasn’t for someone who I knew, I might have kept my same opinion.  That person later regretted it because they had more children, and I just think it was a loss to the world, and to their family, that they realized it after.

Undocumented/Illegal Immigrants:

I used to believe that if you are here in the country illegally – due to an expired visa, crossing the border but not through the legal security checkpoint, etc. – then you should be sent back to your country of origin.  No ‘if’s, ‘and’s, or ‘but’s.  It was simple to me; if you did not go through the normal process of immigration, then why should you be granted citizenship when others did so.  My parents struggled to get into this country from the Philippines.  My dad spent many years in the US Navy as a cook, even though he could have been an engineer (or the equivalent) on the ship.  He knew the price of getting into the U.S. to make a better life for himself was through the trenches, and he did indeed finally get his citizenship, after many years, including that of his other siblings which took another 30 years.  My mom was on the way to become an executive in a Philippine banking organization/corporation, but she moved to the U.S. because she knew there were more opportunities than back in her homeland.  She also waited a long time, worked, and paid massive amounts of fees before she finally became a citizen.  Based on my parents’ experiences, how could I possibly think that some kind of preferred status should be conferred on those who did not wait and struggle through (and possibly fail) to make it to America?

Now it wasn’t until I went to UCLA that I happened to be in a table discussion that tangentially related to the DREAM Act, and then our table (of approximately 8) actually started talking about the DREAM Act.  We all stated our opinions for the adoption of the DREAM Act, and I stated my opinion against it.  What I was thankful for was that the others weren’t overly hostile to me.  They started explaining their reasons such as that they were being prosecuted for irrelevant or political reasons, or living in such lower-than-poverty conditions that it was only humane to accept them, or that they had no place to go and that it was being racist not to accept them, or that they took the jobs that frankly Americans don’t want, etc.  There was one person that I was friendly with before this event happened who, if I might say, took severe umbrage at my position.  This made me more defensive of my position and only spurned me to further emphasize my personal, and I would still say, valid reasons for opposing the DREAM Act, on both the federal and any possible state, levels.

Then, there was this other person, who I had never met (who became a friend and eventually worked with, but that’s neither here nor there).  Now this person had not spoken yet, and was nodding along to the arguments being set out for the DREAM Act.     (S)he then explained why (s)he agreed with nearly every point I made such as my parents’ struggles, that it didn’t seem equal in terms of getting to the U.S., that undocumented (sidenote: and from this point in my life, I started saying undocumented instead of illegal) immigrants were getting an easier path than my own parents, and of course I thanked him/her for reiterating my points about the Act.  And (s)he talked about a person (s)he knew had lived in not only poor conditions, but also living in fear at the drug cartels in the local area who not only had nowhere to go in the country, but knew that the U.S. was the only place that they could stay alive.  That person also had a child who had lived in the U.S. for a time that the child now considered the U.S. home.  Should the U.S. government send both of them back even if it’s not the child’s fault?  or just send the mother/father back since it was really their fault?  This future friend of mine also talked about (a) parent(s) who wanted the best for their family, including their child(ren) but took them to the U.S. before they had any thought of what was actually happening.  They struggled, it took time, and they knew that they may never be able to become U.S. citizens, but should the child(ren) also be sent back due to what their parents did?  If you yourself had a parent do something wrong, should you be punished along with the parent?

My explanation can’t do it justice because it doesn’t capture how I felt since it was almost 5 years ago.  It was not until (s)he said that it was him/her that was the child (in the 2nd story), that I basically changed my opinion right then and there.  How could I possibly say no, especially if I myself was brought to the U.S. at a young age, that I would think it’d be right to be deported back to a place I had little, and possibly no, memory of.

Same-Sex/Gay Marriage

My own personal opinion is that I do think same-sex/gay marriage should be legal.  If it was bad for the definition of marriage, then outlaw divorce, because that actually is the dissolution of marriage.  If you don’t like same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same sex.  If you think it’s bad for children, then how about those with no parents at all, that’s really bad.  If you think it’s against your religious beliefs, then go to a church that doesn’t allow it.  If you believe that the Constitution only allows for traditional marriage based on the Bible, have you heard about the separation of church-and-state?  If we base everything on the Bible, then we shouldn’t be going to other countries and bombing them.  We should be protecting God’s earth instead of dirtying it for future generations.  We should not be committing adultery; however, it seems a lot of politicians are okay with being hypocritical about that.

Bottom Line

However, for the crux regarding the subject line, give those people who are currently defending CA’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) some time.  They may never have heard of the opposing opinions except through yelling.  I can definitely tell you from experience that it does not work.  You are not giving them a way to come to your side of the argument given the experiences that they have.  You cannot just tell them that they’re wrong, that is asking too much.  How would you like it if someone asked you to change your entire world view because they told you you’re wrong?  If it wasn’t for civilized discussions using my own personal experiences (i.e. abortion and immigration), I would have never changed my opinion.  The former took a lot more time and over many experiences and the latter was nearly instantaneous, but the main point is that if you don’t understand the other side, how can the other side understand you?  (In response to those who might use MLK Jr.’s quote that “a right delayed is a right denied”, I agree, which makes my proposition/advice much harder to stand on its own.  I also think that a right delayed is preferable to a right never realized.)  If you want to change someone’s opinion, you should understand where they’re coming from, and explain from that perspective.  I guarantee you that you’ll be able to change opinions, and maybe even hearts, going that route.

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Boris Shor, PhD

Assistant Professor, Dep't of Political Science, U. of Houston

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