Rights at War

, Daniel Allen, Leave a comment

Continuing efforts from activists both for and against California’s Proposition 8 ensure that the issue will not be forgotten any time soon. Conservatives are discussing the backlash being experienced by groups who worked to ensure the passage of Prop. 8. One area of serious concern for the supporters of Prop. 8 is the disproportionate violence directed toward members of the Mormon and African-American communities. Mormons and African Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop. 8.

Almost immediately following the passage of Prop. 8, Mormons were heavily targeted for attacks and demonstrations. Protesters gathered outside of Mormon temples and several temples reported vandalism. Others reported that they had received envelopes filled with white powder, clearly intended to remind the recipients of the anthrax attacks that occurred after September 11th.

One pro-gay blogger, upon learning of the results of the vote on Prop. 8, invited readers to “burn their (expletive) churches to the ground, and then tax the charred embers.” Another hoped that the “No on 8 people had a long list and long knives.”

In regards to the “violence and intimidation being directed against the [Church of the Latter Day Saints] LDS or ‘Mormon’ church, and other religious organizations,” NoMobVeto.org printed an ad in the New York Times reading “Religious groups can’t claim some sort of special immunity from criticism. Nevertheless, there’s a world of difference between legitimate political give-and-take and violent attempts to cow your opponents into submission. Violence and intimidation are always wrong, whether the victims are believers, gay people, or anyone else.”

Equally surprising as the backlash experienced by Mormons is the violence aimed at African-Americans. Exit polls also show that 70 percent of African-Americans in California voted in favor of Prop. 8. The Los Angeles Times reports, however, that this number is exaggerated and that “African-American support for Prop. 8 was more likely about 58 percent.” Regardless, pro-gay mobs and extremists have targeted African-Americans for retaliation.

Scott Walter, President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, offered an example of the hysteria that has turned into violence against African-Americans. Two black men carrying signs against Prop. 8 were “attacked and called racial slurs by their fellow opponents of Proposition 8,” he says. “It’s hard to beat that for sheer irrationality.”

Though a few groups are experiencing the majority of the aggression, others have been chosen and targeted seemingly at random in reaction to their donations in support of Prop. 8. The Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego hotel is being boycotted because the hotel developer, Doug Manchester, donated $125,000 in support of Prop. 8. The hotel’s marketing manager, Kelly Commerford, says that Manchester’s donation “is a private act by a private individual,” and the hotel is being targeted unfairly.

New examples of aggression and threats can be found almost daily, thanks largely to efforts by bloggers and private websites. The media has offered poor coverage of the aggression against Mormons and Catholics, according to Walter, who notes, “Had the election gone the other way, and had it been a synagogue in San Francisco that had been targeted in that kind of reprehensible way, I somehow suspect that the media might be paying a little more attention to it.”

Tom Messner, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, talked about the dangers of efforts to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples toward those who hold to the traditional understanding of marriage as a contract between a man and a woman in a meeting on Tuesday. He said, “When you create same sex-marriage, and in this country it has been exclusively done through the courts at the state level, you don’t just add a new category to civil marriage… you take the traditional understanding of marriage, which is a relationship between one man and one woman and say that limiting marriage to that is a form of bigotry.”

Messner effectively described the fears of many conservatives by noting the harms and unfair pressures that would result from redefining marriage:

• The first problem that arises deals with government benefits. With the redefinition of marriage, groups seeking government benefits are going to have to “abandon their belief in traditional marriage.” Messner cited as an example The Boy Scouts of America, which has a strict policy on homosexuality and has been forced out of public buildings across the country.

• The next harm arises under nondiscrimination laws, which “reach out and govern private behavior.” He said, “Whereas someone’s sexual orientation may have been irrelevant to you before, when a state creates some legal, official form for that same sex union…you can’t ignore it. It’s now relevant to your beliefs.” Messner discussed the example of a Catholic adoption agency in Boston which had been very successful at placing children in homes but had a strict policy of not placing children in homes with same-sex parents. Because of nondiscrimination laws this adoption agency chose to stop its practice entirely rather than compromise long-held religious beliefs.

• The third pressure that is arising includes social and cultural pressures. “Once you have judges, and once you have politicians saying ‘If you believe in traditional marriage, you’re just like a racist,’ you’re going to have a lot of pressure culturally, socially…to change your views and abandon your beliefs.” Messner offered as an example the Arizona Bar Association which is “considering making it a requirement to be licensed to practice law in Arizona that you essentially admit that you think sexual orientation is the same as race.”

Though this cultural threat presents real concerns, many are more concerned about the physical aggression already being experienced.

Supporters of Prop. 8 will continue to suffer the backlash of their November 4th vote, as opponents of the proposition show no signs of willingness to accept California’s decision.

Daniel Allen is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.