The bullies' last stand
I'm not homosexual and generally don't even have much interest in the subject (note how rarely it is mentioned here). But the sheer viciousness and mean-spiritedness of the anti-gay-marriage cru-saders is breathtaking. There was no goal or cause here except to take something away from an easily-victimized group, something which was not doing anyone else the slightest harm. There's a word for beating up on somebody weaker than yourself just to show you can, and that word is "bullying".
The claim that the religious conservatives (and let's be clear, Proposition 8 was an initiative of religious conservatives) were somehow "defending" marriage is absurd on its face since no one has ever been able to explain coherently how allowing gays to participate in that institution represents any sort of "threat" to it. The only such "threat" lay in the fact that it undermined the ability of the religious to stigmatize and exclude a group of people (I have written before about the bizarre distortion of the religious mind by which any attempt to resist or even ignore religious bullying is re-defined as persecution of the bullies by their victims). Nor is there any empirical evidence of such harm. Gay marriage is now legal in two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) and five foreign countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa -- yes, we are now lagging behind South Africa on a civil-rights issue), and the institution of marriage is not obviously in any worse shape in those countries than in similar countries which still exclude homosexuals from it.
Yes, many of the protests against Proposition 8 have been overly aggressive and even abusive of the free-speech rights of their opponents, and yes, such protests are probably actually hurting their own cause by turning more voters against gay marriage, and yes, this is tragic. Before being too judgmental, however, consider how you would feel if the right of people of your group (your race, your ethnicity, your religion, or whatever) to get married were suddenly taken away by popular vote -- that is, not only had you lost an established right (which gay marriage was, in California), but you found out that 52% of the people in the society around you supported taking it away from you.
Some of these protesters have behaved repulsively, but few of the people calling on them for restraint have ever faced such a tragic and infuriating provocation themselves.
It is simply against the spirit of a constitutional republic for the rights of minorities to be determined by referendum. Back in the 1960s, when the courts struck down the laws against interracial marriage, polls showed that a clear majority of the public still supported those laws. An anti-interracial-marriage Proposition 8 would likely have passed back then, too. And how likely is it that segregation and Jim Crow would have vanished when they did, if their fate had been decided by referenda on a state-by-state basis?
I think the gay-marriage issue is going to become the new abortion -- the new battleground on which the religious will try to assert some last vestige of what they apparently consider their essential right to force everyone else to abide by their taboos. Abortion has been the battleground for decades, but careful review of this year's election results has surely made it clear to all but the most self-deluding of the religious that they have now lost that battle. The anti-gay-marriage crusade, by contrast, won in every state where it was on the ballot. It's the last crusade that still looks like it can succeed -- the bullies' last stand.
Fortunately, it's an illusion. Proposition 8 passed by only 52%-to-48%, a much narrower margin than any anti-gay-marriage refe-rendum before it. The tide is clearly turning. The bullies are going to lose this fight, too. And I've discovered that I won't feel even the faintest flicker of sympathy for them when they do.
(Good postings on this topic here and here.)