One good reason to vote NO on Prop. 8 (which would take away the right that gay men and lesbians now have to marry in the state of California) is that it’s putting an enormous amount of pressure on some of us to get married before election day in November, in order that we might be “grandfathered in” even if the right to marry gets overturned. How crazy is that?
Another reason is that it’s always nice to be on the side of social justice, civil rights and history. It just looks better. Your grandchildren aren’t going to think twice about gay people getting married, but they will look askance at those who opposed their right to do so.
Let’s say that it is true–somehow, though I can’t for the life of me imagine how it would be true–that my marriage weakens other, heterosexual marriages. Maybe some woman sees my spouse in the park playing with the kids while I sit, at a nearby picnic table, typing on my computer. She says to herself, “It is not even Sunday afternoon, and that woman’s spouse is playing with the kids. That is so unfair. I want to take away her right to be married to that person. And if I can’t do that, I want to go home and pick a fight with my own spouse, who never goes to the park on a Wednesday (most likely because he’s busy earning more money than I could in the same job).” So begins the fighting, the acrimony . . . and soon it’s divorce time. All because of my little lesbian marriage. Okay. I can imagine it . . . sort of . . .
Let’s say that’s true. Even if it’s true that granting me my civil rights threatens your marriage . . . drum roll . . . that is not a good reason not to grant me those rights. Have you ever read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin? You can find it online . . http://harelbarzilai.org/words/omelas.txt
It’s a powerful piece of writing that imagines a utopian society based on the suffering of only one child. LeGuin’s narrator speculates about how hard it is for us to imagine happy people who are not childlike and naive. The narrator nearly negotiates with the reader as to how Omelas’ society would function: drugs, perhaps? Religion but no clergy; a sense of victory but no soldiers. Festivals are taking place, some Renaissance in feel, some more Summer of Love. (The story was published in 1974.)
Finally, as if to make one last effort to convince us of the existence of Omelas, the narrator tells us about the child, locked in what amounts to a janitor’s closet, ignored, enfeebled. Every once in a while, the door to the damp room opens and someone throws food in, while more people look on without speaking.
"If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms." (quotes are drawn from the web site given)
LeGuin has a vivid description of the rage and disgust of the children of Omelas when they learn about the suffering child upon whom their happiness and the beauty of their society rest, and then about the way they digest their feelings, and “their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and accept it.”
However, there is one more thing that the narrator has to describe. From time to time one of the adolescents, after seeing the child for the first or second time, or one of the adults of a sudden, will leave Omelas, and walk away alone.
“The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot descibe it at all. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”
Rereading the story for the upteenth time (I’ve even taught it before), I feel as if I understand it better than ever. Perhaps it is because I have found myself accepting the “terrible justice of reality,” trading it for youthful idealism and constant frustration. Perhaps it is because I am attempting to use the story to make the argument to those who believe that marriage is a beautiful and perfect institution built for a man and a woman that they should walk away from their utopia if it necessarily rests on the unhappiness of my people, on the pain of my sons, on the limitations of my civil rights.
LeGuin suggests that the place where people refuse to build their joy on the suffering of even one other person is a place harder to imagine than that joyful utopia, but if you are willing to set out in that direction, you will find your footsteps sure.
Read about Prop. 8:
as well as countless “Christian” web sites and reports of out-of-state money pouring in to defeat Prop. 8.