Students Criticize, Laud California Gay Marriage Ban

Students and faculty voiced mixed reactions to the passage of California Proposition 8, reflecting on the implications of the gay marriage ban both for themselves and the nation. “Maybe we’re not as liberal as we think,” said Katherine A. Mills ’11, a California resident who said that she voted against the ballot initiative. “I’m just disappointed, but I’m hoping that with an African-American president, our ideals of equality will be stronger and we’ll be able to move forward.” Proposition 8 passed on Tuesday with 52 percent of the vote, ending almost five months of legal same-sex marriage in California that was ushered in by a May ruling by the state’s highest court. Since mid-June, over 11,000 people have tied the knot in California, surpassing the total number of same-sex weddings in Massachusetts, which became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Last year, the state legislature defeated a constitutional amendment in the Bay State, making it unlikely that the right will ever be revoked. Jordan A. Monge ’12, another California resident who identifies herself as a “libertarian Republican,” said that decided not to vote in the issue because she felt “torn” between her more conservative sympathies and her strong libertarian beliefs. “I think young Republicans are more tolerant of homosexuals than other branches of the party,” she said. “But it shouldn’t have been on the ballot because extending rights to gays and all the other involvement in marriage would have been an expansion of government.” Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93, a member of president-elect Barack Obama’s National LGBT Leadership Council, said while he appreciates Obama’s support for gay rights, he also believes that the senator has an “incoherent position” when it comes to marriage equality. “He’s not been as loud a champion as marriage equality as he should be,” McCarthy said of Obama, who has said that gay marriage should remain a state issue. McCarthy said that the narrow margin by which Proposition 8 was approved also reflected progress. “We’re within two percentage points of marriage equality,” he said. “We’re talking about a country moving in the right direction toward equality for all.” On the other side of the aisle, some campus conservatives celebrated what they saw as a triumph. “Issues of importance like this are best chosen through democratic decision making,” said Harvard Republican Club President Colin J. Motley ’10. “I think that the decision through this means is better than going through non-elected judges.” Like McCarthy, Motley also criticized Obama’s muddled position on gay marriage. “Barack Obama opposes gay marriage and opposes Proposition 8, which probably confused some voters,” Motley stated, referring to the exit polls showing that black and Latino voters supported the Democrat but also voted for the proposition. While hopes for gay marriage were not totally dashed by the passage of Proposition 8, they were certainly dimmed. Gay-rights advocates have already filed three lawsuits challenging the proposition, saying that it is an illegal constitutional revision rather than an amendment. A revision must be approved by the legislature before going to voters, and the California Supreme Court has twice invalidated ballot initiatives by deeming them constitutional revisions.