Marc has published several thoughtful pieces about the significance of the passage of Prop 8. I am awed by his ability to be far more reasonable and rational about this topic than I am.
I am unforgiving and judgemental. I find the denial of the right to enter into marriage based on the sexual orientation of the two people who wish to marry to be an unconscionable act of discrimination and those that support this discrimination to be bigots. I don't believe that declaring oneself not to be a bigot means anything; in this matter, actions and beliefs shout bigotry louder than any words of denial.
Marc suggests that there is a middle ground or compromise position that would allow for civil unions between any adults who choose that route, including gay couples, but that would reserve the term "marriage" for straight couples. I think that I understand his logic--so many who are against gay marriage insist that they object to what they perceive as the expansion of marriage to include same-sex partners and want it declared that marriage is only for male/female unions. Marc's solution would eliminate the entire debate as to how allowing two same-sex adults to marry would somehow undermine the institution of marriage.
While I respect Marc's proposal, I don't think that it would work. I think that the so-called "defense of marriage" forces would simply find other reasons to object to same sex unions, regardless of what they are called. I find it curious that the defenders of marriage only find the institution to be threatened by allowing two same-sex adults who wish to publicly profess their love for one another and their commitment to that love to marry. I figure that if marriage can survive infidelity, divorce, and indifference by one or more partners, it ought to be able to survive a few more people willing to give a lifetime commitment a try. It's not as if heterosexuals have made a huge success of lasting marriages; I really don't see how gay couples could do any worse.
A lot of people, including me, have made parallels between the racial civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement. After giving it some additional thought, I actually think that it may have been simpler for black people to achieve legal equality coupled with forward movement in social equality than it is going to be for gay people. Religion ultimately worked in favor of black people. Even in the heyday of slavery, the impetus of the abolitionist movement was born out of some Christian churches taking an inventory and recognizing that slavery and Christianity mixed about as well as oil and water. Certainly there were those who looked to the Bible to justify slavery, particularly among southern denominations. (Genesis 9:25-27 re: the children of Ham was often cited.) However, the abolitionist movement that blossomed in America grew out of an anti-slavery evangelicalism that had its roots in movements in England and in America that began to question human bondage as being consistent with a belief in a loving God and an obligation to love one's neighbor.
The intertwining of the civil rights movement and religion continued into the 20th century. The heart of the racial civil rights movement was grounded in a moral concept of the worth of all humans, regardless of skin color. After all, the largest symbol of the movement was a minister who appealed to basic principles of Christianity in promoting the message of equality. It was difficult for all but the most hardened, sheet wearing, cross-burning bigots to argue that the Christian God condoned keeping a people in bondage or subjected to second class citizenship because of the color of their skin.
Disturbingly, there is a refusal by a significant segment of organized religion to recognize anti-gay rights sentiment as being in the least bit immoral. To the contrary, they are certain that morality is on their side. They don't view the issue as denying rights to a group of people based on sexual orientation but rather as refusing to recognize what they view as unnatural, an aberration in the sight of man and God.
The phrase that I've heard for years is, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." I find this sentiment hypocritical and nonsensical, but those that espouse it are rock solid in their self-righteousness. I don't know that they would be moved if their son or daughter, or grandchild declared, "I'm gay." I've seen far too many families close the door on all interactions with a family member who comes out of the closet. They pray for the "sinner" to see the error of his or her ways. On family holidays, a few daring souls speak about the absent family member in occasional hushed whispers, certain in their moral righteousness that they have followed God's law.
I don't have an answer. I believe that communication and education is essential, and we must continue to speak truth in a loud and clear voice and refuse to validate bigotry regardless of the basis for that bigotry.
However, I am disturbed at where my thoughts have taken me. I don't feel optimistic about social change taking place regarding gay civil rights to the same extent as black civil rights in the near future. I am also even more convinced of the absolute necessity of pushing forward with legal protections of those rights with "all deliberate speed."