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Prop 8 and Me

Krissy Clark

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Proposition 8 could ban same-sex marriage in Calif
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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It's easy to forget, but this year's election is about more than who will be president. There are some other state level contests you might want to pay attention to. In California, a state initiative called Proposition 8 is on the ballot to ban gay marriage through an amendment to the state constitution. It's in response to a state supreme court decision that legalized same-sex marriage a few months ago. The outcome of Prop 8 could affect whether other states allow gay marriage. And the race has gotten close, expensive and extremely polarized. Accusations of intolerance and vandalism are flying on both sides. But there are some people who, though they have strong opinions, are trying to stay above the fray. Weekend America's Krissy Clark introduces us to a few.

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Steve Weir and John Hemm got married on a soggy morning last summer, on June 17, the first day same-sex marriage was legal in California.

"We're still waiting to have our honey moon," Weir says. "That's going to come in December, and I'm hoping we're still legally married before we go."

Weir and Hemm have been together for 18 years, and they pledged their lives to each other long before the state of California made it official. Still, Hemm says now that he's married, he feels different.

"I feel a little bit more part of normal society. You're part of that brick in the house that's called life. You're part of that building - not just a rock out in the yard. You're...you're," he searches for the right way to put it, and comes back to that word, "married."

And at least until the results of Prop. 8 are tallied, Hemm and Weir will have the marriage license to prove it. But if you look closely at the form, you notice something about Weir's signature. It's in two places. ("They even kind of match," Weir says.) First, you see his signature as one of the parties seeking to be married. Then, further down, you see another signature, this one digitized, over the county seal. Steve Weir is the County Clerk of Contra Costa, and that means he is in charge of issuing marriage licenses, including his own, in the county where he lives.

He is also in charge of running elections, including the one with Prop. 8 on the ballot. His office has already started to process the ballots that will determine whether his marriage will remain legal.

It's a strange position to be in. He will privately cast his own vote. But he says his deepest commitment during this election is to other voters.

"Regardless of what my opinion is about the way the world ought to work," Weir says, it's vital that the public know his office will do the right thing in counting people's votes. "I see people pull into our lot to vote that have bumper stickers on their cars that espouse positions that I may agree with, and positions I may disagree with, and that's part of our democratic process."

One of the votes that Steve Weir's office will count is Ron Barker's.

Barker lives with his wife and their four daughters in Contra Costa County. He teaches Sunday school at their church. He says he is usually pretty apolitical, but he just wrote his first-ever letter to the editor, in support of Prop. 8, against gay marriage.

"I don't know why, but it just seems to cheapen the word 'marriage' to me," Barker says. "If you didn't call it marriage… If it was all the same benefits, but we're going to have civil unions, I'd be fine with that."

Barker says his feelings about Prop. 8 come from his understanding of several passages in the Bible.

"That man should not lie with man," he says, giving an example. Then he pauses. "When you start talking like that, you start sounding like a religious nut."

Barker explains that he's confident in his interpretation of the Bible on questions of homosexuality, "but I don't think it ever teaches you to discriminate. So it's been a battle internally going, 'I have friends and I don't want to discriminate against them, but do I actually believe this, what I go to church for every week?'"

At the same time, Barker is aware of how the measure has turned people against each other, and he doesn't like it. He has neighbors who used to be friends and have now stopped speaking to each other over the issue. He says he knows of houses with "Yes on 8" signs in their yards that have been vandalized, and ones with "No on 8" signs that have been vandalized too.

And even though Barker has taken a public stand in favor of Prop. 8, he says mostly he just can't wait for the ugliness of this election to be over. "To not have to listen to either side anymore, to not be hammered on the head every day, to not see the signs up, see the fighting that's going on. I will feel relief more than I will feel happiness or sadness, whether it passes or fails."

Steve Weir, the county clerk, and his partner John Hemm agree. On Tuesday night, once the polls have closed, and Weir's office has published the preliminary results, he will print out the vote tallies, go home, and do what he always does after an election, no matter what the issue.

"I'll sit there at the counter - I hope I have a glass of wine," Weir says.

His partner Hemm jumps in: "He stands there, and he just rocks, like he did when he was five years old."

"And I'm not looking to see if something is winning or losing," Weir continues. He is looking, he says, to see if the tallies look accurate, to see if there are any close contests that might need a recount. First he wants to know that the election has been fair. Then, he will worry about which side won.

Comments

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  • By john Hemm

    From Concord, CA, 11/03/2008

    I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful, positive event in the lives of the American People.

    By VOTE NO

    11/01/2008

    Acually 80% of different-sex marriages in the US end in divorce during the first 20 years. Eliminating fundamental rights is wrong. Despite what many Prop 8 supporters claim Prop 8 does in fact take away rights which include pension plan survivor benefits, long-term care insurance, state veteran benefits, tax exemption of inheritance, exemption from testifying against spouse and marriage. VOTE NO ON PROP 8

    By Thomas Todd

    From Marshall, NC, 11/01/2008

    I'm commenting on one of the people in the story noted that gay marriage was not right while civil unions were fine. I'm constantly surprised at people using the very same logic they argue against. He cited that "man should not lie with man" as noted in the Bible and how that perverted (I guess) marriage. The Bible also says not to adulter or covet your neighbors wife (things, etc) so is marriage likewise a problem because staggering numbers of all married people cheat on each other. Half of all marriages (or more maybe) end in divorce and it seems to me that married men & women (I'm happily man married to a great woman) do a wonderful enough job of destroying the 'sacrament' of marriage, and yet here are the very same people who argue that married people are staples of their communities, etc. but would deny those who have proven themselves together for some time the same rights they enjoy. Marriage is joke not because two men or women choose to be formally recognized by their community, state, and by rights - but by the married men & women who've already ruined the very institution they argue is so sacred and wonderful. Marriage or Civil Union - who cares what letters, symbols, or phoenetics you call it...people who wish to commit to each other and share homes, property, lives, children, health, wealth, etc should have the same rights as the rest of us - 1/2 of whom will cheat on the other person or end the relationship in divorce anyway.

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