To the 4,883,460 (and counting) Californians who voted in favor of marriage equality yesterday: Thank you. It's nice to know that nearly five million Californians are willing to take a stand in favor of marriage equality for everyone, straight and gay, regardless of whether or not you're comfortable with same sex marriage. Some of you probably belong to churches that don't approve - after all, nearly one in three of us are Catholic - so thank you for going out on a limb and supporting the right of others to live their lives as they see fit, even if it clashes with your personal religious beliefs.
To everyone who voted Yes on 8: If you believed that same sex marriage would result in your church being forced to marry same sex couples, I'm sorry that you heard that. We gay people support freedom of religion as strongly as anyone else in America, and we know that civil marriage is entirely separate from a church wedding. No-fault divorce has been legal in California for decades, and no one has challenged the Catholic Church in court requiring them to perform a divorce; I know it's not the best comparison, but rest assured: if ever some idiot tried to sue your church because you refused to perform a same sex marriage, nearly every last one of us would be on your side. This is America! It's a big enough country for all of us to live our lives without worrying about the government telling us what to believe.
If you thought that this would mean that your children would be taught that same sex marriage is OK, then I have to admit that that saddens me. Although I believe that every child should know that it's OK to be gay - after all, 1 out of 50 children probably are - that really isn't something you should have worried about. California state law doesn't require sex ed for any child - and it guarantees your rights as a parent to remove your children from having to learn about anything even remotely sexual, including marriage. Seeing those first graders going to a same sex wedding probably upset you, but one of them were your daughter, you never would have had to send them their in the first place. State law guarantees your freedom to put the kibosh on just such a field trip.
If you thought that your church would somehow lose its tax exempt status, then I really am sorry, but that just didn't make any sense to me at all. Sure, if your church has a tax exemption on a building generally open to the public (like that gazebo back East), then it has to be open to all the public, but California law has mandated that for quite some time now. It has nothing to do with same sex marriage. It's just how things are here.
Finally, however, I should probably tell you how I really feel. It's like this: These are scary times. Lots of good jobs have disappeared overseas. Rent is ridiculously expensive and an awful lot of us can't make mortgage payments. We all know families that aren't holding up well under the strain: there are lots of divorces, lots of single parents struggling to raise children on their own, lots of children that deserve loving families. Same sex marriage, however, isn't going to help you. If I'm allowed to marry Dan, my partner of 14 years, you're still going to struggle with the demands of your job, your children, your marriage. If you prevent the state from granting me the same benefits and responsibilities you enjoy, all of those problems are still going to be there. Narrowing my opportunities and preventing me from making the choices I know will most improve my life aren't gonna help you one iota. Not one little bit. Just think about all of the marriage counseling, child care programs, and extra teaching staff that 60 million dollars we blew on the election would have bought - instead of a bunch of television commercials and yard signs, we could have built new schools, improved domestic violence programs, built up foster parenting programs, you name it. Sadly, though, you thought rescinding others' rights would somehow improve your own life... and I know this hurts, but it doesn't work that way.
Whether or not you're comfortable with it, it's a simple fact that two or three percent of your neighbors, coworkers, and fellow Californians are gay. Even if your beliefs mean you don't approve of homosexuality, it will always exist. So next time a ballot initiative like this comes up, think about what you'd like to do with your time and money. You have a choice: you can vote for an environment in which each of us are free to choose what kind of lives we'd like to lead, or you can vote for a state that tells its citizens how to live. Either way you vote, you'll still have the same challenges and exhilarations when you wake up in the morning after the election - but if you vote to extend the same rights you enjoy to everyone in the state, not just those of us with whom you personally feel comfortable around or with whom you identify, then you're voting for liberty, for freedom, for the simple right to live your life as best you see fit.