The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

What change?
Reactionary ballot proposals

Nov 17, 2008

Voters in a number of states approved reactionary ballot proposals. Voters in California, Arizona and Florida approved measures banning gay marriage. In Arkansas, voters passed a proposal that targeted gay couples by barring unmarried couples from adopting children or becoming foster parents. Nebraska voters approved a measure banning affirmative action.

Other reactionary proposals were only narrowly rejected: one would have further restricted abortion in California; another would have eliminated all affirmative action in Colorado.

The various proposals were open denials of civil rights – or as Malcolm X once put it – of human rights.

In California, Proposition 8, the strongest support for denying gay people the right to marry came from black and Hispanic voters. According to exit polls, 78% of black voters would ban gays from marriage; as did 53% of Hispanic voters. People who said they attend church weekly supported the proposal 83% to 17%.

Few people putting themselves up for office in this election spoke out strongly against these reactionary measures. Barack Obama, when pressed, said he opposed the gay marriage ban in California, but he also strongly said that he believes “marriage is only between a man and a woman” – which only encouraged those who supported this anti-gay measure.

A company owned by Howard Ahmanson, Jr., heir to the Home Savings and Loan fortune, donated 1.4 million dollars in support of the gay marriage ban in California. John Templeton, Jr., son of the founder of the mutual fund company Templeton Funds, donated 1.1 million dollars. The Knights of Columbus, which acts as the political arm of the Catholic Church, donated 1.4 million dollars. And Mormon contributions made up 33 to 40% of donations for the measure.

In civil society, the expectation of having individual rights is based on the possibility that others can expect rights for themselves. When you vote to reduce rights for another group, you should expect they will vote to reduce rights for you.

In an earlier period when the black population was fighting for their own rights, they also began to oppose the Vietnam War and to link the struggle for civil rights for black people to the fight for rights for others and to the struggles of the working class against employers.

The same conviction of the need for full respect for others is required today. The reactionary values that have been pushed on us over the last decades serve only the interests of the ruling class that funded these measures.