Wednesday, January 21, 2009


X marks the spot?

Some folks have used public donation information and Google Maps to mark the houses of people who contributed money in support of Proposition 8, the California referendum against same-sex marriage:

It is exactly those arrows that concern supporters of the measure, who say they have been regularly harassed since the election — with threatening e-mail messages and sometimes boycotts of their businesses.

“Some gay activists have organized Web sites to actively encourage people to go after supporters of Proposition 8,” said Frank Schubert, the campaign manager for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind the proposition. “And giving these people a map to your home or office leaves supporters of Proposition 8 feeling especially vulnerable. Really, it is chilling.”

It’s easy for those of us who support the right of everyone to marry to say something like, “And well they should feel vulnerable! They should be held to account for their opposition to civil and human rights.” But look at what’s going on:

It is exactly those arrows that concern supporters of the measure, who say they have been regularly harassed since the election — with threatening e-mail messages and sometimes boycotts of their businesses.
Boycotts are entirely fair: it’s perfectly right to say, “I won’t do business with someone who would limit my rights.” But harassment and threats of harm are not the way to handle this. That sort of thing is the antithesis of what we want: it puts a limit on free speech of others, and it might likely result in an injunction against the reporting regulations, taking away the accountability that we fought hard to put into place.

We are moving forward in steps, despite the efforts of those so mystifyingly opposed to what seems obvious and harmless. Change will come, and we can make it happen. But not by threatening people, violating their privacy, and making them feel unsafe in their homes.

Update, 14:50: As noted in the comments, it’s not that these maps have created a pervasive atmosphere of fear, nor that the maps only exist on one side of the issue, nor that threats and vandalism are only happening on one side. As Thom points out, there are jerks on both sides.


W.M. Irwin said...

Reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode "Four O'Clock" starring the renowned actor Theodore Bikel. Bikel's character keeps extensive personal dossiers of ordinary people whom HE has judged to be "evil" and then devotes his sorry existence to harassing and threatening them. Looks as if we have a few of these "do-gooders" slithering around us in the real world, too.

thom said...

As far as I know, there have been no actual reports of anyone being accosted in their homes on the basis of these maps, though there may be isolated cases of which I'm not aware (there certainly were isolated cases of vandalism on both sides of the issue based only on signs placed in yards; there are always some jerks on any side of any issue who don't know how to behave like adults).

Given that no such systematic violations of personal property have been reported), the statements of those now seeking to have donations to political campaigns remain entirely anonymous sound more like guilty feelings to me, with a tinge of gay panic (OMG, teh gays are going to come to our houses. Think of the children!).

There certainly have been reported cases over the years of gay citizens being harrassed in their homes, however, and their homes being vandalized or destroyed, simply because they were gay, by homophobic neighbors.

Yet those of us who support civil marriage equality aren't complaining about our own addresses being available in this same manner, which they are; and, in fact, supporters of Prop 8 have done their share of threatening emails and boycotts of contributors opposed to Prop. 8. I am proud to stand up and be identified for my stance against Prop. 8.

Barry Leiba said...

(First, I didn't mean to imply that only one side was threatening the other; that just came from the particular NYT article I cited.)

Oh, I, too, am proud to put my name on the Internet, on my lawn, in skywriting, wherever, as an opponent of Prop 8 and any other measure that would limit the rights of a group of people.

For that matter, I'm happy to say whom I voted for (not just for the presidency, but in general). My political views, all of them, are out here in the open.

That's not so for everyone, and I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think people should be required to make that public if they don't want to. Maybe it's that the threshold is too low.

We make a bit point of secret ballots, and no one is allowed to make you tell him how you voted. Why should a donation of $100 be different from that?

thom said...

(I realized that you weren't implying any such threats, but that article and others like it have done so.)

And in the current suit asking that the reporting requirements be deemed unconstitutional and unenforceable, the plaintiffs are specifically asking that this be done only for them, that is, only for those who supported Prop. 8, but not for those who opposed it. So their position seems not to be particularly principled.

And I think there are significant differences between disclosing one's vote, and disclosure of political contributions.

And one final irony is that the 1974 California law requiring such disclosure was passed by a majority of the California electorate. So the current plaintiffs who believe it shouldn't apply to them want the "will of the majority" to apply for Prop. 8, but not to apply to laws with which they disagree.