michael j. morris

Prop. 8 Upheld


Today the California Supreme Court ruled to uphold Proposition 8 in the state of California. From the New York Times (link above):

“Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, said that same-sex couples still have the right to civil unions, which gives them the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.” But the justices said that the voters had clearly expressed their will to limit the formality of marriage to opposite-sex couples.

“Justice George wrote that Proposition 8 did not “entirely repeal or abrogate” the right to such a protected relationship, but argued that it “carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term ‘marriage’ for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law.””

This makes me crazy. It offends me that this is the perspective of the law being upheld in the country in which I live. While it is true that the state of California does allow same-sex civil unions that offer equal legal protection under the law (along with four other states and the District of Columbia; see HRC’s website for the full info on same-sex marriage rights in the United States), civil unions are issued by and recognized BY THE STATE, whereas the legal status of “marriage”, while issued by the state, is recognized by the Federal Government, a recognition that is accompanied by more than 1,100 federal rights, benefits, and privileges. What I cannot wrap my head around is how a state supreme court can offer “equal state rights by another name” as the illusion of true equality. Nor can I understand to any degree how a federal government that currently supports this inequality is doing nothing in this or similar situations.

Then I recall that there are powerful voices in our nation advocating against equality. I hate that I came across this commentary on Anderson Cooper 360 today. I hate that things like this are being said.

Tony Perkins is the President of the Family Research Council. Here is the Family Research Council’s official press release on today supreme court ruling in California:


CONTACT: J.P. Duffy or Maria Donovan, (866) FRC-NEWS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Family Research Council President Tony Perkins today praised the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold democracy and reject efforts to strip the right of the people to amend the state’s Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. 

“Over one million Californians signed petitions to place Proposition 8 on the ballot and over seven million voters approved the measure on Election Day. California’s Constitution gives its citizens the right of self-governance and we are pleased that the court resisted demands to strip the right of the people to amend the state constitution. Even this widely-recognized liberal court understands that overturning Proposition 8 would represent a repudiation of the state Constitution it is sworn to uphold. 

“Unfortunately, the Court chose to ignore the plain meaning of Proposition 8 and will force state recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses issued last year. The Court’s recognition of these ‘marriages’ clearly seeds the ground for a possible legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“At every opportunity, the people of California have voted to protect marriage because they recognize the far reaching consequences that redefining marriage will have for children, the family, religious liberties, businesses and every facet of American society. Today’s decision should encourage pro-family activists not only in California but across the country. Marriage redefinition is not inevitable unless advocates of the family stand aside and allow it to happen.”

– 30 –


I am offended to read praise for empowering a population to impose inequality in a nation that was supposedly founded on equal rights for all citizens. I am offended that this issue is touted as an issue of faith, family values, or semantics rather than one of civil rights. I am offended that heterosexual marriage is elevated as somehow sacred simply on the basis of it being between a man and a woman, no matter its content, no matter its foundation or integrity. I am offended that the re-definition of the legal status of marriage to recognize same-sex marriages is discussed as anti-family and the end of civilization as we know it, as if marriage has not been understood and re-defined culturally throughout history. The Family Research Council made similar statements in April after Iowa moved to recognize same-sex marriage under the law. 



The court decision is discussed with language such as “forcing same-sex marriage on an unwilling populous,” as if the decision to recognize equal rights for same-sex couples means that the population of Iowa at large will be subjected to non-consensual homosexual unions. It offends me that same-sex marriage is discussed as the gateway to polygamy and marriages between adults and minors, as if the one logically leads to the next. It offends me that the contemporary American definition of marriage is touted as the icon of “5000 years of human behavior,” as if past centuries in cultures around the globe have not recognized all sorts of variations not only on the formal composition of a marriage, but also the meaning which the culture gave to it. 

Earlier this year, I wrote a letter to the FRC responding line by line to their official statement on homosexuality. At the time I did not feel it necessary to make my statement/response public, but today as events such as the California Supreme Court decision continue to unfold, and as organizations such as FRC continue to proliferate statements of their views into arenas of public discourse, I felt the need to make my statements more public as well. It can be viewed here.

At the same time, I am encouraged that their are public advocates for equality to continue to be just as vocal as the FRC. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released the following statement today:


WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, responded to the California Supreme Court’s split 6-1 decision today ruling that Proposition 8, the narrowly approved measure which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, is valid.  As a result of the court’s decision in Strauss v. Horton, California becomes the first state in the nation to strip away marriage rights for same-sex couples.  As same-sex couples and allies from across the country react to the news, HRC is releasing an online, YouTube video set to the song “I Won’t Back Down”: www.HRC.org/California
“Today’s ruling is a huge blow to Americans everywhere who care about equality.  The court has allowed a bare majority of voters to write same-sex couples out of basic constitutional protections,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “This ruling is painful, but it represents a temporary setback.  There will be a groundswell to restore marriage equality in our nation’s largest state, and HRC will not give up until marriage equality is restored in California.” 

One significant effort already underway is a strategic partnership between HRC and California Faith for Equality (CFE), a statewide group established to educate, support and mobilize faith communities on LGBT equality.  The partnership joins CFE and its 6,000 supporting faith leaders with both HRC’s Religion and Faith Program expertise as well as HRC’s National Field Department to broaden, diversify and deepen religious support for marriage equality in California.

“This ruling couldn’t be more out of step with what’s happening across the country,” said Solmonese, pointing to recent marriage victories in Iowa, Vermont and Maine. “We have no choice but to return this basic question of fairness for the estimated 1 million LGBT Californians back to the voters.”
“While we are relieved that the 18,000 couples who married before the Prop 8 vote will still have valid marriages, it does not in any way remove the sting of this ruling,” added Solmonese.
Over the past decade, public acceptance of marriage equality for same-sex couples has changed dramatically.  For the first time, more Americans say they support marriage for same-sex couples (49%) than oppose it (46%), according to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll released in late April.”


Below is the video referenced in the body of HRC’s statement. If nothing else, it inspires me to hope.


I am sure there are some who might read this and wonder what relevance it has to me creative activity or work as a dance artist/scholar. The shortest answer is that it is all connected. As I make work, as I consider the body and its social relevance, I am brought face to face with the society in which I am creating, in which I am living. As I consider the subjects of my research, I consider the research and analysis and writing that has not been done, that has not been explored by dance scholars. This was the fuel for my recent presentation on the negotiation of gender in the work of Bronislava Nijinska. I am currently exploring the potential for analyzing the work of Frederick Ashton through a queer lens. Ashton was a homosexual choreographer, and yet his work has rarely been considered for its potential as a contributor to queer culture or a queer contribution to dance culture. It all relates, it all synthesizes, and part of the purpose of this blog is for these ideas and interests from seemingly disparate parts of living and making to co-exist in this space, to find relationships and offer new points of interest in the process. If this particular post seems too political or too removed from art/dance/creative activity, I encourage you to reconsider it as a component of the making, of the thinking that leads to the making, of the living which fuels and influences and shapes the making. I encourage you to follow a trail of “tags” and see how ideas start to relate, maybe in ways that they didn’t before.

15 November, 2008, 11:27 pm
Filed under: culture | Tags: , , , ,

A friend sent me this video today, a Special Comment segment offered by Keith Olbermann, a sportscaster and news anchor for MSNBC, which aired on November 10th. I found it radically significant and moving.


Ever since the election on November 4th, I have been troubled, saddened, and angered by steps that are continuing to be taken in this country. Again this year states voted to ban same-sex marriage by amending their constitutions to permanently enshrine this discriminatory policy. That makes 28 states who have made it their law that the relationships of homosexual Americans will not be recognized as equal to those of heterosexual Americans. California passing Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, a right that had already been legalized in the state, made history because it not only prevents equality, it retracted equality that had already been awarded. Arkansas passed a bill that prevents single individuals from adopting children, effectively prohibiting families with same-sex parents, who are banned from marrying.


I am conflicted in wake of these decisions. A part of me is ready to engage in conversation and action to see these decisions reversed. A part of me no longer feels as if I can call this my country, a country in which I may never be free to live with equal rights due to my sexual orientation or who I love.

My thoughts are conflicted and scattered, but Keith Olbermann articulates much of what I feel. I was moved by his words and felt compelled to share them with you. I am asking you to take the time to watch this six and a half minute video clip, and listen to what he says. You may already hold a perspective similar to the one Olbermann articulates. Or you may be compelled to explore a new perspective. You may disagree with what he says; you may desire to dialogue further, with me, or with others in your life. I welcome whatever response. I simply ask that you take the time to watch and reflect.




election and voting anxiety
4 November, 2008, 9:09 am
Filed under: Ontology | Tags: , ,

Dance. Meredith Monk. Pauline Oliveros. Creative Process. Research.

These are the larger words/subjects in my category and tag clouds. They seem to be the ideas on which I am dwelling.

And yet this morning I feel almost physically ill with anticipation concerning the voting that takes place today. I voted yesterday morning, waited in line for three hours, and with every bubble I filled in on my ballot I became more and more aware of my intrinsic distrust of this system, how very uncertain I am that all will be handled ethically and appropriately, whether or not my vote will even be counted. And there is absolutely no way of knowing. It comes down to a trust that I do not possess.

There is a part of me that has just as little faith in the role of the president, and the effective embodiment  of the ideals we have been told for the last however many years of campaigning. I voted third party last election, but I knew many people who did not. I even know people who voted for Bush. I had no faith in him as a candidate or executive officer, but they did, and that faith was disappointed. I worry that no matter who is elected today our faith in these candidates will be disappointed.

Besides the presidential election that has my stomach in knots, there is the issue of Proposition * in California. For those of you who don’t know, a fairly succinct and accurate explanation from Wikipedia:

“Proposition 8 is an initiative state constitutional amendment on the 2008 California General Election ballot, titled Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.[1][2] If passed, the proposition will “change theCalifornia Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.”[3] A new section would be added stating “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” 


This is a landmark decision. It was a landmark for marriage to be legalized for same-sex couples in California, and that decision has spurned a bitter struggle in that state. I don’t live in California. There is no one at present to whom I wish to be married. I’m not even sure of my beliefs surrounding marriage at the moment. But my anxiety surrounding this issue has to do with the world in which I live, the country to which I am expected to pledge my allegiance, which may or may not be able to pledge its allegiance to me, to my life, my future. I remember when Louisiana (the state in which I was born and raised) voted to amend the constitution to effectively ban same-sex marriage. Not that it was even legal at the time, but there were those in power who felt the need to engrave discrimination into the state constitution JUST IN CASE anyone had ideas towards legally recognizing same-sex relationships as marriage on a state level. That day a part of me that thought of Louisiana as my home died. I don’t have the time to offer an appropriate diatribe on the subject of same-sex marriage, the over-a-thousand federal rights/benefits/privileges that are afforded heterosexual couples solely on the basis of their union, and how it feels to live in that world. But this battle in California is a massive step one way or another in the course of our nation’s stance on this issue, my life, and my future. California is the most populated state in the union, it holds more electoral votes in today’s presidential election. The very fact that it is re-examining this previously awarded equality is sickening, and serves to contribute to my anxiety.

Is there something didactic in this post? Go vote.