By Stephany Yong, 14, Walnut HS
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Stephany hopes the continued protests against Proposition 8 will help gay couples get the right to marry.

While I got ready for school on Nov. 5, the day after the elections, I kept the radio on waiting to hear the outcome of Proposition 8, the measure that would take away the right of same-sex couples to marry. My ears pricked up as the results were announced.

“I think the results are pretty much final,” said KIIS DJ Ryan Seacrest. “Prop. 8 passed.”

I couldn’t believe it. How could this proposition pass? I always thought of California as liberal. You would think the citizens of California, which imprisoned Japanese-Americans at internment camps during World War II, would recognize the wrongs of discrimination and vote against propositions that would diminish a group’s rights.

Around the country, gay and straight people poured into the streets in the days after the election carrying posters and chanting to protest the passage of Proposition 8. People joined hands and were fighting for something they were passionate about. My heart ached as I sympathized with the protestors. Same-sex couples should be able to celebrate their love and devotion through marriage.

I stood apart from my family

My conservative dad disagreed. “Why are these people protesting?” he asked as we were watching the news. “The people have spoken through the ballots and don’t want gay marriage. They should respect voters instead of pushing for something that people already voted against.”

“Well, Dad,” I said, “if it concerns taking away people’s rightful freedoms, people should stick up for what’s right. Just because the majority has more people, it isn’t always right.”

“You’re becoming too liberal,” he retorted.

Am I too liberal? Sure I am in the eyes of my dad. Raised with 10 siblings in the small town of Kudat in Malaysia (where homosexuality was never discussed), my dad still embraces and preaches traditional values such as loyalty to the family and living humbly. Those same values drove him to seek an education in America, start his own business and raise a family. I still keep those values dear to my heart. My parents are my role models. The values that drove Dad to succeed inspired me to work hard for what I wanted.

Another value I learned from my parents is to think independently. My parents are both Republicans, but they do not always vote Republican. My mother is pro-choice and my dad agrees with many of President Barack Obama’s policies such as investing in alternative fuels and renewable energy. My parents are educated voters who read about the issues before they vote. That need to be informed has always fed my curiosities; because of it, I read newspapers and magazines and discuss what is going on in the world with my parents. They encourage me not to care about what others think of my opinions.

Illustration by Jennie Nguyen, 14,
Wilson MS (Glendale)

But it was Proposition 8 that really got me thinking independently of my parents. In May, the state Supreme Court ruled that banning gay marriage violated the California Constitution’s protections against discrimination. After the ruling, conservatives put Proposition 8 on the ballot to re-establish marriage as a union between only a man and woman. I first heard of the proposition while my mom and I were in the car listening to KFI (a conservative talk radio station). I shrugged it off. “I’m not planning to marry a girl,” I thought. “Why should I care if gay couples can get married?”

As I listened to both sides debate Proposition 8 in world history class, I heard a classmate bring up the violations against civil rights that Proposition 8 posed since the government shouldn’t be able to stop love between two people. This got me thinking, “Why shouldn’t gay couples keep the right to be married? It does not hurt the marriages between straight couples.”

A friend who was for Proposition 8 said that gay marriage was “wrong and gross,” which was the most ignorant and crude sounding comment of the debate.

“Well,” I thought, “it is also wrong to stop two people who love each other from being joined by the strongest bond there is: marriage. It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is against your religion. The government is secular.” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. By not letting same-sex couples have a right as basic as marriage, it is the equivalent of degrading them to second-class citizens.

People say if gay couples have families, their kids will be taught the “gay” lifestyle. If straight couples can raise gay kids, why can’t gay couples raise straight kids? Gay couples could be loving parents who would teach their kids tolerance, equality and empathy. These are traits that many people who voted for Proposition 8 lacked.

It’s important to speak out

Although my dad and I disagree on a lot of things, we’ve always agreed on saying what’s on our minds. A supporter of civil rights, I found myself passionately against Proposition 8 while Dad was the opposite (he would honk when we passed by “Yes on 8” rallies on the street). When I told him I was writing an article on my opinions, I was surprised by how happy he was. Even though I was writing about something that went against his beliefs, he was proud that I was strong enough to voice my opinions.

In 2004, 62 percent of voters opposed gay marriage in California. In 2008, 52 percent were against it. Things are changing, and so am I. So as I sat in my room on Nov. 5, disappointed by the results, I thought, “How are we going to make progress? Where are we going if we continue to have prejudices?” Just like how I challenged my family’s beliefs, I hope people keep challenging Proposition 8. I look forward to waking up soon to a radio announcement that same-sex couples can get married in California.

Click here to read why Elliot supported Proposition 8 and why he says the controversy prevented people from learning about opposing views.

Click here to read what teens had to say last spring when California first allowed marriages for same-sex couples.