3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80 minutes
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The documentary “416” proves that despite the fact that Nebraska is proud to claim openly gay reality TV star John Carroll (“Survivor”) as their own, the vast majority of Nebraskans don’t think very highly of homosexual residents as a whole. The documentary examines a rather controversial and somewhat complicated issue, that of Nebraska’s ballot initiative 416 which voters passed into law in 2000. Initiative 416, like provisions in many other states in America, declares that in Nebraska “only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized”, but it goes a rather large step further by claiming that the state will also not validate or recognize “the uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar same-sex relationship”. The provision makes legal issues such as burial rights extremely difficult for homosexual couples. In addition, it has been said that initiative 416 was the model for the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that President George Bush is currently standing behind.

“416”, while using the ballot initiative controversy as a springboard, also examines the broader issue of how Americans view the institution of marriage. The frame of the documentary is created through interviews with politicians and activists as well as religious and academic leaders. Interview participants include Matthew Coles (Director, ACLU National Gay and Lesbian Rights Projects), Rev. Troy Perry (Founder, Metropolitan Community Churches), Rev. Bob Thune (Christ Community Church of Omaha), Rev. Lillie Brock (Regional Elder, Metropolitan Community Churches) and the ultra conservative Dr. Thomas Martin (Director, Philosophy Department, The University of Nebraska at Kearney). The documentary includes interviews with committed same sex couples from Nebraska and presents the reaction of Nebraska’s gay community to initiative 416. Conservative resistance to the gay communities’ presence is also covered via humorously disturbing protesters at, of all things, a gay rodeo. One of which claims on his protest sign that not only is being gay a sin, but so is being effeminate; apparently men better start watching what skin and hair products they purchase. The film also briefly investigates the history of same sex marriage and examines differing biblical interpretations regarding homosexual relationships.

While “416” doesn’t seem to remain completely impartial on the issue at hand, it does do a good job of presenting multiple perspectives and contains a surprising number of opinionated religious leaders from both sides of the controversy. If you can get past a handful of cheesy graphics and at least one really bad reenactment style cutaway, “419” is an interesting and comprehensive look at an important issue that is sure to gain increasing momentum in the upcoming election.

Posted on August 6, 2004 in Reviews by

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