Saturday, November 06, 2004

Liberty and justice for all

As a matter of political strategy, I believe, as I did before Tuesday's election, that the Democrats should adopt the Dick Cheney view of gay marriage: Freedom means freedom for everyone, but the question should be left to the states. But as a matter of basic justice, I have to agree with this Post-Gazette editorial:

In some of the states that passed anti-gay amendments Nov. 2, laws existed until relatively recently that prohibited marriages between men and women of different races, with the "sin" of miscegenation also denounced in biblical terms. Eventually, people realized that morality posing as prejudice was not in fact moral.

It is all too easy to pass laws that give a large comfortable group the sanctimonious pleasure of dictating to a historically hated smaller one, but the unfairness eventually becomes too much. Such overreach was present in this go-around: While amendments in Mississippi, Montana and Oregon were restricted to gay marriage (as is the proposed federal amendment), those in Arkansas, Georgia. Kentucky. Michigan. North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio and Utah also banned gay civil unions.

What is wrong with this was eloquently expressed by Andrew Sullivan in an online commentary: "In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. Their legal ability to visit a spouse in a hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children, has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: Your family has no standing under the law, and it can and will be violated by strangers."

Despair is premature, though. It may take some time, but such fundamental unfairness will one day be seen for what it is: immoral and un-American.


5 Comments:

Blogger girl said...

I've had many discussions about gay marriage recently and it seems that many God-fearing Christians are quick to say that the gay lifestyle is "immoral" and that is reason enough for banning gay marriage. Lying and cheating are also "immmoral" but we don't have any laws banning dishonest straight people from entering into marriage.

This sentence describes the whole situation perfectly:
It is all too easy to pass laws that give a large comfortable group the sanctimonious pleasure of dictating to a historically hated smaller one, but the unfairness eventually becomes too much. It's flat out discrimination that is being O.K.'d--no, wiat, endorsed--by the church.

11:14 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The PG editorial suffers from, well, what the PG always suffers from: A profound lack of direct knowledge, which is quite separate from navel-gazing rumination on the vagaries of the human condition.

Let's just pretend, for a moment, that there are probably far more openly gay adults in the PG newsroom than Evangelicals. I don't think that's a stretch.

Rather than post some bromide that suggests the PG editorial staff knows what a strawman Evangelical thinks, why not go talk to some people of faith in these states? Hell, you would probably only need to go as far as Somerset or Mercer county here for the white perspective, and only so far as Homewood or the Hill for the African-American version of the Christian perspective on matters of morality and their place in the public square.

But that would entail some work, and the PG isn't a place where people work so hard that they would have to come into contact with souls they don't understand. Better just to write important-sounding editorials and preach to the converted.

While it's true that some states that recently banned gay marriage and, in a few circumstances, civil unions also once prohibited miscegenation (or, a more proper analogy, criminal sodomy laws), what do you make of Oregon? Or Michigan? Montana? North Dakota? Ohio?

Not exactly Confederate-flag waving remnants of the Old South, are they?

What I've tried to express on this blog is the notion of tolerance, even toward Evangelicals, who I believe have a say in the laws that bind their lives. Part of my tolerance for them comes from actually living amongst them, talking with them often and actually listening to what they have to say.

From their perspective, this recent spate of amendments was not their doing. They place the onus on the judges in MA. They want to make sure (1) that as a public policy they don't endorse gay marriage or civil unions as an acceptable norm; (2) they limit the spread of the practice, despite the pledge to Full Faith and Credit, to their states.

Miscegenation, as I previously mentioned, is not the correct analogy as far as they are concerned. While given some credence by earlier, misguided Evangelical clerics, the state laws never withstood the assault of the post-Civil War amendments for due process in regards to color.

More to the point, for them, are the anti-sodomy laws that were recently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. From their perspective, they believe states had a right to regulate family issues, a right clearly given to them by both the Constitution and the common law and upheld, except for issues of race and gender, by a string of rulings since the turn of the century.

That's why you have most states now with fairly permissive divorce laws, no-fault rather than the formerly patriarchal system that bound family courts.

The federal courts had never seen fit to tell legislatures in Texas or Georgia that it wasn't within their purview to ban certain forms of behavior that were considered destructive to the family (which is why it was against the law to get a blowjob in Atlanta, but not in Washington, D.C., Mr. Clinton). That is, until 2004.

The MA high court, however, clearly changed the landscape. For people of faith, it is clearly a violation of their basic notions of morality to allow gay people to marry. As a public policy, it flouts everything in which they uphold to be true and right and honorable.

You and I most certainly disagree with this point, but it doesn't solve the constitutional conundrum. Should a state honor the MA law? Clearly, a majority of the adult voters in 11 states believes their governments should not honor the MA family law decrees.

I'm not too sure the MA legislature and voters there disagree, but the state supreme court has determined that the state's constitution itself mandates lawmakers rescript MA's marriage rules. This has come as something of a surprise to those who actually wrote sections of that constitution, but that's the law of the land there now.

The important thing that goes unsaid, of course, is that the ban on gay marriage in the 11 states isn't the only thing Evangelical voters would want. They also would want to return to previously tougher marriage and divorce laws; reinstitute some forms of silent school prayer; and modify some aspects of abortion (especially the partial birth abortion procedure).

The problem for them is that they've been frustrated by federal appeals courts every step of the way on prayer, divorce and abortion (Roe). They don't see the anti-gay marriage amendments to be intollerant because they would just as easily pass other restrictions on other freedoms that denizens of their states currently enjoy.

So they're doing what they can.

But let's explore some of the PG's assumptions about these people. First, we find that Evangelicals are "sanctimonious"; that they're the sorts of people who dictate to "historically hated" minorities; that they code prejudicial actions in the guise of morality.

Evangelicals see themselves very differently. Most would say they feel like they're the hated minorities, that they're forced to swim in a televised sea of Hollywood filth where even families and children become pornographed articles to sell product. They feel besieged by forces beyond their control and that these forces are conspiring to tell them how they should comport themselves in society.

They don't want their tax dollars used on policies they feel are repugnant to their beliefs. Guess what, this is democracy, and they've learned they have the power to stop a lot of the policy making they find most odious.

The vast majority of Evangelicals are highly tolerant of gay people, professing to love them as Christians. We might quibble on how condescending the love can be, and clash over the notion that it's an acquired habit, not an inherent persuasion, but they would not normally deny to gay people any other right afforded to people.

They wouldn't tell gay people they couldn't own homes, or even raise children. In a general sense, however, they would say that public policy is better served by restricting the ability for gays to wed because that gives the matrimonial state the cachet of state endorsement.

NY Times critic Frank Rich, another sanctimonious boob who doesn't get Evangelicals, was on CNBC Friday night, spouting about the sorts of people who voted for Bush. In his learned Manhattan opinion, stem cells, abortion, etc., all goes back to a deep-seated hatred of sex and sexuality.

Had he spent even five minutes with an Evangelical, however, he would not have heard much about the act of sex. He would've instead heard an earful about Life. The preservation of the fetus, the doctrine against stem cell research, Roe v. Wade, partial birth abortion, it all comes from a deep love of Life.

While this love has its real world limits (see death penalty), the paradigm still holds. Rather than sex, they're worried about a culture of death poisoning American culture.

I'm not sure I disagree with them, and I'm not sure it's not incompatible with my leftists roots to say that abortion on demand is morally wrong, just as I believe the death penalty is wrong (see also Nate Hentoff, Christopher Hitchens).

Perhaps you would agree.

3:46 PM

 
Blogger S33K3R said...

Can I ask what should be a simple question?

"Why is a religious topic part of a political discussion, platform or election?"

There are two issues here.
1. The religious rules about marriage.
2. The federal and state regulations about members in a civil union.

They are two different things. Because we recognize different religions and consider them to be valid, any marriage performed by a duly appointed religious figure (pastor, priest, minister, rabbi, etc.) is recognized as constituting a civil union. I.E. the two people can share finances, receive death and survivorship benefits, conduct hospital visits, etc.

Prior to the gay marriage issue, no one ever bothered to clearly define the terms marriage and civil union. Marriage is a sacrament in most religions. A civil union (a joining of a couple into a family unit by a judge), on the other hand, is rarely recognized by religions (except by omission, don't ask - don't tell)

If we keep the two separate, religion decides about marriage, and the government (who regulates insurance medical, and other financial-related businesses) should decide about civil unions.

With that in mind, people like my parents, who cannot stand the idea of gay marriage, can stand side by side with my wife and I, who believe each couple should have the right to commit themselves to shared debt and responsibility.

As it stands todday, my parents and I are on opposite sides of the fence because they can't separate marriage from civil union.

Lets get back to the idea of "separation of church and state." Let's look for a party that focusses on the truly governmental issues.

5:12 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

States have a compelling right to regulate marriages, and the endless permutations that they create to scaffold the institution are bracing.

In Pennsylvania, consenting, adult first cousins can't marry. In the District of Columbia, they can, and do. In Utah, they can do so only if they are over 65 years of age or cannot bear children. In MN, you can't marry your cousin unless you're a member of an Indian tribe that traditionally lets you do this.

In California, people who have cohabitated for a long time can get married, secretly and without a public record, with a "confidential license." If you're a military guy, you can have a buddy "stand in" as a proxy. You can get married and not have to even be there.

A 12-year-old boy can legally marry in MA with parental permission and a court order. Similar behavior would get him arrested by "strangers" in other jurisdictions.

Mississippi has banned same-sex marriages since 1972. The state, moreover, has a law banning any marriage that took place in another state to "circumvent" Mississippi's rules. That has nothing to do with same-gender weddings, but for more commonplace reasons (someone crossing state lines to get married even though both parties have syphillis, etc.).

In sum, Mississippi won't accept a marriage from Louisiana (which doesn't require a blood test) if the court in Biloxi determines you went for the wrong reason.

Ship captains can't perform weddings in New York, but can on the high seas.

Corvalis, Oregon, requires matrimony classes before you get hitched. Rhode Island doesn't, and 16 year olds can be wed there.

Marital rape is legal is some jurisdictions, a prison offense in others.

In sum, states arrogate to themselves the right to arbitrate the social norms of marriage. If age, health, etc., can be legal boundaries for marital bliss, why not sexual orientation if a legislature so decrees?

Don't even get me started on the trend toward "covenant marriages" that require participants to cede certain inalienable rights for a speedy divorce if they a contract waives them.

And the statutory rape laws, what a mess.

Can this basic right of states to set the norms for marital, family and (some) sexual conduct be challenged under a federal due process argument? Most likely not.

I would suggest that those who wish to do so began the long, arduous process of civil rights work necessary to gainsay the result you want.

That would be too hard for the readers of the PG to contemplate. They simply want the sweet pablum of soothing words from soothing men in a newsroom far removed from the reality of daily strife.

7:55 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

States have a compelling right to regulate marriages, and the endless permutations that they create to scaffold the institution are bracing.

In Pennsylvania, consenting, adult first cousins can't marry. In the District of Columbia, they can, and do. In Utah, they can do so only if they are over 65 years of age or cannot bear children. In MN, you can't marry your cousin unless you're a member of an Indian tribe that traditionally lets you do this.

In California, people who have cohabitated for a long time can get married, secretly and without a public record, with a "confidential license." If you're a military guy, you can have a buddy "stand in" as a proxy. You can get married and not have to even be there.

A 12-year-old boy can legally marry in MA with parental permission and a court order. Similar behavior would get him arrested by "strangers" in other jurisdictions.

Mississippi has banned same-sex marriages since 1972. The state, moreover, has a law banning any marriage that took place in another state to "circumvent" Mississippi's rules. That has nothing to do with same-gender weddings, but for more commonplace reasons (someone crossing state lines to get married even though both parties have syphillis, etc.).

In sum, Mississippi won't accept a marriage from Louisiana (which doesn't require a blood test) if the court in Biloxi determines you went for the wrong reason.

Ship captains can't perform weddings in New York, but can on the high seas.

Corvalis, Oregon, requires matrimony classes before you get hitched. Rhode Island doesn't, and 16 year olds can be wed there.

Marital rape is legal is some jurisdictions, a prison offense in others.

In sum, states arrogate to themselves the right to arbitrate the social norms of marriage. If age, health, etc., can be legal boundaries for marital bliss, why not sexual orientation if a legislature so decrees?

Don't even get me started on the trend toward "covenant marriages" that require participants to cede certain inalienable rights for a speedy divorce if they a contract waives them.

And the statutory rape laws, what a mess.

Can this basic right of states to set the norms for marital, family and (some) sexual conduct be challenged under a federal due process argument? Most likely not.

I would suggest that those who wish to do so began the long, arduous process of civil rights work necessary to gainsay the result you want.

That would be too hard for the readers of the PG to contemplate. They simply want the sweet pablum of soothing words from soothing men in a newsroom far removed from the reality of daily strife.

7:55 PM

 

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