Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hawaii 1996, Part 2

While the Baehr v. Miike case is a watershed moment in terms of case law regarding same-sex marriage, there is a lesser-known case from Minnesota that struck down an attempt to gain marriage recognition as simply unimaginable. However, if you haven’t read the post just prior to this one, you really need to read it first.

Baker v. Nelson was decided by the Minnesota Supreme Court in October 1971, and is probably the first ever case in which a gay couple sued to have their relationship recognized as a marriage.

The Minnesota court’s decision was very mundane in that it relied on basic dictionary definitions of marriage to reach its conclusion, as well as referring to what the current forms offered by the state had written on them.

“It is unrealistic to think that the original draftsmen of our marriage statutes, which date from territorial days, would have used the term in any different sense,” wrote the Minnesota court. “The term is of contemporary significance as well, for the present statute is replete with words of heterosexual import such as ‘husband and wife’ and ‘bride and groom.’”

Very unimaginative. The court then dismissed without discussion any challenges that were made regarding the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. It was, after all, a state court.

“The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis,” wrote the court. Wow. (So is slavery). And the court cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision Skinner v. Oklahoma to support the assertion that “Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.” Of course, the Skinner case really had nothing to do with marriage; it was a case about whether a state could sterilize habitual offenders.

Ironically, the Minnesota court rejected the petitioner’s argument that the U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia applied, a case that struck down prohibitions against interracial marriage. It’s ironic because of the passage from Loving that the Minnesota court quoted: “To deny this fundamental freedom (of marriage) on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.”

Granted, denying a marriage license on the basis of the race of the applicants is truly offensive, but that’s not what is relevant in the quotation. What is critical is that the court called the ability to select one’s spouse a “fundamental freedom.” That’s a pretty solid precedent given the fact that it was written in 1967 and hasn’t been questioned since.

So for almost 20 years, no other case that garnered any attention came before a judge seeking recognition of same sex marriages. But on Dec. 20, 1990, two lesbian couples and one gay couple requested marriage licenses in Hawaii, a request that went denied. The couples filed a complaint May 1, 1991, initiating the Baehr case. The case, then known as Baehr v. Lewin, wound up in the Hawaii Supreme Court after the couples lost the first round through a series of court filings. But the state supreme court sent the case back for trial with some specific instructions:

“On remand, in accordance with the ‘strict scrutiny’ standard, the burden will rest on [Defendant] to overcome the presumption that HRS 572-1 is unconstitutional by demonstrating that it furthers compelling state interests and is narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgments of constitutional rights.”

That order from the Hawaii Supreme Court, that the case must be judged according to the strict scrutiny standard, carried huge significance. The “strict scrutiny” test is the highest standard to meet in federal law. In the past, same-sex issues were often judged according to the “rational basis” rule, which means that if the rule has a rational basis – a rational reason, so to speak – for its existence, then it meets the requirement of the law. But when the Hawaii Supreme Court said this case must be judged according to the strict scrutiny standard, the bar was set very high indeed. It was almost as if the high court was saying, “we already think the rule is onerous on same-sex couples, but just to be sure, we’d like to hear the state’s justification for the statute.” The state was so shocked by this order, it requested a clarification, which the high court granted with the following statement on May 17, 1993:

“Because … the circuit court erroneously granted Lewin’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint, the circuit court’s order and judgment are vacated and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with the plurality opinion. On remand, in accordance with the ‘strict scrutiny’ standard, the burden will rest on [Defendant] to overcome the presumption that HRS 572-1 is unconstitutional by demonstrating that it furthers compelling state interests and is narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgments of constitutional rights.”

In this clarification, the high court was reprimanding the lower court by saying that such an important case of civil rights should have been decided only after a trial, not through a series of pleadings. And not just any trial; rather, the judge must apply the highest legal standard there is to decide the case.

That trial eventually began Sept. 10, 1996. Just prior to the trial’s beginning, the state filed its case and laid out its legal position as to why the state of Hawaii should refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple:

“The State of Hawaii has a compelling interest to promote the optimal development of children. . . . It is the State of Hawaii’s position that, all things being equal, it is best for a child that it be raised in a single home by its parents, or at least by a married male and female. . . . The marriage law furthers the compelling state interest of securing or assuring recognition of Hawaii marriages in other jurisdictions. . . . The marriage law furthers the compelling state interest in protecting the public fisc (sic) from the reasonably foreseeable effects of approval of same-sex marriage.(emphasis added)”

Yes, the public had to be protected from the “reasonably foreseeable effects” of allowing same-sex marriage. And what might those effects be? Based on the case the state presented at trial, “reasonably foreseeable effects” turned out to be a euphemism for the notion that same-sex marriage is so bad, that children will be irreparably harmed.

I’ll pick up some of the details from the trial in my next posting.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It all began with Hawaii in 1996

On Dec. 3, 1996, something extraordinary happened: A state judge ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. The ruling, by a circuit judge in Hawaii, to this day remains the most eloquent and succinct legal description on why a state with an equal protection clause or equal rights amendment in its constitution must allow same-sex couples to marry. And to this day, the anti-marriage crowd doesn’t want to talk about it because it knows it has no retort.

Twelve years ago, First Circuit Judge Kevin S.C. Chang (by the way, Chang is now a federal magistrate) ruled in Baehr v. Miike that the state of Hawaii had no compelling interest to bar a man of legal age from marrying another man of legal age, or a woman of legal age marrying another woman of legal age.

His ruling, even before it was issued, set off a frenzy of panic among the religious Right all across America. The anti-marriage crowd saw what was happening, and the urgency was felt by legislators in Alaska who concluded they had to act quickly. They passed a law in February 1996 specifically barring same-sex couples from marrying, which was then challenged as unconstitutional. In February 1998, Superior Court Judge Peter A Michalski, reached nearly the same conclusion as Chang and ruled the Alaska law unconstitutional.

Back in Hawaii, Chang’s ruling was appealed, but the Hawaii Supreme Court sat on the case long enough for a constitutional convention to be called, during which the state constitution was amended to prohibit same-sex marriage. Everyone knew what was likely to happen, because the Hawaii Supreme Court had already ruled that the case had merit; all it wanted Chang to do was conduct a trial to create a record of findings. Alaska did the same before its Supreme Court could review Michalski’s decision.

And so the stage was set for state after state to amend its constitution to prevent judges from reaching the same conclusion that both Chang and Michalski had reached: that states have no compelling interest to prohibit same-sex marriage, especially when that state’s constitution contains an equal protection clause.

What was it about Chang’s decision in Baehr v. Miike that caused such alarm? I would like to address that, despite having provided a link to the entire text of the decision. There are a few key portions of the trial and the decision that are worth pointing out for their legal brilliance.

The state of Hawaii, when arguing its case before Judge Chang, sincerely did the best it could. It chose the most powerful argument at its disposal, and it was a significant choice because its failure utterly crushes the majority of arguments that are made against any type of recognition or extension of rights to homosexuals.

The state chose to argue that allowing same-sex couples to marry would be bad for children.

I get goose bumps talking about this, because the strategy the state selected covered almost every argument, outside of a religious one, that anyone could muster against gays; it contained every prejudice and every caricature about homosexuals. And it wasn’t that the state really muffed it by selecting this legal strategy. Quite the contrary, it was the only legitimate legal argument it could make. Theological doctrine holds no weight in a court of law; it cannot be presented as a legal construct. It can guide judges, but the bottom line is what does the law say?

And what Chang concluded after hearing the state’s argument was that it failed. Completely.

I’m going to break this blog entry into parts, because I don’t want each entry to get too long, so bear with me please. The next installment is coming up.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Paradigm paralysis: We just don't understand the divine nature of marriage (not)

Is it possible that we gays reject church teaching regarding the sacredness of marriage because we fail to understand the divine nature of the two sexes, male and female?

That is the argument of some theologians, as revealed in an article at that explains why Pope Benedict’s recent words about saving the human race have created such umbrage with gays.

CNSNews did a fine job of giving equal time to theologians who wished to rebut the pope’s words, although those quoted either had nothing of real substance to say being the usual sound bites, or CNSNews omitted anything substantial. But what I find curious is what the apologist for the pope said. His words are worth paying attention to.

“Fr. (George William) Rutler, who holds a pontifical doctorate in sacred theology, and a master of studies from Oxford University, said that homosexual activists and secular liberals do not understand the relationship between the human race and nature because they are essentially Gnostics, they see the natural world – the material world – as contrary to anything divine and ‘the result of energies other than God.’”

It isn’t acceptable to someone like Rutler that his premise is rejected, rather than misunderstood, by many gay activists. So he re-interprets what we are saying and doing to fit within the paradigm proposed by the church. The divine explanation can’t possibly be incorrect, so gays must be failing to understand it. That is why they react against it.

This is the trouble with paradigms. They are very useful tools to provide easy explanations about how the world works without needing to know the details. But paradigms have an inherent flaw, and that is when new evidence emerges that shows the paradigm is no longer useful and may, in fact, be false, that new evidence is rejected out of hand. This is particularly so if the paradigm in question is tied to a particular person’s or group’s retention of power.

“As a consequence, for example, homosexuals ‘do not see marriage as an essentially divine institution – they see it as a legal construction that can be changed at will,’ said Rutler. ‘They see a Supreme Court changing the law on marriage and say it is valid. But from the point of natural law, it would be like saying the Supreme Court could repeal the law of gravity.’”

We have a square peg argument being shoved into a round hole here, because marriage always has been a legal construct. Even during Old Testament times, marriage was an arranged contract and solely had to do with property. It was a completely misogynistic entity as evidenced by the biblical tracts that recite how some man begot another man, ad infinitum. In fact, Medieval art reflected this notion that women had no role in procreation other than being a receptacle with images of sperm containing tiny babies; it was believed that the babies were in the man’s sperm and all that was needed was a woman’s womb to grow it.

The church got into the marrying game because it was the only entity of any consequence that could recognize the marriage as a public union. As local government became more sophisticated, it also began to recognize marriages; hence, marriages were not always religiously based. Civil marriage was born. And over time, marriage was a legal construct that went through revisions: Everything from how many wives to how old the parties had to be and how distant the familial relationship. There is nothing natural about marriage. Shacking up is natural, yes, but marriage had to be created to protect property, and in the old days, that meant the man’s property.

“In 1992, then-Pope John Paul II described homosexual marriage as ‘perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.’”

I love the above because for one, it is clearly an addition by CNSNews, as it is not sourced. But the real beauty is how the statement so easily portrays anyone who supports equal rights for marriage as being a promoter of a “new ideology of evil,” so evil that it will destroy the human race. This is so classic Roman Catholicism, so much so that even the Protestants won’t admit it, but it is Rome ideology all the way.

If it threatens the church, then it is evil, so evil it must be destroyed. That’s the message.

This is a tough argument. This requires patience and persistence. The sophomoric retort of “homophobe” just doesn’t cut it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Warren's a poor choice, but it's not policy

If you haven’t read it, take a look at Frank Rich’s column in the New York Times. It’s an even-handed look at Obama’s decision to invite the Rev. Rick Warren to present the invocation at the inauguration.

“When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the ‘wide range of viewpoints’ in a ‘diverse and noisy and opinionated’ America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a ‘viewpoint’ defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.”

Warren may be a bad choice, and a stinging one at that, but Rich is correct to point out that selecting Warren cannot be necessarily viewed as a proxy on how Obama will shape policy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Calling the kettle slate gray

In his Christmas Eve column at, Ben Shapiro attempts to put lipstick on an old pig of a specious argument by reminding folks that gay people are intolerant – too. His coy interjection of “too” at the end of his column’s title is a mousy attempt to note that the religious Right has been intolerant; but rather than explain that intolerance, Shapiro resorts to the most sophomoric of retorts, as if he were Pee Wee Herman asking the rhetorical, “I know you are, but what am I?”

First of all, let me say I agree with Shapiro when he opines that many in the gay community are intolerant of contrary beliefs. These intolerant queers demand respect for their position, but are not the slightest bit inclined to show any respect to a contrary opinion. With the quickness of an unthinking automaton, these militant gays resort immediately to name calling whenever someone indicates that they are against gay marriage. “Homophobe!”, they shout. And where does that get anyone?

Now that is done, I can get to the really feeble argument Shapiro presents in his column.

“Advocates for traditional morality have won virtually every electoral battle over gay marriage. The gay community has won its victories in the courtroom, calling on elitist judges to twist the words of state constitutions. It’s illegitimate, and it cuts against the most basic American value: the right of the people to decide how to regulate their communities.”

I mean really, this guy is a Harvard Law School graduate and he’s writing this? The gay community has resorted to “calling on elitist judges to twist the words of state constitutions.” Really now, would that be the same elitist judges that struck down state laws that banned inter-racial marriage, such as in Loving v. Virginia? Oh wait, I know the argument, the retort: at least in Loving the marriage was between a man and woman and the opportunity for procreation existed. There is no opportunity for procreation in a same-sex marriage. So yeah, procreation is part of marriage, it’s essential. Until, mmm, we talk about Turner v. Safley, a case brought forward by Missouri prison inmates who wanted to marry. Prison officials wouldn’t allow the marriages, basing their position largely on the fact that the inmates involved would never be allowed to consummate the marriage. If there’s no sex, there’s no procreation, so no marriage.

But interestingly, the Supreme Court had a different notion about why people get married.

For one, the court opined that “any governmental objective must be a legitimate and neutral one.” In the Turner case, inmates weren’t allowed to marry unless they had the prison’s permission, and that would only be granted if there was a “compelling reason” to allow the marriage. The marriages were never allowed because prison officials asserted that such marriages would cause security problems, as well as most would never be consumated. It is worth pointing out that the court rejected the security argument fairly quickly, noting that any security problems would likely exist whether the marriage occurred or not.

But what the court said about marriage is more interesting. Several reasons for allowing the marriages were given, but first on the court’s list was this: “First, inmate marriages, like others, are expressions of emotional support and public commitment. These elements are an important and significant aspect of the marital relationship.”

So, marriage is an expression of emotional support for the other partner, and it’s an expression of public commitment. And inmate marriages, even though some may never have an opportunity for consummation, are just like any other marriage.

And you know what case will be applicable in the review of Prop 8? I think it might be Romer v. Evans.

Yes, it is true that many in the gay community need to temper their reactions when dealing with those in the anti-marriage crowd. But the Right needs to pay attention to reality and understand that blaming “activist” judges for “re-interpreting” the constitution is a non-starter. It would do them well to read up on their Tocqueville.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Who says we won't get married?

It was inevitable that someone within the gay community would eventually opine that all this fuss about Prop 8, the Rev. Rick Warren, and same-sex marriage in general is misplaced energy and the wrong tack for the gay community to take. Bob Ostertag doesn’t disappoint in this vein with his column at the Huffington Post. What is frustrating, however, about Ostertag’s premise and those who profess that seeking equal marriage rights is either a waste of time or the wrong issue to push forward is that Ostertag and others in his camp resort to baseless assertions about what we want. And it’s an argumentative style that isn’t much different from the anti-marriage crowd on the hetero, religious Right side.

The foundation of Ostertag’s argument is that by striving for equal marriage rights, we are striving to be “just like them.” By embracing marriage, we are turning away from our queerness and we are allowing ourselves to be absorbed by the amoebic hetero society. He goes on with: “We could be making common cause with them (unmarried straights). We could be fighting for equal rights for everyone, not just gays and lesbians, but for all unmarried people. In the process we would leave religious institutions to define marriage however their members see fit.”

Such a specious argument ignores some very key facts. A religious institution is already allowed to define marriage however its members see fit. And while it is true that there are many unmarried heterosexuals and their reasons for being unmarried are varied, the option of marriage remains available to them should they change their mind.

And then he makes this baseless assertion: “The fact is most of us won't marry even if we have the right to. We are putting all our resources into winning a right that only the few of us in long-term conventional couple relationships will enjoy.”

How does he know that “most of us won’t marry”? How can he make that statement? Did he conduct a survey? How many gay couples did he ask? It’s just more of the same BS that the religiously-oriented anti-marriage crowd makes when it asserts that allowing gays to marry would harm children and society.

At the heart of Ostertag’s argument, as well as others who share his views, is a desire for sexual freedom – for lack of a better term, unlicensed promiscuity. What he refuses to acknowledge is that by expanding the right to marriage to include same-sex couples in no way burdens his lifestyle with any onerous limitations. In reality, his argument is no different from the anti-marriage crowed on the religious Right. The religious anti-marriage crowd fears that allowing same-sex marriage will somehow denigrate or burden its marriage and its lifestyle, and that’s what Ostertag fears too: that he can’t define his family any way he wants if gays can marry. And that is just plain poppycock. Gay men who want to copulate with as many partners as they like may still do so and continue to behave irresponsibly for as long as they like, just as sexually irresponsible heterosexuals can do. And anyone who wishes to behave sexually responsibly outside the parameters of marriage may also do so, regardless of sexual orientation. Having the option of marriage doesn’t change that. Only individuals can change that, when they come to a conclusion that living such a life no longer fulfills their needs. And I’m not saying that such a life in and of itself is unfulfilling; what I’m saying is that it doesn’t suit me. Marriage suits me. That’s my cup of tea and I want to drink it badly. I don’t want Ostertag’s tea. Let him have it.

Ironically, Ostertag even puts a condition on marriage when he says: “It is no secret that marriage isn't working for straight people. That's why religious institutions are so up in arms about it. The institution of marriage is in crisis. On what basis does anyone imagine it is going to work better for queers?”

Marriage doesn’t have to work better for gays than straights for gays to desire it. As much as Ostertag might want to deny it, gays really are not any different from straights. We make poor relationship decisions just as easily as straight people do. But marriage “isn’t working” because the institution of marriage is flawed; it isn’t working because people who marry are more and more less inclined to accept the commitment that it requires. Why should I get married if the law can be changed to allow for civil unions and health benefits to anyone, related or not? The fact is that efforts to create other alternatives to civil marriage – like civil partnerships or unions – have become the primary reason for marriage becoming increasingly irrelevant. Like it or not, those who share Ostertag’s belief on this matter are like the character in the Bob Dylan song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” when he sings, “While one who sings with his tongue on fire/Gargles in the rat race choir/Bent out of shape from society’s pliers/Cares not to come up any higher/But rather get you down in the hole/That he’s in.”

Even if Ostertag is correct in his assertion that most gays won’t marry even when given the chance, it’s no argument to stop trying. It’s his argument for his personal circumstances.

Finally, there’s a very persuasive argument that once marriage equality is achieved, all other inequalities become moot, unsupportable and even inhuman. Marriage equality breaks down all the other barriers that Ostertag correctly points out that remain in our way. It is because the argument against marriage equality has been justified that all other violence against us continues with impunity. At the heart of the anti-marriage argument is we’re different in such a significant and harmful way, that even our love is illegitimate. Granted, we remove that, then Ostertag is correct: we do become just like everyone else in the eyes of the law. But what Ostertage doesn’t get is that we already are just like everyone else. We aren’t going to change. What needs to change is the law.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Homophobe versus Christophobe

I offer this link to the Rev. Rick Warrens most recent video blog for your information and to point this out as a reason why is it a poor strategy to automatically label those who are anti-marriage – such as Warren – as being homophobes or haters or bigots or whatever. It’s a poor strategy because it gets us no where, stops the debate cold, and allows the other side to blame a lack of progress on us. It’s a ridiculous tactic, and Warren provides the perfect reason why it’s ridiculous when he retorts with the idea that those who call Christians names for supporting Prop 8 are “Christophobes.”

I know some of you are probably laughing at such a sophomoric label for us, but I urge you not to. Examine your reaction to this spurious moniker, because your reaction is their reaction. Pay attention to it and learn.

Warren’s message is being delivered to ready ears; he is, after all, speaking to his congregation. So when he calls those of us in the pro-marriage camp “Christophobes,” it’s a label that will stick. However, it is an easy label to discredit. And when you think about it, how we might respond to this label is again very similar to how a Christian might respond to the label “homophobe.” It’s similar, but not identical.

No one likes to be called names. And no matter a person’s age, the response to being called a name is universal; we react with a very immature response that goes back to childhood. Our feelings become hurt, and when our feelings get hurt, our ability to think clearly disappears; rather, we react. And all you have to do is look at a 4-year-old to see what the reaction normally is: we respond with name-calling of our own. Warren gets labeled a homophobe and his response is to call us Christophobes. And where are we after that?

Rather, we should respond with empathy and understanding. We need to listen to the anti-marriage crowd and understand why they feel the way they do. And each time they provide a concrete reason for their particular belief, we need to be able to provide contrary evidence as found in other denominations within the Christian faith. Why is it that their belief is that God does not sanctify same-sex marriage when other denominations believe that God does sanctify such unions? We don’t need to establish that one belief is correct and the other incorrect. Just point out the difference, because the next question to ask is given that these interpretational differences exist, is it necessary to go out and denounce the other denomination for believing that way? Chances are the response is: no, we don’t need to denounce the other denomination, but I don’t need to ascribe to it either.

Yay! That’s progress, because the logical response is that the other denomination doesn’t need to ascribe to that person’s interpretation either, do they? So why does his or her interpretation have to be mandated into civil law, when it is clearly a matter up for theological dispute?

This isn’t the end of the discussion, obviously. But it’s a place to start. This opens the door for more discussion. Name calling, however, is a closer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Prop 8's legal validity: what is it?

As we get closer to finding out whether the California Supreme Court will rule on Prop 8’s validity, I find myself asking just what issues will be argued in the appeal? And this item from the eMediaWire provides a bit of explanation that isn’t too weighed down by legalease.

What I find interesting is that in deciding the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, the California Supreme Court ruled that the state's Family Code sections, which limited marriage to between one man and one woman, violated the state’s Equal Protection Clause in its constitution. That is why the court determined that the state must allow same-sex marriages.

So along comes Prop 8, which amends the constitution with language that creates an exception to the state’s Equal Protection Clause. Curious I think. There is a legal argument that the court cannot do anything to change Prop 8 because it is a constitutional measure; all is left is what happens to those same-sex marriages that were already recognized. But is that all that is left? Does it make legal and logical sense to create a legal document, such as a constitution, that creates broad rights for all citizens, and then later amend that document to remove some classes of people from its protection? What legal theory supports that kind of argument? What precedence exists that gives weight to such a theory? Because that is what the law is built upon: precedent.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reaction to Warren heats up

Obama’s selection of the Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation during the president-elect’s inauguration is worth following up with more incredulity. Really, Obama has completely got it wrong. Even Rachel Maddow on Friday revealed that Obama’s campaign realized the potential liability it faced if it went forward with allowing the Rev. Wright deliver an invocation at Obama’s campaign announcement back in 2007. And eventually, as we all know, Obama had to clearly distance himself from the Rev. Wright by denouncing him.

So what gives with Warren, the pastor at the California mega-Saddleback Church? This notion of sending a message of inclusiveness to evangelicals is simply going too far and is being done without serious thought to future consequences. Reading the church’s position on homosexuality clearly indicates that there’s been some biblical revision going on there. (editor's note Dec. 22: as reported on the Rachel Maddow show, the Saddleback Church has removed the item from its Web site regarding homosexuals are barred from membership) And reading an allegedly leaked transcript from the Obama team on the rationale for this decision does nothing more in my view than reveal that Obama has got some nuts giving him advice. The reaction continues even today with William Fisher at The Huffington Post asking the same question on nearly everyone’s mind: What was Obama thinking?

I must agree with Fisher when he writes, “To begin with, this strikes me as a strange move for a careful guy like Obama to make.” This choice appears to have been carelessly made, which is indeed out of character for someone like Obama. There is more to this reaction than the obvious statement from the Human Rights Campaign on the selection. And that is, when you listen to the Rev. Rick Warren speak on this matter, you clearly see that he really hasn’t thought through his objection to same-sex marriage; rather, he merely parrots old lines about sexual restraint and deviancy.

During Ann Curry’s interview with the Rev. Warren, we hear his speciousness come straight from his mouth when he talks about a human’s natural inclinations by relaying what his “gay friends” say to him. What “they say” is that they have an inclination to have sex with as many individuals as they like, to which Warren tells Curry that he, too, has a natural inclination to copulate with multiple “beautiful” women. But, he goes on, it is important for humans to restrain this impulse.

By the way, what Warren says about Buddhism endorsing only man/woman marriages is a lie. Buddhism endorses monogamy, but does not dictate that sex must occur within “marriage,” nor is there any explicit condemnation, other than in the rules for being a monk or nun, of homosexual acts. And the Buddha was clear about that: all sex, whether hetero or homo or even self-stimulation, was off limits to the Buddhist clergy.

But back to Curry’s interview. First, we have Warren talking about his gay friends. Who are these friends? I can’t imagine any gay man or woman being “friends” with Warren when knowing how he stands not just on same-sex marriage, but homosexuality in general.

Next, regarding the need for sexual restraint, I have no real argument there. It is a wiser path to show restraint. But how convenient for Warren that in the process of restraining his own sexual hunger, Warren can get married. He won’t allow that option to gays.

And apparently, Curry becomes a Warren apologist, trying to explain how this poor man is fearful he won’t even be able to speak his position from his own pulpit. Oh gosh, poor guy. Apparently Curry didn’t do even basic background research on Prop 8 to know that its failure would have no impact on what preachers could say within their congregations.

This is not just a clunker of a decision for Obama. It is a political blunder that shoves him in a corner that will require him spending too much time explaining his way out of.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Southern Baptist lambasts Newsweek

The president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary lambasted a recent Newsweek article that presented a Christian-based argument for supporting same-sex marriage. R. Albert Mohler Jr., was unequivocal in his condemnation of not only the article, but the reasoning behind it.

“Let’s face it, what the sum and substance of this cover story really attempts to do is to say that Christians have basically been wrong for the better part of 20 centuries in understanding the Scripture and that the vast majority of believers in this country are wrong in believing that same-sex marriage is prohibited by scriptural injunction,” Mohler said. “And that’s no understatement.”

Obama muffs it

I can understand that Barack Obama wants to reach out to as many groups and people as possible, to bridge widening gaps that often get in the way of progressive dialogue, but the president-elect really muffed it by naming the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation during the inauguration.

Warren is an out-spoken opponent of same-sex marriage and was a key player in endorsing Prop 8. It really makes you wonder how a candidate that had such wide support within the gay community would pick Warren to play such a prominent role during the inauguration. There are so many other gay-friendly ministers out there to choose from.

I realize that even New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has portrayed Warren as an evangelical that even a liberal can love, but Kristof’s example of Warren’s compassion for AIDS issues cannot translate into acceptance of gays. That’s because it was the plight of African children stricken with AIDS that moved Warren to take this issue seriously; where was he when hundreds of thousands of gay men were dying?

But the real problem is Warren’s opposition to same-sex marriage. What’s the message that Obama is sending? That he is siding with the anti-marriage crowd? Looks that way to me.

Granted, I will give Obama his due by mentioning his response to the flak from the gay community that this created. Nonetheless, how can you be a "strong advocate" for the rights of one group when you give such a prominent pulpit to someone who stands in the way of those rights?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Libertarian lunacy

The Web is filled with an extraordinary level of rationalizations when it comes to finding ways to justify support for gays without support for marriage rights. And this one at Code Monkey Ramblings is truly ingenious in its self-deception.

In this classic libertarian thinking, the idea is that government involvement in marriage is abhorrent to begin with, so any further expansion of this involvement should be stopped. Allowing gays to marry is not the issue with “classic” libertarians; it’s the mere fact that the government is involved that upsets them.

The problem with this is that an entire class of people is denied equal rights in this area through active support of a ballot measure (voting yes on Prop 8) while efforts to dismantle the objectionable government involvement (civil recognition of marriage) are nonexistent. These libertarians do absolutely nothing to get government out of marriage except write convoluted treatises on why it should, but they will step forward and vote for discriminatory measures like Prop 8 because “government just shouldn’t be involved in marriage.” This is lunacy!

“As it currently stands, there is nothing short of the problem of finding a pastor, priest or rabbi who is willing to perform the marriage rite that is stopping most gay couples from getting married,” writes the blogger at Code Monkey. “This issue is really about other legal topics such as power of attorney and employer benefits than marriage itself, at least on the legal front.”

No kidding! This is also a truly overused setup for injecting classic Orwellian doublespeak into the debate, and Code Monkey does this when he writes: “The fact is, proponents of state licensing of gay marriages are generally in favor of using the power of the state to force society to accept homosexuality and gay marriage.”

First, he interjects the notions that we are trying to force society to accept homosexuality, yet does not explain how that can be. And second, he creates the moniker “gay marriage,” which creates the notion that a marriage involving two people of the same sex is somehow different from a marriage that involves a man and a woman.

At the heart of the argument that allowing gays to marry would force others to accept homosexuality is fear and animus. It is also a completely fallacious notion. I do not accept in any way the beliefs of those people who align themselves with Christian Identity, yet such people are legally able to marry. The mere fact that they can marry in no way requires me to accept the ideology’s anti-Semitic thesis as legitimate. I do not accept Christian Identity theology, nor do I have to just because people of that ilk are allowed to marry. So anyone who is a homophobe, whether admittedly or unconsciously, is in no way forced to accept homosexuality as legitimate merely because gays are allowed to marry. This would extend to clergy as well, because the clergy is not required by law to perform any marriage that comes along; rather, those in the clergy are allowed to do so if it involves a union that meets his or her requirements. Marriages, after all, can be performed by judges (even ship captains), who have no vested interest in who the parties are in the marriage.

And regarding the term “gay marriage,” it is a spurious term that we need to correct every time it is mentioned. There is no such thing as a “gay” marriage. There is only marriage, and what we are striving for is expansion of marriage to include same-sex couples as well as different-sex couples.

I’ll continue on this later.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Huckabee and Jon Stewart

Check out Stewart's interview with Huckabee. You must take seriously Huckabee's comment that we must get serious if we are to persuade conservative Christians to accept our premise of marriage equality.

U.S. balks at UN resolution

The folks at UGA Liberal posted today an item about a United Nations resolution condemning the criminalization of homosexuality. The bog links to an article at reporting that the resolution will be presented to General Assembly in January, although UGA Liberal suggests the matter will be addressed this coming week.

While not immediately relevant to the issue of same-sex marriage, the Christian Science Monitor reported Dec. 9 that the resolution is feared by the Vatican as a way to further open the door to wider acceptance of marriage equality. Not surprisingly, the U.S. remains silent on the resolution.

The Monitor article is very telling, particularly with this passage: “(T)he Association of Catholic Jurists issued a statement trying to clarify the position of the Church. According to the group's president, Francesco D'Agostino, ‘The Vatican endorses the decriminalization of homosexuality, but opposes the equality between different sexual orientation.’” The epitome of doublespeak. How can you rationalize support for decriminalizing as sexual orientation while opposing equality? Criminalizing a human state of being, such as homosexuality, creates inequality. By decriminalizing, does that not then suggest equality in terms of just merely being? It’s just the Vatican trying to ensnare folks into its duplicitous position via manipulation of language. And amazingly, despite the Vatican having a nonvoting seat in the General Assembly, the Monitor reports that it carries great influence among the assembly, particularly on matters of human rights.

How does an entity with one of the worst histories in terms of human rights and respect for other cultural norms manage to hold such sway over this topic?

A comment, also, by the blogger at UGA, points once again to the challenge we face in obtaining marriage equality. “I can accept a lot of disagreements as valid when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage,” he writes. I would really like to hear his rationalization how the disagreements can be accepted as “valid.” Does he mean valid in that these disagreements are legitimate points of view on their own merits? Or valid because he is showing respect for an individual’s perspective, regardless of the merits?

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Fresh Air" interview results in resignation

FOXNews reports that a top evangelical resigned after his support for civil unions was made public.

Too bad the Rev. Richard Cizik didn’t go all the way and show support for same-sex marriage. Civil unions are not the way to go. Civil unions are bad for marriage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Better latent than never

Slackers are getting into the marriage groove, now that they’ve seen how complacency gets them nowhere. A New York Times article from earlier today reveals how a new crop of gay activists is sprouting in the wake of the spanking we took in California over Prop 8.

Let’s hope it gains some traction.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stop providing fodder!

I found these links on the Facebook page for the site “A civil union is not a marriage! Legalize gay marriage!” More evidence of the stupid and short-sighted things people do that damage our efforts to attain marriage equality. It’s not just the anti-marriage crowd we must do battle with. Unfortunately, we must battle ourselves as well.

In this story, a teacher hands out homosexual pledge cards to kindergartners. It is truly astounding that the teacher had the merest thought that what she did was even remotely appropriate.

A charter school in Hayward, Calif., held a “Gay Day” without notifying parents. This faux pas was quickly used by the Pacific Justice Institute as evidence that Prop 8’s passage would mean changes in public schools that would include “homosexual indoctrination.”

There were a couple other links, but the point is made.

Newsweek draws fire from Christian conservatives

Newsweek is taking a lot of heat for a cover story this week that suggests there is a pro-gay marriage argument that is Christian-based. The flak from the Christian right is covered by Politico.

As I posted previously, the religionists are sly at re-stating the facts, which author Lisa Miller so effectively points out in her article, “Our Mutual Joy.” Miller brings up a quote by the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, who spoke to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an article in June: “The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because it stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition.”

No where, in the Bible – at least of the several interpretations I have read – is marriage explicitly defined as being between one man and one woman. And there is also the misogynistic apostle Paul, who, in Chapter 7 of his first epistle to the Corinthians, promoted celibacy as the way to God, but if you can’t be celibate, then get married rather than degrade yourself with a prostitute.

Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, criticizes the article for failing to mention two important biblical passages – one involving Adam and Eve, and the other in the New Testament book of Ephesians – that describe marriage as being between one man and one woman. However, Land offers no explanation for the more than 1,000 pages of polygamous relationships and slavery in between these two definitive passages.

Miller’s article is excellent and should be read. It adds to the argument that David Myers and Lisa Dawson Scanzoni presented in their 2004 book, “What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beware the revisionists

A FOX News blog by the Rev. Jonathan Morris published Dec. 4 warns of rampant atheism out to re-write history. This tired tirade is another seasonal installment in the effort to counteract the alleged hostage-taking of Christmas by the atheists and agnostics among us. While this may appear irrelevant to the issue of same-sex marriage, it is not, because the Rev. Morris uses an ironic argument to warn of these irreligious revisionists by doing a bit of history revision himself.

“Thanks to the wisdom of our God-fearing founding fathers and their respect for the sacred dignity of every human being in this great country of ours, we will continue to defend the right of non-believers to express their opinion, as reasonable and considerate, or silly and disrespectful, as the case may be,” asserts the Rev. Morris.

Ah yes, those God-fearing Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, who once proclaimed: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Gosh, those darned deists mixed with the theists among our Founding Fathers. Especially the ones that held respect for the “sacred dignity of every human being” by owning slaves. Like Jefferson and Washington and others. Got a point to make but history won’t quite let you make it? Just restate history. After all, most people won’t even know you did it because they don’t know their own history.

Understanding how the anti-marriage crowd so unctuously slips into revisionism, particularly when they speak of the "traditional definition of marriage", is important in propelling the cause of equal marriage rights.

The blame game

There’s an Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times that takes a stab at explaining why Prop 8 succeeded. It examines the issue of race, which others have brought up as the critical issue that contributed to Prop 8’s passage (Bill O’Reilly in particular). Others added evidence for blaming the blacks as well as the Mormons. In today’s Times, authors Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz seek to discredit these assertions. Their argument is persuasive, but still misses the point. Keith Olbermann I think has been the only commentator to get the issue at least partially right, and that is if blacks did play an important role in Prop 8’s success, it was not because of antipathy toward gays within the black community (though it exists within the religious subsets of all groups), but because of an incredibly ignorant blunder by the gay lobby to barely spend any of its millions within that community. At least Hendrik Hertzberg’s article in the New Yorker gets it partly right by addressing this issue.

“(The gay lobby was) complacent: early polls had shown Prop. 8 losing by double digits,” Hertzberg wrote in his Dec. 1 article. “Their television ads were timid and ineffective, focussing (sic) on worthy abstractions like equality and fairness, while the other side’s were powerfully emotional.”

Not to forget outright mendacious. If we are to succeed – and don’t kid yourself, there is no guarantee of success – we must learn that we need to raise and spend more money than the other side and directly address the issues it presents. This is not about fairness; that calumny is worthless to our struggle. The point that needs to be clearly made loudly and often is we are the ones who are pro-marriage, while the other side is truly the side that is anti-marriage.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Civil Unions are bad for marriage!

Even some of my most liberal straight friends, individuals for whom I have a great deal of respect, balk at the thought of same-sex marriage. And when I question them, they inevitably reply with the same, sheepish answer: marriage should be reserved for mixed-sex couples.

I nod my head and say, “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” being empathetic, turning on my empathic listening skills with just a slight tone of irony as if Jack McFarland really meant it, then query, “So why is that? Why should marriage be reserved for mixed-sex couples?” They know I’ve caught them because just as they are about to answer, they stop, look at me, and their faces redden with embarrassment. And then the coy child in them comes out as they admit they have no other reason beyond the fact they cannot get over their Judeo-Christian upbringing.

As reluctantly as they admit it, admit it they must: they believe marriage to be sanctified by God, and the great Yaweh has issues with moes getting married.

But then they’ll nod their heads like some happy mutt and quickly say, “But I’m OK with civil unions. I think you should have all those benefits. Just don’t call it marriage.”

Oh sure, I have straight friends who will tell me to my face that they believe gays ought to be able to marry. But I really wonder how they voted when the state constitutional ban was on the ballot in Michigan, or wherever.

Well, lately I have a new response to that. The jig’s up. News flash! Civil unions are bad for marriage!

And no where have I read a more convincing argument supporting this assertion than in a book co-written by David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Sconzoni – “What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage.”

But why, you may ask, is it so wonderful that this person Myers wrote this book? Others have written tomes advancing the idea that gays ought to be able to marry.

Because Myers is a tenured psychology professor, with exceptional publishing credentials, at Hope College, a private college operated by one of the most conservative Christian denominations in the country: The Reformed Church in America.

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mr. Myers in 2004 just before his book was published. When the college learned of the book, officials there quickly distanced themselves from the book, noting that Myers is an academic of great repute and what he writes is his opinion, not the college’s.

One of the largest financial contributors to the college was less kind. Jack DeWitt, who is a board member of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, resorted to the most sophomoric cliché when he told me that allowing two men to marry each other, or two women to marry each other, was the equivalent of allowing two dogs to marry or two ducks to marry. DeWitt, however, recognized that Myers was held in very high esteem in academic circles, so DeWitt acquiesced somewhat and said as long as Myers’ book wasn’t used as a text in a Hope College class, he would continue to support the college financially.

Gee, how magnanimous of him.

You ought to read Myers’ book. His essential premise is that extending marriage opportunities to same-sex couples strengthens marriage rather than weakens it. Sociological data shows that the creation of civil unions has the opposite effect that was intended: rather than preserving and strengthening marriage, having the option of civil unions weakens marriage because you have to offer it to both gay and straight couples.

His voice is very important to the debate. Because he is not gay, but a religious conservative, he speaks to the audience that won’t listen to us gays: religious conservatives. We can rant all we want until we’re blue in the face and the religious folk will just shake their heads and close their ears. But someone like Myers is an E.F. Hutton among religious conservatives: When he speaks, they listen.

Bogus boycotts

Welcome to the lunacy! There’s plenty of it to go around these days. Whether it may be a group of gays picketing in front of a movie theater whose owner contributed to support passage of Proposition 8 when that same theater is scheduled to show a gay positive film, or keeping tabs on misinformation being maliciously spread by organizations that profess to be pro-family. If we are going to be successful in attaining equal marriage rights in this country, we need to face our own demons and foibles as well as those who oppose us. And what better place to start than with a misguided picket line a couple weeks ago in Evanston, Ill.

My partner and I went to see “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” at the Century Theatre in Evanston on Nov. 22, and outside was a crowd of picketers with signs proclaiming that the theater’s owner was some kind of anti-gay bigot. Time Out Chicago had a bit on the picket as well. I was confused about what the point was, especially after I saw a preview to the new Sean Penn movie “Milk.” It was through the TOC article that I learned that Alan Stock, the CEO of the Cinemark movie chain that owns the Century Theatre, donated $9,999 to support Prop 8 in California. So the protesters attract all this negative attention to a theater in Evanston managed by someone other than Stock and which will be showing a pro-gay movie. Nice move.

More silly tactical errors from well-meaning gays and the people who support us, such as what I wrote about at Boycotts are pointless. It’s money spent on an effective message that wins these things. Besides, how many other people went into the theater that night and saw the same preview for “Milk” as I did and wonder, what the heck are those people complaining about? A better strategy would be to stop calling our foes anti-gay or bigots or haters or whatever, and start identifying them as anti-marriage. That would be a twist in their panties! And besides, it’s true. I will be spending time explaining this concept in future posts.