Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sweet irony

Ben Shapiro probably couldn’t have shown poorer timing with his recent post at With this epistle, Shapiro hand-picks several real news stories that descrribe deplorable events or conditions people elsewhere in the world face: A teenage Iranian girl who faces probable gang rape before she is executed, North Korean citizens starving at the draconian hands of their government, for example. And then with the commonest of a priori reasoning, concludes that these news events are evidence of President Obama’s declining influence throughout the world.

Meanwhile, a new Pew Global Attitudes Project was released that shows opinion of the U.S. overseas has improved. In fact, the report concludes that America’s status in the world has “markedly” improved under the Obama administration. This, mind you, would be an example of an a posteriori argument, one that is based on data.

Using Shapiro’s reasoning, one could easily find plenty of examples in the world press to reach the conclusion that the Bush administration’s neo-conservatism led to an increase in America’s stature throughout the world. But then there would be that pesky empirical data that suggests otherwise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It’s been nearly three months since my last post, and I have decided to attempt a resurrection. Why, might you ask, have I taken this hiatus?

Frankly, I had doubts about the viability of this blog. I wasn’t convinced of its voice. I wasn’t sure I was saying anything that anyone wasn’t already saying. And certainly based on the traffic numbers, so plainly displayed by the counted on the right, I wasn’t convinced anyone was reading anything I wrote.

But marriage is an extraordinarily important issue for the lesbigay community, as are many topics. And what the “opposition” is up to is always important to keep track of.

Take today for example. Early this afternoon, bloggers and tweeters were all buzzing about the Senate passing the Matthew Shepard Act, a new hate crimes bill that would include sexual orientation at the federal level. This blog here is just one of many that reported on this bill today. But why didn’t the Matthew Shepard Foundation report anything on the bill’s alleged passing? Neither did the mainstream press, such as CNN or the Associated Press? The Wicked Gay Blog reported on the MSA passing the Senate, but a commenter noted that the MSA was attached to a spending bill that President Obama had vowed to veto.

That bill included funding for the F-22 fighter; but the Senate removed that item from the final bill. Which means the reason Obama threatened a veto has been removed from the bill.

Still, it seems odd to me that the mainstream press hasn’t picked up on this.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New poll presents conundrum

A recent poll, the highlights of which have been published by the Associated Press today, confuses the heck out of me. Conducted by the polling institute at Quinnipiac University in Hartford, Conn., the poll found that a majority of respondents were opposed to allowing same-sex marriage, but a majority of the same respondents thought that civil unions were OK.

Huh? I don’t understand the rationale. These respondents are fine with civil unions that would provide essentially all the legal trappings of marriage, even the idea of allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. They just don’t want it called marriage. That’s really what they’re saying. And that, to me, makes so sense.

Why go through all the effort of creating this parallel universe of “marriage-like” status when marriage already exists? And besides, the creation of civil unions could not be solely for same-sex couples; it would be an option that would have to be available to mixed-sex couples as well. The anti-marriage crowd doesn’t get the fact that civil unions are in reality bad for marriage; civil unions weaken marriage – they neither strengthen nor protect marriage.

Separate is not equal. I think it comes down to a fear that should same-sex couples be allowed to marry, then clergy of churches that oppose such unions would be required by law to conduct these marriages. The anti-marriage crowd has been very successful in getting this impression to stick, and the gay lobby has helped this perception to linger.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I believe in same-sex marriage, but ...

Perez Hilton ought to be bitch-slapped for asking that ridiculous question during the Miss USA pageant, and the entire panel of judges should be shamed beyond shame for allowing Miss California to be bumped from the title.

It's just another example for the anti-marriage crowd to add to their arsenal to continually portray those in favor of same-sex marriage as a bunch of militant queers who care nothing about marriage and who are more interested in making a spectacle of themselves.

I mean, look at that outfit Hilton was wearing! It's hideous!
But seriously, such a sophomoric move does nothing for the cause. Nothing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The road paved with good intentions

What do Bill O’Reilly and the Rev. Rick Warren have in common? A feeling of frustration that they cannot deny saying something when the evidence is on video.

Alright, I won’t be so harsh. O’Reilly and Warren truly have very little in common. But it remains true that in this age of video taping, the Internet and Google, you can’t count on people being unaware of what you might have said in the past.

Politico ran something Sunday on Warren’s failing to appear as scheduled on ABC’s “This Week.” It was believed that Warren was going to clarify a recent denial that he had endorsed Prop 8. Tough to deny endorsing Prop 8 when you did so willingly while being video taped. But it isn’t just that embarrassment that could have Warren in trouble. The IRS doesn’t take very kindly to tax-exempt institutions – like churches for example – commenting on matters before a public vote. That’s campaigning, and to do so legally, you must register as a campaign organization and reveal who is giving you money to take whatever position you are regarding a ballot proposal.

But Warren pulled a George Jones and was a no show. I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt, what with all those sermons, etc, fatigue likely played a role in his failing to appear. Yet the explanation by a staffer sent to Politico is so delicious because it again proves that, particularly with e-mail, the longer the message, the more likely you will say something you will regret later on. Consider, my friends, this line in the missive:

“Throughout his pastoral ministry spanning nearly 30 years, Pastor Warren has remained committed to the biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, for life -- a position held by most fellow Evangelical pastors. He has further stressed that for 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion has maintained this worldview.”

For 5,000 years, eh? One man, one woman, eh? Does this wonk even know his Bible? Abraham must be rolling in his grave. And good King Solomon as well. Gee, and I wonder what Islam has to say about this. Being a practicing Buddhist, I am aware that the Buddha gave no specific teaching about marriage, defining it clearly as one man, one woman, given the fact that, ummm, less than 5,000 years ago it was not uncommon for South Asian men of wealth to have more than one wife. And oh yes, the Chinese have had a long tradition of multiple wives. I bet that goes back further than 5,000 years.

I’m sorry, but these guys simply do not know what they are talking about. They don’t even know their own religious heritage, let alone anything else about any other culture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Iowa decision deliciously unsurprising

Alright, I admit that I’ve been a bit slow to post about the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision, which struck down that state’s legislative ban against same-sex marriage. Yes, it’s huge news. And every blogger in the world had something up about the decision immediately. Except me.

Not that I wasn’t excited. I am very excited about the ruling. And I am also very excited about the fact that same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Iowa for probably two years before any effort can successfully get a constitutional amendment on the state ballot to rescind the decision. By that time, what would be the point of such a constitutional amendment? It certainly would not be an altruistic desire to protect marriage. By that time, such a move would be rightfully perceived as the bigoted move it was from the start.

What I found intriguing about the unanimous ruling was how the court pointedly opined that it could see no benefit to the state in maintaining a ban against same-sex marriage, marking the legislation for what it was: a cowardly attempt to keep down “a historically disfavored class.”

These justices aren’t afraid of upholding the law. I saw that in 1998 when the court issued a monumental decision in the case of Bormann v. Kossuth County, a decision that it upheld in 2004 in Gacke v. Pork Xtra. Now you may be wondering, “what do two agricultural cases have to do with gay marriage?”

The short answer is nothing. However, what is relevant is the fact that the Iowa Supreme Court has shown a decisive tendency to pay attention to what the law says, rather than to which party has the biggest bank roll. And in doing so, it has historically written very clear opinions so that its decisions will not likely be misinterpreted in the future. This is very good news in terms of the court’s decision Friday in Varnum, et al. v. Polk County.

In the Des Moines Register article I linked above, it was stated that Iowa was chosen for the same-sex marriage case because of “fair-mindedness of its residents and the courts.”

The fact that it could be as long as two years before anything can go before voters to overturn the ruling might have had something to do with the selection as well.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Arguments begin in California

The airwaves and the newspapers and the blogs have all been a twitter about the Prop 8 hearing today before the California Supreme Court. But sometimes, I really wonder how much mainstream America cares about this.

Perhaps sneaking under the radar, at least in terms of news coverage, was an announcement from Equality Illinois that a bill in the Illinois House that would create civil unions in that state had cleared committee and was headed to the full House for consideration. By the way, I really hate the way their Web site is set up.

Anyway, like other civil union bills, this would create marriage-lite; an arrangement similar to marriage, that would bestow “some of the rights” inherent in marriage, but still would not be marriage. You queer couples, go to the back of the class.

This is not equality.

Meanwhile, Prop 8 got its day in court in California, and the speculation about how it went today is interesting. The San Francisco Chronicle indicated that the court appeared willing to uphold the voters’ decision regarding Prop 8. Quotes The Chronicle: “There have been initiatives that have taken away rights from minorities by majority vote” and have been upheld, said Chief Justice Ronald George. “Isn't that the system we have to live with?” However, it also reported that the court seemed inclined to assert that all the same-sex couples married after its ruling and prior to Prop 8’s passing would remain married.

The Associated Press, however, noted that part of the argument was over whether Prop 8 merely amended California’s constitution, or revised the document.

I know there has been considerable lucid argument by some in the gay community that gaining equality in marriage is not going to be won in the courtroom. This argument has some appeal because it relies on a romantic notion that rationally thinking people can be persuaded to accept same-sex marriage as a reality of life without giving up on their heart-felt religious beliefs. There is a part of me that wants to buy this argument. But I can’t.

Not one single societal injustice in this country’s history was ever won by turning the hearts and minds of the majority. Not one. Every societal wrong this country has committed – from slavery to the subjugation of women and on to brutal child labor – had to be rectified through legal means, often against the majority will. More than 90 years passed after the emancipation before a court finally said enough with segregation, and another 40 years passed before America was willing to elect a black president.

The other side knows this. That’s why it attacks “activist courts.” It knows that as long as it can hobble the judiciary with guilt that it can continue with its bigoted ways.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Prop 8 gets its day in court

It’s official now. Oral arguments have been scheduled for March 5 in the California Supreme Court regarding the constitutional validity of Prop 8.

I found it gratifying to read the action filed by Lambda Legal challenging Prop 8; gratifying because it raises the same argument I raised in a previous blog post Dec. 21. And that is Prop 8 does more than amend the California constitution; it takes a significant article of that constitution, and writes an exception. Sounds minor, but think about it. The California constitution protects all the states residents with equal protection under the law. Prop 8 says “except for gay couples wanting to marry each other.” This is a unique and challengeable, in my opinion, assertion. Either the state’s constitution provides equal protection under the law or it doesn’t.

By the way, Lambda cites Baehr v. Miike as precedent, which I’ve written about in this blog here, here, here, and here.

Here is the relevant portion of the Lambda lawsuit: “According to the California Constitution, significant changes to the fundamental organizing principles of state government cannot be made through the initiative process, which involves petition signatures and then a simple majority vote. Instead, such changes first require the support of 2/3 of the state legislature, and then approval by a majority of voters. This would not be the first time the court has voided an improper initiative.”

Read the Huffington Post about this as well.

The New York Times pressuring Rhode Island?

The New York Times in an editorial Monday came out strongly in favor of getting a bill out of a Rhode Island legislative committee to force a vote on whether that state should join its neighbors – Massachusetts and Connecticut – in extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. This bill has been apparently stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee where it has languished since 2003. If I read the editorial correctly, it appears that the Times believes that if the bill made it out of committee, it has a good chance of succeeding.

“The Connecticut and Massachusetts Legislatures approved civil unions before the courts took the extra step of providing gay couples with full rights,” writes the Times. “Advocacy groups like Marriage Equality of Rhode Island are pushing for full rights rather than the separate-but-equal status of civil unions. They argue, correctly, that anything less is unfair.”

That has been my position all along, marriage over civil unions. However, fairness is not the central part of my position. My assertion is expanding marriage to include same-sex couples strengthens the institution of marriage; creating separate statuses like civil unions is what weakens marriage and makes it less desirable for both straight and gay couples.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Which solution to support?

My apologies for being away for so long. I became aware of my negligence when I read two Op-Ed pieces in this past Sunday’s New York Times, one directly dealing with the marriage issue and the other tangentially so.

In their joint commentary “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage,” writers David Blankenhorn and Jonathon Rauch offer a compromise of sorts that seeks to find middle ground in the debate over same-sex marriage. I laud their attempt and regrettably admit that this might be the best solution for the time being. Having said that, I must repeat that any solution that is short of marriage really only weakens the institution of marriage and unnecessarily complicates matters.

In the other Op-Ed piece, William Saletan offers in “This is the Way the Culture Wars End” an argument for same-sex marriage that reflects this conundrum created by civil unions. Although his piece is primarily focused on the abortion debate, at the end he comes out solidly in favor of same-sex marriage.

“Commitment, unlike sexual orientation, is a choice and a virtue,” Saletan writes. “Same-sex marriage binds gay couples to the same ethic of mutual support and sacrifice that Mr. Obama has praised in straight marriages. The cultural imprimatur of marriage makes the gravity of the bond stronger than a civil union or domestic partnership… Let those partners marry. In fact, let’s encourage them to. We shouldn’t just tolerate same-sex marriage. We should promote and favor marriage, regardless of orientation.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Activist court argument doesn’t wash

I apologize ahead of time, because this is going to be a long post.

The tired argument against “activist courts” is being trotted out again, this time by a senior editor at the National Review in its Jan. 26 edition. In this piece, decisions pertaining both to marriage equality and assisted suicide are dissected as examples of an activist court overstepping its constitutional authority.

Ramesh Ponnuru’s argument is that these were cases of “profound moral consequence upon which reasonable citizens of goodwill disagree,” and that the courts inappropriately intervened on the presumption that the state constitutions involved would resolve the issue under dispute.

I really find this incredible coming from a conservative writer on many levels. After all, conservatives are often wont to have all of us look upon history for direction. As Russell Kirk once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing), the conservative perspective is one in which those in the present stand upon the shoulders of those from the past in order to gaze into the future. In other words, true conservatism is a method to anticipate the future by using the lessons learned from the past. In terms of that philosophy, I don’t disagree with the premise. But conservatism hasn’t really turned out to be that philosophy; rather, it has become a philosophy blinded by ineffective paradigms.

A case in point: the notion of an “activist judiciary.” What is an “activist judiciary”? Is it a judiciary that inappropriately dictates social policy and supplants the legislature? Or is it a judiciary that, with prescient perspicuity, shows how a current popular sentiment is self-serving and contrary to the true intentions of our Founding Fathers?

Ponnuru attempts to appear fair by noting that both sides of the “judicial activism” argument contain truth, but this is merely a ruse to portray his thesis as being objective and well-thought. It is neither, as he falls into the same tired argument, which he accuses the other side of, and that is he ignores key elements of how our republic is structured as well as how quickly the argument fails when faced with the historical evidence found in precedent.

For example, in the California marriage case, Ponnuru suggests that for the California court to “strengthen his (sic) case, one of the following two things would have to be true: Californians who ratified their state constitution understood its guarantees of equal treatment of persons to entail same-sex marriage, or they understood themselves to be handing over to the courts the authority to order the state to recognize same-sex marriage in the name of equality. Both propositions are, literally, incredible.”

What is incredible is how Ponnuru can come to such a conclusion, because it completely ignores our county’s history. If his premise is correct, it would mean that our Founding Fathers, when creating the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution, were aware that their documents would apply to blacks and women, or that they were giving permission to the courts in the future to come to that conclusion. As we all learn in school, some of the Founding Fathers were slave owners. And undoubtedly all of them wouldn’t think for a minute that a woman could become a local government leader, let alone president. Yet we see that there was great resistance in our republic’s early years to the notion that the statement, “all men are created equal,” really applied to all men. It is also clear that that resistance carried on well into the following centuries. And certainly behind this resistance was the collective will of a majority (white men) that had no intention of allowing that statement to apply to either women or blacks.

Perhaps knowing how weak his assertion is, Ponnuru attempts to fudge the argument even more by suggesting, using the Montana case regarding assisted suicide, that the meaning of words like “equality” or “dignity”, which are at the center of these issues, are open to interpretation because these definitions can be subject to personal nuance.

That may be true with the word “dignity.” When asked to precisely identify what it means to be treated with dignity, a person could stammer his or her way through such a definition; “dignity” can be rightfully labeled a “vague” term even though intuitively we all know what it means. The word is very much like the word “pornography”: we may have difficultly explaining in words precisely what it means in all circumstances, but we can all agree with the notion that we know what pornography is when we see it.

The word “equality”, however, is quite different. It can be precisely defined in words; we don’t need a picture to look at to say “equality is that.” Ask anyone what equality under the law means and you’ll get the same answer time and again: it means the law treats everyone the same.

It is also remarkable that someone of Ponnuru’s intelligence and education would make the following statement: “If you were designing a government from scratch, you would have no compelling reason for entrusting these decisions to judges in your constitution.” It is remarkable that Ponnuru wrote this because the Founding Fathers did precisely that; create a government from scratch with three branches of authority, each specifically designed to keep the other two in check. That this was the intended structure of our government was so self-evident that a traveling Frenchman in 19th century America was able to see that and write extensively about it in his famous tome, “Democracy in America.”

It was clear to Alexis de Tocqueville what the judiciary’s role was in America, and that was to interpret the law to ensure that neither the executive nor the legislative branches abused the authority granted them. It was necessary, Tocqueville wrote, because of an inherent flaw in how the legislative branch was selected: popular vote for limited terms in office, which opened the door for a “tyranny of the majority.” Tocqueville noted that these terms in office were short enough that a representative might be too focused on what his constituents wanted, rather than what was truly good for the country. Hence, there was always the danger that legislators would enact law that was purely motivated by a desire to appease campaign supporters.

Ponnuru closes his article with the reactionary statement: “Our laws would deserve respect even if they were wrong in taking most policy discussions out of the hands of the courts, simply because they are our laws.” Such a statement is fraught with incredible danger, because it promotes the notion of emasculating one of the three branches of government, removing the very authority it was granted by the authors of the Constitution. It is clear that our courts must play such an “activist” role, if that is how it shall be labeled. Ponnuru’s desire for a reluctance by the court to playing an activist role was granted in Plessy v. Ferguson, yet would anyone today agree that the court’s majority decision in that case was the correct one? One could easily imagine Ponnuru, were he living at the time of Plessy, writing a scathing attack against Justice John Marshall Harlan for his “activist” position that the majority decision was wrong.

It is clear that if we did not have activist courts, we would still be faced with lawfully enforced segregation, lawfully enforced restrictions on the races intermarrying, lawfully enforced prohibitions against women voting or having equal opportunity, and lawfully enforced disrespect for minority religious beliefs.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Take a look at Z

Rehashing what went wrong with Prop 8 last fall has been a popular topic for many writers and bloggers. It can get boring. But it is important to look at what others are saying and find out who is really cutting to the quick.

For example, there are those who like to blame others for Prop 8’s outcome. I must admit, I have been one to play the blame game, and by that I mean blaming someone other than the lesbigay community for the falter. Blame the religious blacks, or the Mormons, or whatever. But I must agree with what Michael Bronski wrote in the January issue of Z Magazine: It’s out fault. Period. (Sorry I don’t have a link to the article because the online version of Z Magazine is available to subscribers only; the archived article will be available later)

One issue Bronski highlighted was the frequent citing of Loving v. Virginia in the argument for same-sex marriage, a Supreme Court decision I have mentioned from time to time as well. First, this is what Bronski wrote:

“Another blunder was the constant recitation that the fight for same-sex marriage was exactly like the fight for interracial marriage that was won by Loving v. Virginia – an essentially false comparison that must have been difficult for many African Americans to hear and was not useful in trying to present the question of same-sex marriage (a moral issue for many people) in a civil rights context.”

This is a good point to keep in mind. While I have used the Loving case in previous blog posts, my context was different. Rather than trying to use Loving as a template for same-sex marriage, I was ferreting out text from the decision I saw as applicable. The issue of interracial marriage prohibitions and that of banning same-sex marriage are fundamentally different. They share certain arguments, but each circumstance if undoubtedly different.

The Loving case can play a role in our argument, but it cannot be a substitution for our argument. And Bronski is right to differentiate that interracial marriage is a civil rights issue, whereas same-sex marriage is a moral issue for many, regardless of how badly we might wish it to be purely about civil rights.

Something else that caught my attention in Bronski’s piece was his exposition regarding Barack Obama. Take a look at this quote.

“In the last days of the campaign the group distributed flyers with a photograph of Barack Obama quoting him as being against same-sex marriage, which was true. But Obama had also stated that he was against state-wide referendums to decide the issue and was specifically against Prop 8.”

Bronski, I believe, is trying to portray the use of Obama’s statement by as being disingenuous because they didn’t include the other facts. But I disagree. Think about it. On one hand, you say you are against same-sex marriage. Then, on the other hand, you say you are against an effort to ban such marriages? How can that make sense? And that raises another issue. Just how much of an ally is Barack Obama? How can you be against enacting laws that ban same-sex marriage and be against such marriages as well? It doesn’t wash, and was well within the sphere of legitimate use of his statement in its campaign.

Face it folks: until he says something different, Obama does not support equal marriage rights for us. He cannot oppose efforts to ban same-sex marriage and simultaneously be against same-sex marriage. It’s one or the other.

The problem is I believe Obama thinks that civil unions will be an acceptable answer. But he’s wrong. Civil unions weaken marriage. Allowing same-sex marriage does not weaken marriage. Obama really needs to ready David Myers’ book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Repeal DOMA?

An article published this past week at reveals that the Obama administration wants to repeal DOMA as well as extend all the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Does that mean Obama supports same-sex marriage? Not even. It does mean, however, further expansion of civil unions, which I have repeatedly said are actually bad for marriage. But this is how moderate politicians seek to gain support from the lesbigay community.

The problem, of course, is that when civil unions become more formalized, they won’t just be for gays. Civil unions will have to be available for everyone, gay and straight. And if that’s the case, why would straights want to get married? So rather than protecting marriage, expansion of civil unions will work to erode the institution further until it becomes moot. And seeing how civil unions would have to be available to everyone, why bother creating them? We already have an institution that covers what a civil union covers.

It’s called marriage.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Rev. Warren and AIDS

Hats off to the blogger at my new-found favorite blog, Joe.My.God., for finding a report and getting it out there for more to see regarding the truth about the Rev. Rick Warren’s “work against AIDS.”

I expressed my doubt about Warren’s assertion that he was deeply involved in the fight against AIDS, but my doubt was raised over his willingness to fight AIDS in Africa, not America. My question was where was Warren when AIDS was a national issue here?

The blog refers to a piece in The Daily Beast written by Max Blumenthal. Granted, my blog is not about AIDS, or even gay rights in general. I am focused on the marriage issue. But as I have written about Warren in the past because of his deep involvement in opposing Prop 8 in California, I wanted to bring this to light.

Read Blumenthal’s article. You need to know.

Reassessing Prop 8

Everyone who supports equal marriage rights needs to read what Matt Foreman wrote for the Web site towleroad. He reiterates a point I have been trying to make, and that is we cannot achieve our goals if we ridicule and belittle those with strongly-held religious beliefs.

“Anyone who thinks it is easy to overcome homophobia that’s reinforced on a weekly basis from a person’s own house of worship doesn’t appreciate the role of religion in so many people’s lives or its pervasive use as a rationale for voting for Prop 8: an astonishing 94 percent of ‘Yes’ voters said ‘religion’ or the ‘Bible’ was most influential in deciding how to vote.”

Foreman also points out another issue marriage supporters need to address, and that is fellow gays who have no interest in gaining marriage rights. This is probably more of an issue among gay men than lesbians; nonetheless, we must recognize that there are those among us who see marriage as a negative rather than a positive for the community. To them, marriage represents the grand assimilation of our culture into the larger straight culture. And at the heart of this argument, I contend, is a desire for unrestricted sexual freedom. Straight people know that, and they will always exploit that.

But as Foreman points out, marriage is much more significant an issue for our community than merely attaining a package of privileges.

I have to agree with Foreman when he points out our strategy has been ineffective because we have clung to this notion that all we have to do is show ourselves without horns and people will love us. Hello!

“Think about friends who tell you their relatives are OK with them being gay or lesbian so long as they don’t talk about it,” Foreman writes. “Why do so many of us find it so incredibly hard to bring up gay issues with co-workers or when we visit our families over the holidays? Or when we do, what about the painful silence or uncomfortable glances that so often follow? Think your Aunt Jane – who’s only recently started to be nice to your partner -- is going to see a television ad and suddenly think, ‘Darn, I’ve been wrong all along about this gay marriage thing!’? Think again.”

It’s a very good piece and I strongly urge my readers to take a look at it.

Encouraging news

Politicians who say they don’t pay attention to polls are lying. All pay attention to them. It’s how they use that information that is important. Bill Clinton’s presidency got the reputation of forming policy around poll results, which turned out to be a smart policy for a while. But all it takes is one contrary poll to cause confusion and doubt.

Same-sex marriage is a popular topic for pollsters, and there is a plethora of these polls. A recent one comes out of Florida, where the Orlando Sentinel reported that most Florida voters were in favor of either allowing same-sex marriage or civil unions. That’s encouraging news; however, the article fails to reveal the poll’s methodology as well as how many Florida voters were sampled and where they lived.

But the results are bothersome as well because I continue to be troubled by the support that exists for civil unions, which I liken to Rice-a-roni, the ultimate consolation prize (watch the movie “The Broken Hearts Club” to see what I mean).

The blogger at Joe.My.God. has some news that the Swedish parliament may be taking the right step to move beyond allowing same-sex couples to register within civil unions by expanding the right to marry, both civilly and within a religious ceremony. And as would be expected, the legislation allows for ministers to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages. Which supports a point I’ve always tried to make – Your religious beliefs cannot accommodate same-sex marriage? Fine! You don’t have to conduct any of them. But don’t stand in the way of those religious leaders who are willing to conduct them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mystery senator supports marriage rights

Huffington Post had a bit on Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to fill Senate vacancy left by Hillary Clinton. Of particular interest in the item was a quote from a representative from the Empire State Pride Agenda that indicated that Gillibrand supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Good news from a somewhat obscure individual. But will she be in the Senate long enough to be able to act on her conviction? She would have to run to retain the seat in 2010.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hawaii 1996, Part 4

Forgive my indulgences and my diversions away from my series on the remarkable 1996 Hawaii marriage case. But the time has come for me to resume the narrative with the “second half” of the state’s case, the half during which everything began to fall apart.

As I wrote in the last entry on the case, the state of Hawaii did its best to argue in its best interest. The state brought forward two very reputable witnesses to essentially assert that allowing same-sex marriage would be bad for children because it disrupted the traditional family model of a father and a mother. The first two witnesses for the state presented evidence that children do best when raised in a two-parent household with both biological parents.

I just want to repeat that I, nor should anyone else, have any argument with this assertion. But as was revealed during cross-examination of these witnesses, there is no reason to presume that single-parent households are incapable of raising well-adjusted children simply because it is a single-parent household. And further, that a same-sex household is not predisposed to ineffectively rearing children simply because it is a same-sex household.

That’s an important distinction to keep in mind.

The next witness brought by the case was Richard Williams, an “expert in the field of psychology with special expertise in qualitative and quantitative research and research methods, statistical analysis and construction of research studies.” When you realize what Williams’ testimony was, you can see where the state was going; but it was a dangerous and risky move.

For all I can tell, Williams was brought in to cast doubt on all psychological and sociological studies because both psychology and sociology were inexact sciences. But he didn’t stop there, as he went on to say that both were bogus sciences, period. And if his testimony was to be accepted by the court, it would mean that the state’s first two witnesses’ testimony was suspect as well.

As it turned out, Judge Kevin S.C. Chang ruled that “the testimony of Dr. Williams is not persuasive or believable because of his expressed bias against the social sciences…. At times, Dr. Williams expressed severe views. For example, (he) believes that there is no scientific proof that evolution occurred.”

Then came the state’s last witness, Thomas Merrill, an expert in psychology, including “human development, gender development and relationships relative to children and their development.” Sounds good, except that Merrill’s experience was in private practice: he was a counselor. And he had very limited experience with children raised in same-sex households. Add to that he had not testified as an expert witness in such a case prior to this one, nor had he either participated in or conducted “any study which focused on the children of gay and lesbian parents.”

“Dr. Merrill examined the issue of same-sex versus opposite sex parent and child development for the first time as a result of his retention in this case.”

Wow. And he came after a witness who essentially believed that all social science was mumbo jumbo.

But Merrill did say something worthy of note, and as is the case in assessing witnesses, testimony from a witness can be rejected entirely, accepted in its entirety, or only parts of it accepted and the rest rejected. It’s up to the “tryer of fact,” which is normally a jury, but in this case was Judge Chang. Merrill said that children should not be denied benefits such as health care, education or housing based on their parents’ status. “Opposite-sex, same-sex, single and adoptive parent status should not be a basis to deny benefits to children.”

Thus ended the state’s case. And while the burden of proof was entirely the state’s responsibility, the plaintiffs not required to provide any evidence at all, the plaintiffs picked up their case next.

It was a case that especially impressed the judge.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The wrong fight to pick

An Associated Press article I found while checking the CNS News site provides another example of the wrong fight to pick. In this story, a lesbian couple’s request to have their civil union ceremony conducted on a church-owned camp facility with an ocean view was denied by the church that owns the property. Instead of taking their request to another landowner, the lesbian couple sued. The couple took their case to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, which concluded the church’s refusal to make available its property violated state law.

This is the wrong fight to pick. Even if same-sex couples could be married, any church would, and should, still retain the right to refuse to conduct the ceremony or allow its facilities to be used for the ceremony. It’s not just private property; it’s property owned by a recognized religious organization, which has some of its own constitutional rights that include being able to worship in a manner it sees fit as long as it causes no public harm.

Heterosexual couples often shop for a minister to conduct their marriage when they want a religious ceremony because there are times when the first minister they turn to turns them down. This happens because the minister sees something about the proposed marriage that he or she does not wish to condone. Refusing to conduct a same-sex ceremony, or allowing one to occur, is the type of discretion any church ought to be allowed to have.

We aren’t going to succeed in achieving equal marriage rights by forcing it on people. We can use the law appropriately, but when we encounter an irresistible force (or mind set), we should just move on. I have to wonder if this couple really wants to have an ocean-side ceremony, or if they’re just pissed off and want to make a point. It looks to me that they are just pissed off and bitter, because I bet there is other ocean-side property available they could use.

If they want to pick this fight, I am rooting for the church.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I repeat: Civil unions are bad for marriage!

The debate about same-sex marriage is heating up once again like it never has before. Bloggers every where are obsessed with the fallout from the Rev. Rick Warren’s deliverance of the invocation at the inauguration, as well as whether civil unions are equal to marriage or if they undermine marriage.

Sorry for my diversion from my posts regarding the Hawaii 1996 marriage case – I promise to return to them soon – but this stuff is just too delicious to ignore!

A current thread I’m reading began with Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish, but that led to a blog at The Confabulum, which in turn lead to a column at the National Review.

I’ll start of with the ridiculous statements Mona Charen makes in her column for the National Review. She’s pulling out the old argument of asking where it will stop if you allow same-sex couples to marry – polygamy and incest is right around the corner – while acknowledging it is an old argument because the gay lobby rightfully labels it as a slippery slope argument. But she waves it about valiantly nonetheless, and offers this particularly ridiculous statement:

“But what about bisexuals? I ask this not to poke fun or to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in all seriousness. How does gay marriage help a bisexual? I assume that if you are bisexual, you believe that you need to have sexual relationships with both men and women.”

This specious argument completely ignores what a marriage is: a legal monogamous union between two people. If a bisexual man marries a woman, by virtue of the marriage he has committed himself to that woman. Any sex outside of that marriage would be adultery. I would expect someone of Charen’s stature to recognize the folly of her argument, unless she is deliberately trying to mislead readers.

Joe Carter at The Confabulum called Charen’s column “excellent and persuasive.” After reading that in the first sentence of his item from Dec. 31, I reluctantly read on (and it is a very long column!). Carter is a supporter of civil unions as a method to protect marriage. He trots out a slew of “gay” writers who routinely opine in favor of open relationships. Why is it that all the gay writers in open relationships get all the ink and we monogamous types are pushed into dim corners?

Carter doesn’t understand that by promoting civil unions, he is actually cheerleading for marriage’s demise. And that leads us to Sullivan’s bit posted today. Sullivan asks some very pointed questions, particularly this one: “Could a straight couple choose to have a civil union rather than a civil marriage and suffer no legal penalty?”

People who argue for civil unions, such as Carter, are failing to realize that civil unions will not protect marriage; rather, civil unions will further weaken marriage. Allowing same-sex couples to marry will strengthen marriage because it allows a group of people to publicly proclaim in a legal forum their relationship that up to now has been barred from that possibility. Expanding marriage makes it stronger because it will eliminate the options that weaken it. Civil unions weaken marriage.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New bill possible in New Hampshire

A brief diversion in my posts about the history of the Hawaii marriage case, I found this item while taking a look at Andrew Sullivan’s “The Daily Dish.” I will keep an eye on New Hampshire to see how this move works out. It’s a good move on one level because civil unions are not marriages. However, if the bill succeeds, civil unions would remain in New Hampshire, and that, I think, is not a good idea, as I believe (as do some others who have written about it) civil unions weaken marriage by creating a new option that really isn’t necessary.

Anyway, we shall see how it works out in New Hampshire.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hawaii 1996, Part 3

Four expert witnesses were presented by the state of Hawaii during the Baehr v. Miike case, all of whom were expected to testify that children ought to be raised in a two-parent home by both biological parents. It was the ideal and most desirable environment, they told then-Circuit Judge Kevin S.C. Chang. Children raised in a gay couple’s home would be “burdened” by such an environment; hence, allowing same-sex couples to marry would harm children.

Yet, under oath, these same expert witnesses mustered by the state of Hawaii admitted that same-sex couples can, and do, provide positive nurturing home environments for children, and children raised in such households turn out just fine.

If you haven’t read the two previous posts to this, you ought to now before reading further. Begin with part one, and then read part two before returning to this post.

Psychiatrist Kyle D. Pruett had conducted a 10-year longitudinal study of two-parent families with young children in which the father had a primary role in raising the children. Pruett concluded that children raised primarily by their fathers during the early years did very well in later childhood. He also noted other significant benefits to a developing child having a father present during the child’s rearing.

“Dr. Pruett stated that same-sex relationships do not provide the same type of learning model or experience for children as does male-female parenting, because there is an overabundance of information about one gender and little information about the other gender,” Chang wrote in his decision.

That was very important information for the state to get on the record. But did the state count on what else Dr. Pruett was going to say?

“Nevertheless, Dr. Pruett also stated that same-sex parents can, and do, produce children with a clear sense of gender identity… that single parents, gay fathers, lesbian mothers and same-sex couples have the potential to, and often do, raise children that are happy, healthy and well-adjusted…that single parents, gay fathers, lesbian mothers, adoptive parents, foster parents and same-sex couples can be, and do become, good parents. Significantly, Dr. Pruett knows the foregoing to be true based on his clinical experience. More specifically, Dr. Pruett stated that parents’ sexual orientation does not disqualify them from being good, fit, loving or successful parents.”

It was very significant testimony for Chang to hear, and that was from the state’s first expert witness! It got better when Pruitt said that gay couples should be allowed to adopt, and that the sex of the parents was not the most important characteristic of having a positive influence on a child: rather, the “quality of the nurturing relationship between parent and child could, and would, outweigh any limitation or burden imposed on the child as a result of having same-sex parents.” (emphasis added)

Then came testimony from sociologist David Eggebeen, which dealt largely with what marriage is all about and why people marry.

Eggebeen presented data on how over the years the marriage rate had declined while the divorce rate had increased, as had the number of “young people” cohabiting, etc.

“It’s common today to find children in single parent families. It’s common today to find children living with a mother who never married. It’s common today to find children in remarried families. It’s common today to find children in dual earner families where both parents participate in the type of work. It is common or getting common to find children whose parents never married and they’re cohabiting,” Eggebeen testified. Having said that, however, he noted that 60 percent of children were being raised in two-parent households where the parents were married to each other and both parents were the biological parents.

Through Eggebeen’s testimony it is clear that the American nuclear family is in serious trouble. And the anti-marriage crowd likes to remind everyone of this. But that argument is easily countered with the one found in Turner v. Safley. In that case, the state of Missouri argued against allowing some inmates to marry someone from the outside because of the potential security problems such arrangements might create. The Supreme Court, however, noted that those security problems would exist regardless; to say that allowing marriages for inmates would exacerbate the situation was a baseless assertion.

In this case, Eggebeen reveals to the court that the problems with marriage existent at the time were already present, so any argument that allowing same-sex couples the opportunity to marry would exacerbate the situation, or, as some in the anti-marriage crow argue, even create such situations is spurious.

Eggebeen also tells the court something else the anti-marriage crowd loves to repeat in some form or another, and that is marriage is a “gateway to becoming a parent,” that it is “synonymous with having children.” However, Eggebeen’s testimony indicated he did not believe that such a characteristic was exclusive by any means. Rather, individuals get married without any intention of having children at all, or who may be biologically incapable of reproduction. And given that, the absence of any intent to have children, regardless of the reason, “does not weaken the institution of marriage.”

“In fact, Dr. Eggebeen recognized that people marry and want to get married for reasons other than having children; that those reasons are valuable and important; and that regardless of children, it is beneficial to society for adults to marry. Dr. Eggebeen testified that individuals should not be prohibited from marriage simply because they cannot have children.”

So, two of the state’s own expert witnesses have given testimony that undermines the state’s position. But Eggebeen’s testimony gets even better.

“Finally, and importantly, Dr. Eggebeen stated that children of same-sex couples would be helped if their families had access to or were able to receive the following benefits of marriage: (1) state income tax advantages; (2) public assistance; (3) enforcement of child support, alimony or other support orders; (4) inheritance rights; and (5) the ability to prosecute wrongful death actions. Dr. Eggebeen also agreed that children of same-sex couples would be helped if their families received the social status derived from marriage.” (emphasis added)

I will take up the state’s two other witnesses in the next installment, witnesses that include one that Chang found to be unpersuasive and unbelievable because the witness testified that he believed all social science, including psychology and sociology, is so flawed that it can never be fixed.