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 Protect-Marriage.com 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 Protect-Marriage.com 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 Protect-Marriage.com 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 CNSNews.com 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.