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22 October 2011

Pattern: Understanding Marriage Equality

The anti-equality folks give lots of reasons (look through the discrimination label) for not wanting the LGBTQ community to have equal rights.  Those reasons are based on fear of contagion, fear of angering God, fear of indoctrination, and fear of loss of superior status.  But, sometimes they express concerns about what same sex marriage might be.  On 20 October, Brian Raum, an attorney and head of marriage litigation for the Alliance Defense Fund, wrote a column on First Things, an on-line religious journal, and partially reprinted on the NOM-Blog where he made some confusing claims about same sex marriage that is now legal in New York.  He begins

In the wake of the New York Legislature’s decision to pass the so-called “Marriage Equality Act,” there has been a renewed discussion among homosexual activists over whether they really ought to be pursuing an institution historically rife with “heterosexual” values such as exclusivity, fidelity, commitment, and monogamy.

This much is true.  The LGBTQ community is a very diverse group of non-traditional and traditional views of sexuality, of relationships, of marriage.  But, let's be clear, the same Bible that bans same sex male relationships (Leviticus 20:13) because of the long history of male homosexual behavior also bans adultery (Leviticus 20:10) because of the long history of heterosexual adulterous behavior.  So, the claim that exclusivity, fidelity, commitment, and monogamy are the domain of heterosexuals is shown to not be entirely true three lines before talk of homosexuality.

There have always been people who did not fit into those historic "heterosexual values".  Mr. Raum continues with quoting those who have concern over the religious exemption in New York.

[Howard Chua-Eoan, writing in Time Magazine was] lamenting the fact that “gay marriage will not quite be marriage even in New York” because of exemptions for religious institutions in the bill. “Marriage without a church or temple wedding isn’t the real thing,” he writes. “Why can some people have all the bells and whistles in the church of their choice but not me?”

Though Chua-Eoan later writes, “The state cannot force a church to change its beliefs. Even gay people realize that is wrong,” he is at least partly mistaken about the realities of this interaction of church and state. When the relationships of “gay people” need societal validation, some of them, at least, have made it clear that it’s not all that wrong to stop dissenters from living according to their beliefs.

It is certainly the case that some (I think it is a minority) of the LGBTQ community want the religious institutions to change to meet state laws.  Far more of us want the religious institutions who object to us to stop trying to influence laws that are explicitly against us.

The Separation of Church and State -- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; -- also known as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is clear in one direction only.  The government cannot promote any one religion to be the state religion and cannot stop a religion from their practice of their faith.  While the Establishment Clause does not say that religion cannot try to influence government, since there are many religions the influence of any one would be to the detriment of others, possibly violating the Establishment Clause.  This gets a little tricky.

When it comes to marriage, we have always allowed clergy to determine who they would wed and who they would refuse to wed.  The government has always allowed a consenting adult man and a consenting adult woman to wed in civil ceremonies. 

I had a good straight friend and his wife wed twice, once in each families church, to keep peace in the families (along with a little lie that each was converting to the other's faith).  Neither church would allow a "mixed marriage", each being different sects of the same Christian denomination.  It is my contention that each church had the right to set the limitations that they chose.  If they were only going to allow people who had attained seven feet in height to wed, that should be their right to set that limitation (although the tall marriages would be relatively rare).

If a church does not want to conduct same sex marriages or opposite sex marriages or differing skin shade marriages, that should be their right.  If one can't marry in one church find another.  But, the limitation should be set by the church, not by the government.  To do otherwise would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.

And if you’re a New York clerk who has a problem of conscience with issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says you need to give up your job, despite New York law that states otherwise. After all, as one Albany law professor who apparently doesn’t bat an eye about putting this on par with racism says, “There is just not a good legal argument that you have the right to discriminate.”

The wall between Church and State is important to protect each.  Town Clerks need to follow civil law.  In their jobs, they are the representatives of the government, not the representatives of their church.

So if you’ve been on the fence about protecting marriage—wondering how someone else’s same-sex “marriage” will affect your marriage—now you’ve got a good bit of the answer: if you’re part of the 62 percent of Americans who believe marriage should be defined only as the union of a man and a woman, prepare to be regarded as the Ku Klux Klan member next door—and for your children to be taught the same perspective at your local government-run school.

Okay, there is a lot wrong with what Mr. Raum said in this little clip.  First the numbers have been changing for some time.  The Pew Research Center published a report on the trend of greater acceptance of marriage equality last year.  In March of this year, ABC News and the Washington Post found 53% acceptance of same sex marriage.  By May, a series of polls found even greater acceptance.  The claim of 62% opposed to marriage equality is dubious.  If you ask the questions carefully enough, then you can get different results.

Children should be taught to accept all others in our society.  That does not mean indoctrination or contagion.  Silly concepts.  I've already refuted the fears expressed by the links to changes in California education.

The message is frequently that recognition for same-sex unions will have no effect on those who disagree with them, but the evidence clearly says otherwise. As Princeton politics professor Robert P. George notes, “once one buys into ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as ‘marriage’ loses all intelligibility . . . one will come to regard one’s allegiance to sexual liberalism as a mark of urbanity and sophistication, and will likely find oneself looking down on those ‘ignorant,’ ‘intolerant,’ ‘bigoted’ people—those hicks and rubes—who refuse to get ‘on the right side of history.’”

Same sex unions do not have an effect on opposite sex unions.  The difference is that gays and lesbians are seen as equals.  Marriage does not lose, it is enhanced.  Society gains greater stability.  But, Dr. George is correct that those who condemn a minority will be viewed as the bigots that they are.

We should not turn a blind eye to the physical and mental harms that people engaged in homosexual conduct bring upon themselves by chalking those harms up to “stigma, discrimination, and victimization”—demanding more health studies and changes to the medical system—rather than dare ask people to reconsider the path they are travelling down. Instead, we tell them “it gets better” when, in fact, it does not.

Mr. Raum and his fellow bigots are the cause of many of the health problems that he cites.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that the social environment of hate that the Alliance Defense Fund and the National Organization for Marriage and their ilk create leads to depression and suicide.  While Mr. Raum tries to prevent things from getting better, Mr. Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project endeavors to make things much better.

Yes, marriage as the union of a man and a woman is practical. Its stabilizing nature is undeniable for those without blinders. As political analyst Mona Charen wrote in a recent column, “Much has been made by Democrats of the increasing inequality of income distribution in America. That inequality is real. But it’s not the result of tax cuts. It’s an artifact of family structure. And unless we find a way to discourage unwed childbearing and revive marriage, the chasm between classes will continue to grow. Gay marriage is a distraction. The country depends on traditional marriage.”

Let's try a short rewrite:  Marriage as the union of two consenting adults is practical.  Its stabilizing nature is undeniable for those without blinders.  Unless we find a way to discourage unwanted childbearing and revive marriage, the chasm between classes will continue to grow.  Gay marriage is marriage.

It will take a long time before the LGBTQ community reaches a consensus as to the meaning of marriage in same sex relations.  Just as heterosexuals don't agree on the acceptability of a brief fling (which I have heard argued as being healthy for a marriage), homosexuals will need time to get that close to being in agreement with each other.

The history is awkward.  The LGBTQ community was entirely underground until the Stonewall riots in 1969.  (Frank Kameny filed the first, unfortunately unsuccessful, lawsuit for equal rights in 1961, but few noticed).  Gays and lesbians and cross-dressers were so despised at that time, were so far from being accepted, that many created new forms of relationships.  For many, one-night stands were the only sexual relations that they had.  Others formed quiet families and pretended to be straight.  Shifting from a complete lack of acceptance to a majority favoring marriage equality in less than half a century is remarkable.  From the Emancipation Proclamation to the acceptance of "mixed color marriages" with Loving v. Virginia took a full century.

Despite this, many filled the streets of New York to revel in the unraveling on June 24, just as they did during the parades the day after the legislature’s vote. USA Today made note of “one parade attendee dressed as half bride and half groom.” The symbolism couldn’t be any more poignant or clear: Not a bride, not a groom. Both and neither at the same time. Marriage but not marriage. The elimination of distinctions. The pursuit of “marriage equality” is nothing less than an assault on marriage integrity.

Marriage but not marriage, perhaps.  We will need time to see.  There is, however, no assault on the integrity of any extant marriage or prospective heterosexual marriage.  We don't seek marriage for gays instead of marriage for straights, we seek equality.  Mr. Raum can pretend that there are other goals.  We seek equality and acceptance.  The only thing he has to lose is the artificial distinction that he is a first class citizen and thus superior to those who are second class.  It is time for him to lose that.

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