Monday, October 22, 2007

Well said!

Should same-sex marriage be legal?
Friday, October 19, 2007

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'' These words written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence still ring true today, especially in the wake of so many arguments about same-sex marriage. Based on Jefferson's statement, same-sex couples should have the same rights as everyone else, including the right to marry.

There are about 15,368 same-sex couples in Michigan, according to the 2000 census. Nevertheless, because of the Defense of Marriage Amendment from 2004, an amendment many other states have also passed, marriage in Michigan is only allowed between one man and one woman.

This amendment to the Michigan Constitution also outlawed civil unions, a partnership similar to marriage, and partnership benefits, such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights. With this amendment, more than 15,000 couples are without the equal right to marry, a right the United States is supposed to protect. I think Jefferson would be disappointed that the nation he helped to found is now so blatantly disregarding one of his most important tenets -- the right to equality.

Many are opposed to the legalization of gay marriage because of their religious beliefs. The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. However, in 1948 the Supreme Court ruled that the United States shall have separation of church and state. In keeping with this doctrine, religious arguments should have no place in Congress, or a role in deciding the fate of thousands of same-sex couples.

If the United States truly wishes to uphold the ideas set out in the Constitution, the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed because it prohibits equality for everyone, which goes against the very foundation of our country. In order to truly have equality, same-sex couples should be allowed to marry just like everyone else.

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.'' Throughout history, this passage from Leviticus 18:22 has defined our policies on gay marriage and gay rights. Why, in a country supposedly founded on the ideals of equality, is an entire group of unique individuals forced to conform to an archaic view of homosexuality?

The answer to this question is ignorance. Many people simply don't understand the nature of homosexuality. We are too preoccupied with the physical truth to notice the spiritual truth. A gay guy loves his partner in the same way a straight guy does. It's just that the physical expression of that love is different.
Until recently, there was little to no research on how homosexual relationships work or why they happen. This left the Bible unopposed in its outdated viewpoint. Modern research, however, has shown that homosexuality is a normal part of nature.

There are numerous cases of homosexuality occurring in the animal kingdom. For example, 1,500 species of animals, including dolphins and primates, have exhibited homosexual behavior. This points to genetic causes, as these animals lack the reasoning capabilities of humans which might lead to selective homosexuality.

Gay marriage opponents say it would debase the American concept of the family. This is, once again, an unsubstantiated claim. Denmark has allowed gay marriage since 1989, and the law has had many positive effects: a reduction in suicide, a reduction in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and in promiscuity and infidelity among gays.

Clearly, gay marriage is opposed purely on an antiquated claim that it is evil and immoral. However, science and social experimentation have shown it is quite the opposite.

It can have a very positive effect, making society more accepting and empathetic to those who are different than the majority.

Marriage is considered the ultimate display of affection between two loving partners. But, recently, it seems love isn't enough. Now the government thinks that whom you marry is just as important as why.

Though gay men and women have an undeniable love for one another, the states, except Massachusetts, deny them the right to marry.

Homosexuality is really just a matter of preference. Just as somebody may prefer a certain food or color over another, gay men and women just happen to find their own gender more appealing than the other. So what gives us the right to tell homosexuals it's wrong to be attracted to the same sex?

Those who do not believe in same-sex marriage have many excuses why it should not be allowed. Many right-wing conservatives say this is a pro-marriage concern, but it is actually an anti-gay issue.

Another argument is that gay relationships are immoral. Who says they are immoral? The Bible? I am sure freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. In fact, not all religions shun homosexuality. Many sects of Buddhism actually celebrate gay relationships so wouldn't outlawing gay marriage outlaw their right to freedom of religion?

Plus, religion should never have a hand in politics. However, our government chooses to do the sensible thing by upholding the sanctity of marriage, because keeping our prejudices is far more important than other issues we are facing today.

The most logical way of ending this debate is to legalize gay marriage. For those right-wing conservatives, gay marriage will not diminish your values and God will not smite them once married.

If you look at it for what it really is, outlawing gay marriage makes just about as much sense as outlawing cursing. It's ridiculous and unnecessary.
©2007 Kalamazoo
© 2007 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

Ms Russell,
Very interesting editorial, although it's all been said before.

The question here about how we govern ourselves and it is indeed interesting.

I, too, believe in separation of church and state. However, that does not mean that laws are devoid of religious flavor. That means that there is no state-mandated religion.

What we have here is governance by the majority. We take a vote, and decide what we want to do. Just because I arrive at my voting position using my religious views does not make them invalid in a civil context. They are just as valid as your views. They are just as valid as a position arrived at by an atheist.

True, we need to avoid the tyranny of the majority, imposing it's views and abusing people with minority positions. But, at the same time, we have to avoid the tyranny of the minority, with a small group of people leading the state/country down a path they don't want to go. There is a tension there, between the majority and the minority.

How do you do what's right for everyone?

Anonymous said...

Paul B,
Perhaps you should think about the civil rights movement. In the '60s, the majority of Southerners were fine with 'separate but equal' and the national guard was required to protect black children integrating white schools from the ire of their white neighbors.

Of course, people opposed to integration had a perfect right to take their children out of those schools, adn did. That did not prevent those black children from attending.

The majority of Americans did not approve of the decision of Loving v. VA that overturned antimiscegenation laws and indeed did not come to agree iwth mixed race marriages until the 1990s, 30 years later.

Of course, people opposed had a perfect right NOT to marry someone of a different race.

Interesting, no?


Anonymous said...

I am deeply conflicted about using the civil rights analogy to apply to the present question.

I grew up in Florida in the 60/70s, and remember seeing the "coloreds" bathroom sign in the back of the train station well into the 70s, even though it wasn't used. I am now in Virginia, where one county actually closed their public schools for years instead of admitting black children. Yes, that was totally wrong. Yes, it took the federal government and the courts to intervene.

My conflict comes from the appropriation of the civil rights struggle by gays. I believe that there are some parallels, but not enough to justify it.

My small city had a few racially motivated riots/fights at the high school; but what struck with me was the "tracking" in education that kept the black kids in the lower lever/remedial classes, and the college-bound white kids in the advanced classes. There was some mixing in the middle track classes. Some black kids that I went to school with were way smarter than me and had absolutely no way to go to college at all. What a tragedy.

I guess I just don't see the daily discrimination, the institutional discrimination, and the contempt that was visited on black people as being the same as the present situation of gay people.

You might. I don't know. Where I grew up, the discrimination was all pervasive from morning to night. Everywhere. I just think it's apples and oranges.

I often ask myself: If I was ten or twenty years older, how would I have treated black people?

Anonymous said...

I haven’t seen “the daily discrimination, the institutional discrimination, and the contempt” since, oh, this morning, when a link to the following story appeared in my email.

A growing and ferocious anti-gay movement in the Sacramento Valley is centered among Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking immigrants. Many of them are members of an international extremist anti-gay movement whose adherents call themselves the Watchmen on the Walls. In Latvia, the Watchmen are popular among Christian fundamentalists and ethnic Russians, and are known for presiding over anti-gay rallies where gays and lesbians are pelted with bags of excrement. In the Western U.S., the Watchmen have a following among Russian-speaking evangelicals from the former Soviet Union. Members are increasingly active in several cities long known as gay-friendly enclaves, including Sacramento, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

If you go to the link you will see that some of these “Christians” killed a Sacramento man who crime was being gay in public.

The civil rights comparison is very much apples and apples.

Anonymous said...

uffda51 - Yes, that is indeed tragic. Murder should never be condoned.

Let's see - Refused the right to vote - no.
Relegated to low paying jobs with no future - no.
Relegated to a second class education - no.
Unable to serve in the armed forces - yes.

Okay, one out of four.

I'm just not convinced. If it's not a civil rights struggle it's some other kind of struggle, but I can't really label it.

Padre Wayne said...

paul b

In many states:

I can be refused unemployment
I can be fired
I can be denied a hospital visit to my partner
I can be denied survivors rights to property

Four out of four.

Padre Wayne said...

I forgot...

I can be denied housing

And in all states:

We cannot file joint income tax returns
Our Canadian marriage (not yet, but certainly considering it) is not recognized
A friend cannot claim marital status to insure immigrant status for her partner

In many (most?) states

We cannot get family rates on car, home, or health insurance
Actually, we cannot get family rates on anything
Our joint income may not be used to qualify for a credit card or auto or home loan
We cannot automatically (i.e., as a spouse) make health decisions for the other


"The Marriage Equality website" lists the 1138 rights and benefits of marriage denied to same gender couples – which calls VERY much into question the premise that we’ve managed “liberty and justice for ALL” in this country as long as a percentage of its citizens are denied access to all its liberties. IMHO

Anonymous said...

Guys, I told you I was conflicted about this. The marriage thing is something I take for granted. I have been married for 24 years. We have four children, buried one of them.

Will my marriage be weakened by your marriage? No, not a bit. No more than it's weakened by all of the heterosexuals who can't seem to marry the right partner and then get divorced.

That said, I just can't bring myself to support gay marriage. I know that mostly you are all nice people. Like I said, I'm conflicted.

Anonymous said...

There are very good reason for denying benefits for same-sex couples or unmarried heterosexuals. Marriage is an agreement by which society confers benefits so that the maximum number of new members of society have the benefit of being raised by both a mother and a father. And so there are special privileges that are intended to maximize that benefit to society. Everyone else has rights, such as free speech, but not the same privileges because there are no corresponding benefits to society for granting them those privileges.

Anonymous said...

I think Paul B you need to consider what rights you consider "civil".

I believe "civil rights" are legal rights granted by the state to its citizens. They are not limited to voting rights.

My sexuality may not be overtly visible but it is not a "lifestyle choice" any more than race is a "lifestyle choice".

We can get a few protections in private contracts, but not limited, and not all of them. And in the state of VA, they have explictly forbidden contracts between same-sex couples (I don't know how that can possibly pass eequal protection rules, they are private contracts! Virginia is for haters.) Our hospital visitation rights don't count in VA, so we better not travel there and get sick.

Here's another one for you. If I register as a domestic partner in CA, my benefits stop at the border.

Moreover, because the federal govt does not recognize my partnership, if I support my partner, or pay all the household expenses etc, I may be liable for federal gift tax if the amount exceeds $12,000/year.

If my parnter is covered by my health plan, that is considered a taxable benefit by the Fed, not the state, which is substantial enough to negate much of the good it does.

Fortunately my partner is employed, but these are examples. Do you have to keep receipts for every gift you give your wife? Do you have to keep track of who paid the water bill and make sure no one contributes more than $12K to the household? (assuming you are married)

think about how title is held in your house with your wife -- we can't do that, it's at risk.

The last time we came back in the US from traveling abroad, we dutifully filled out our "one per household" customs form but were sent to the back of the line by a pissy immigration agent who told us we weren't married and had to have individual forms. Do you think he would ask a male/female couple if they are married, or simply living together? We have one checking account, we purchase things together, we are one household. The form doesn't say "married heterosexuals having missionary style sex". It says HOUSEHOLD.

And we had come in from Denmark, which is a civilized country that gives its gays civil rights. Welcome to America, let me slap you in the face and make you feel like s***.

So don't give me that garbage that this is not a civil rights issue.


Anonymous said...

IT, yes, you have chosen a life that has a lot of difficulties. I say chosen in the same way that I have chosen things in my life. We might not get to choose who we are, but we do get the choose what we do.

So, I am left with this question. We are here on Ms Russell's blog, so this has a religious overtone to it, talking about separation of church and state, but at the same time worshiping the same God, I assume.

What argument can you make to persuade me to leave my religious beliefs at the door of the voting booth, and vote for something at the civil level that I am against on the religious level? Would you do that?

Anonymous said...

Well, Paul B, I hate to tell you, but yes.

But it's a trick answer. I'm the traveling atheist in the Episcopal Blogosphere (short version: my partner is RC and I am trying to persuade her to find a less abusive denomination so have been hanging with you lot to learn how you think so I can support my partner in her journey. Even though I don't share it).

here's the deal. I have absolutely no problem if your church denies marriage. In fact, I think the state should ONLY be providing civil unions to anybody. But right now that's not how it is.

I think your religious concerns about gay marriage apply to the religious sphere, not to the secular one. The state allows lots of things that religion disapproves of, depending on the divorce, or eating pork, or allowing women to wear bikinis. Tht's the point of separation. If you don't want to eat pork, the state is not mandating you have to, it's simply saying you have no compelling justification to prevent others from doing so simply because YOUR religion forbids it. Others are free to disagree and live their lives consistantly with their values.

The attitude that civil marriage is "only for the children" is obviously false (because sterile and post-fertile people CAN marry, gay couples raising kids, like my partner and me, can NOT).

I say chosen in the same way that I have chosen things in my life. Did you choose to be straight? I didn't choose to be gay. Who would? But I am gay, and I am, in your terms, blessed many times by the gift of my partner, whom I love with all my being. Faithfully, monogamously, and permanently. Despite how my country and countrymen treat us. In that, yes, I made a choice: to be true to my self and open to the possibilities of what is in every meaningful way, a marriage. And marraige, as I'm sure I do not need to tell you, is not about sex. And we are a very tyypical family, PTA, paying taxes, mowing the lawn. Really no different at all from the concerns of anyone else.

I have been celibate and I have been partnered, and I assure you, I am a much better human being partnered.

I tell you this because unlike some of the posters here on Susan's site, you seem like a nice and thoughtful person, and I want you to have a sense of what the human cost is behind all the words and positions and politics: what the cost is if ON THIS ISSUE, you stick to your religious rather than secular values.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Paul B.
If you want to talk about civil rights for things one "chooses" I think religion fits in very well. The freedom to practice one's religion -- as long as it does no harm to anyone else -- is a civil right, not a religious one.

In the same way, mixed-sex marriage is also a "choice" as we have long ago I think in most states gotten rid of any criminal penalties for cohabitation outside of marriage -- and in fact many jurisdictions recognize common law marriage to some degree. And all recognize civil marriage as a right, but not an obligation. It is a choice.

So, how is a same-sex marriage that is identical in all other respects to a mixed-sex marriage (non-related couple, of sufficient age, not married to anyone else, etc.) not conceivable by you as simply a civil right? (The comment from the other Anonymous is off track, since the state interest in marriage is not affected by whether a couple has children or not.)

Anonymous said...

Anon - thanks for sharing. I think I understand in a small way the frustration you feel. Yes, there is a human cost to what we do - there is a human cost to the position I hold.

What I meant by the comment about choices we make was not about who we are, but what we do. I decided to get married to a girl I met in college. When our first baby was diagnosed (during the sonogram from hell) with a severe brain defect, we decided to continue the pregnancy, continue his life. We encounter things in life that require us to make decisions. It's those decisions that we are responsible for.

Tobias - Hi! I've read your discussions about the theological implications of same sex attraction, and it's the translation of those religious views into civil action that I am just baffled on. Well, I guess not really. I just can't bring myself to support things civilly that I am opposed to religiously.

That's my answer to your question. There's really, from a secular view, no difference between two unrelated men presenting themselves for marriage and a man and a woman presenting themselves for marriage. but I just can't bring myself to support that, because religiously I believe it to be terribly wrong.

I just came back tonight from hearing Christopher West speaking on John Paul II's Theology of the Body. It just makes so much sense to me.

Anonymous said...

There is one thing I find to be deeply disturbing about this article, and that is that the writer refered to my sexuality as being a "preference". It is in NO WAY JUST A PREFERENCE! I was born gay, and have no choice over the matter. I may prefer to ACT gay. but I cannot prefer to BE gay.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Paul B. I do understand your position and have some sympathy for it. The problem comes, I suppose, from putting it into a Christian context: for it seems to me that Jesus did not see it as the primary responsibility of Christians to see to it that others didn't do things they thought were wrong.

For example, I think John Paul II's Theology of the Body is really terribly, horribly wrong. But I have no say on whether he should be allowed (posthumously!) to express his opinion and teaching, or you to believe it. This is part of the quandary of living in a civil society, in which there may be many things offensive to a particular religious sensibility -- including other religions! -- which nonetheless are tolerated in the interests of having ones own views equally tolerated.

It is a dilemma. But I hope you see the difficulty when people control laws that govern other people's lives more than their own. For me, there is a theological principle at work there as well, since I believe that Jesus teaches toleration rather than assumption of the capacity to judge others.

Anonymous said...

Ms Russell, thanks for letting this discussion continue.

Tobias - You have described my dilemma quite well, but I disagree on a few points. I think that we are called to evangelize, and that just doesn't mean telling the unchurched about Jesus. In a way, it also means telling each other about Jesus and what we've learned along the way. The problem comes when we disagree as Christians on a theological point, and attempt to "evangelize" each other. We both think we're right, and want the other to share that "right" view.

I don't think Jesus is tolerant at all. He is compassionate. He looks at us with perfect, complete love. But, while on earth, he always called sin what it was, and his healing power caused people to turn away from sin. I'm sure the money changers and the pharisees would not have used "tolerant" as a word to describe Jesus!

I do indeed feel bad about not being able to see past my theological position to allow civil marriage for gay people. But, conversely, if I acquiesced and decided that I couldn't legislate my theological position, isn't that letting you legislate YOUR theological position?

Few positions that we can take in the civil arena are actually theologically/morally neutral, are they?

Anonymous said...

If you're against gay marriage, don't marry someone who is gay. It's that simple.

RonF said...

Will my marriage be weakened by your marriage? No, not a bit. No more than it's weakened by all of the heterosexuals who can't seem to marry the right partner and then get divorced.

I disagree. I do think that marriage, and the concepts of the agreements and responsibilities that are inherent to marriage, are weakened by the heterosexuals who can't seem to marry the right partner and then get divorced. Marriage used to be much more respected, and our society was stronger for it, as people were much less likely to go into it lightly and much more understanding and willing to put the effort into making them work. You see, I fully agree with the homosexuals who say "look at how heterosexuals have weakened marriage". I just don't think that the way to deal with that is to make it worse.

Anonymous said...

Tobias said,
But I hope you see the difficulty when people control laws that govern other people's lives more than their own.

EXACTLY. Paul B 's view would choose to my civil life based on his religious beliefs, not mine, and his morality, not mine.

Which really, when you think about it, is rather offensive. Essentially, this says that IN REGARD TO MY OWN LIFE, someone else's religious morality should trump mine, as long as enough people agree to do so. Thus showing no respect for my equally deeply held values, because they conflict with theirs.

Now, this would be the same as me... doing what, exactly? Forbidding Paul from worshipping in church? Outlawing Christianity? It's, well, ludicrous to contemplate.

Paul admits that there are no adverse consequences to him of respecting my rights to believe differently, and intellectually, he agrees at some level that he shouldn't oppose me...

but he does. And, he seems like an honestly quite nice and decent man.

And THAT"S the problem, that's what i don't get. How to we bridge this?


Anonymous said...

PS as long as the civil sphere think it's okay for Britney Spears to go to Vegas and get married for 2 days in a drunken haze, no one has any justification to tell me my marriage in any way offers a new threat to the institution.

Years we 've been together, my partner and I, and we have fewer rights than some drunken starlet having a boozy fling for a night.