Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gay Marriage...or what I actually wanted for Christmas

In response to my dear, beloved fellow blogger and tireless supporter, Marc Lord over at Adored by Hordes, I post today on the topic of Gay Marriage. Please read his essay and then chime in here (and there) with your questions, comments, considerations.

Marc's explication, while certainly pro-Gay rights, has the distinct quality of someone who has not walked in an other's black brushed calfskin Prada slip-ons. We live in a compulsorily heterosexual culture--nee world, and understanding what it's like to be constantly on the outside looking in would be difficult for the most compassionate of straight, white, men. And this is not a "circular firing squad" in dissertation form, but an honest rhetorical response. I shall try to address each of his points as succinctly as possible.

1. Actually to begin my arguments for point 1, I have usefully somewhat conflated points 3 and 4 to some degree. Let's begin with Marc's position on the passage or rather repeal of Gay marriage legislation: seems unwise to engineer gay marriage in one leap, to attempt one great span. Not because the concept is wrong, more because a historical analog doesn't come to mind, and it's too much for numerous, strongly established networks of belief to accept. Call them crazy, backwards, intolerant, but winning well requires empathy with the enemy, and the victories which endure often exhibit solid architecture with many points of support. Given the prevailing gaps and conflicts, one might better seek to co-opt or by-pass reflexive oppositions, not galvanize them with gongs in their ears.
"Winning well" is unnecessary and morally insignificant. Opposing thousands of years of religious dogma as to seek "acceptance" is as unrealistic as is the backward-thinking bigots themselves. Playwright/Composer/Lyricist Stephen Sondheim states it well in his musical, "A Little Night Music" when his morose character Henrik sings, "As I've often stated, it's intolerable being tolerated." Acceptance from intolerant hypocrites is as unnecessary as it is undesirable. And "a historical analog" does exist: The desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948.

One might be tempted to put the event of President Truman's Executive Order 9981 as one step of ascendancy in the rubric of the civil rights struggle over two hundred plus years, or start counting in 1868 with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, but where ever you begin to take note of victories for African Americans, one must keep in mind, as long as there have been Black people, there have been Gays. The modern civil rights movement began in this country mere moments, in historical time, before the gay rights movement and all the progress made in both movements has been incremental. It is the time for the accession of gay marriage to be recognized, of course keeping in mind, it already has been acknowledged as a fundamental right which was rescinded by a slim majority of voters.

The Yes on Prop. 8 campaign was participated in, and funded by, to a great extent, the Mormon Church and it's members. Marc says, "They [Mormons] fought so hard over Prop 8 because, as they understood it, California law would require them to perform same-sex marriages." This is an often propagated lie and unfairly divisive element injected into the yes on 8 campaign to "motivate the base" and further perpetuate the "culture wars" republican strategists use as wedge issues.

2. The term "marriage": Marc calls the concept "fuzzy" and defines the current state of marriage as, "...tradition, tax status, commitment and official blessing." The 'official' definition of marriage has changed many, many times over the span of human history and currently labeled "tradition" changed dramatically in the 20th century from the "traditional" arranged marriages to marriage for love. Anti-miscegenation laws were struck down as unconstitutional in 1967, despite public opinion against such unions by 73% of the American people. The "blessing" is a religious artifice unnecessary for legal purposes; civil ceremonies and state permissions in the form of licensing, blood tests, etc. are the norm in all 50 states. Religious ceremonies must have the proper state documentation in order to be legal. It is of course understandable that couples may want the official blessing of a religious institution, but it is legally unnecessary.

Marc's conclusion that, "...extending the office of marriage changes the nature of family on deep levels.", was not all together clear beyond his assertion that hospital visitation is a necessary component of "family." The American definition of "family" has changed dramatically over the past four decades to include everything from single parent households to Gay couplings and many other configurations of people in communal situations. Family has become commonly, what one defines as family. The legal distinction of marriage is the linchpin which allows for the more than 900 laws, regulations and policies which separate so-called, "civil unions" or "domestic partnership" statutes from marriage.

3. "A rights-based approach..." is supported but compared and contrasted to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves but provided no framework to ensure equal rights for former slaves. Enter the 14th Amendment ratified in 1868 which affords the Due Process Clause and equal protection under the law to all persons. Specifically, the 14th Amendment was used to dismantle segregation laws and is commonly used to further privacy rights such as those encompassed by Roe v. Wade.

While morality cannot be legislated, it can be enforced by law. The GLBT community harbors few fantasies of laws changing peoples hearts and minds but it does extend the concept engendered in the Equal Protection Clause and deliver the necessary bulwark of access.

As a small aside, I would disagree to some degree with Marc's premise that the GOP, "...started out with the most reasonable of propositions, not showing their full agenda, building bigger levers, always keeping their end prize in mind." I lean more to the Naomi Klein model of Shock Theory as a device to rush through legislation and policy that led us to our current financial meltdown and the culture war. Just an aside.

4. Here's where I get a little cranky. Mark posits,
"Few Mormons would object to granting medical visitation rights to domestic partners. There should be a law for that! Corporations would assemble more resistance to employee benefits to civil unions than would Mormons. And there should be a law for that! This is ground begging to be taken, ground which builds into the larger cause. Obviously these base-battles won't be won uniformly; there will be a hodge-podge of uneven progress across states and churches. But it will be progress, and far less risky than coming by Federal fiat."
No one in the GLBT is seeking Mormon 'permission.' LDS can object on whatever grounds they prefer but their permission for Civil Rights for ALL Americans is not their provenance and cannot be based on the morality of a particular group. Federal adjudication becomes the bottom line for ensuring civil rights for ALL Americans. Additionally, marriage versus civil union/domestic partnership creates a tiered, hierarchical division. When marriage is available to Gays, it is inexorably linked to heterosexual unions and any legislation pertaining to marriage would include everyone ameliorating specific Gay-only laws. Heterosexuals would be forced to protect Gay marriage rights as fiercely as their own indistinguishable marriage rights. Separating and creating a two-tiered system only promises the slippery slope of Brown v Board of Education and some variant on the BOE "separate but equal" argument.

And another thing while I'm at it
...Why is it that Gays are always the ones getting thrown under the bus? Even by the so-called 'left.' The latest bus-tossing comes with Obama and his invitation to anti-gay bigot Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren, who has compared Gay relationships to incest and pedophilia, is nice how-do-you-do slap in the face to the GLBT community. Why is it in Obama's new spirit of a 'team of rivals' and "we all must agree to disagree" is it that Teh Gay and basic human rights are simply ignored?

To quote columnist Dan Savage,
" You know, there ain't no white supremacist giving an invocation at the inauguration, nobody who authored, 'Barack Obama is a super-secret-Muslim-terrorist-emails' is giving an invocation. The only people it seems in America today who are expected to join hands with, and agree to disagree with, and make nice with, and just try to get along with the people-who-hate-us, are fags and dykes. No anti-Semite would be invited to participate. No racist would be invited to participate. No fire-breathing atheist, religion-basher would be invited to participate in the inauguration, but Gay-bashers are welcome at Barack Obama's inauguration. It's kinda pissing me off..."

Not to mention that in the arena of " civil rights", it's always Gay rights that get sent to the back of the bus so to speak in the hierarchy of civil rights issues. And that is downright uncivil.

I appreciate Marc's thoughtful and well written missive but can't reiterate strongly enough that separate but equal is neither nor.

Finally, if you don't believe in Gay marriage, don't marry a Gay.


TheWeyrd1 said...

As you were leaving a comment suggesting that I read this...I was already reading this! Very good commentary. I would say that I couldn't give a rip about the religious institution of marriage. I've always opposed the idea trying to belong to an institution that wouldn't have me for a member. That said, I totally believe that civil marriage with all the rights AND responsibilities is the only fair way to go in America. And those alarmists that think this is a slippery slope towards beastiality, etc. are just screaming to be the center of attention or jump on some other screaming alarmist's band wagon. And a side note (since you're fond of those...heh) I tend to think that the majority of band wagon riders have average and below IQ's. But don't get me started on that

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Lower IQ's? Really?

Seth R. said...

Right, I get it. You're pissed, there's been oppression, and now you want "some payback."

I suppose that probably feels good, but it's hardly the basis of a civil society.

At any rate, I'm a Mormon who opposed Prop 8 and blogged to that effect some time ago.

My argument has basically been that marriage is a primarily religious concept that has been inappropriately linked to other social benefits. I do not think gays have a right to government endorsement of their marriages.

But then again, I do not think that Catholics, Evangelicals, or Jews, or even Mormons have a right to government endorsement or approval of their marriages.

What I want to see is a radical and comprehensive expansion of Civil Union laws to encompass all consensual relationships of co-dependency. Hospital visitation, tax benefits, adoption regs, separation laws, you name it - the whole nine yards.

Make "civil unions" what EVERYONE gets and take government out of the marriage license business completely.

If a Mormon couple wants to get married in one of their temples and their Church wants to exclude same-sex couples, bully for them.

If a same sex couple wants to find a Unitarian minister in Portland to marry them, bully for them too. Leave them to it.

But keep government out of it. Frankly government never had any business being in the marriage business to begin with, and it needs to get out.

Honestly, I think my Church would have been better served filing a few lawsuits challenging the government's right to require marriage licenses rather than pushing Prop 8. Probably would have been more effective with their long-term goals of preserving their version of marriage and would have been working toward a society were people can live with each other as harmoniously as possible.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Right, I get it. You're pissed, there's been oppression, and now you want "some payback."

I suppose that probably feels good, but it's hardly the basis of a civil society.

To say "there's been oppression" is understating the horrific violence, murder and denial of the right to lead one's own life in the manner one chooses.

Some days before this Christmas, right here in the Bay Area, a 28 year old Lesbian was gang raped by 4 men because she had a gay rainbow sticker on her car. Incidences of violence to GLBT persons is on the rise according to FBI statistics. One could say it's more than oppression.

This is about having the same rights as heterosexuals, not special rights or "payback." Not to mention the obvious, that "payback" would mean taking away heterosexuals right to marry which is as ridiculous as your comment. And I would agree, that is no way to to run a "civil society."

I'm certainly glad you had the common decency to vote against Prop 8, and as a Mormon I imagine the pressure was great to conform, but to state that government should get out of the marriage business is highly unlikely. I do agree that all ceremonies should be civil unions, legal contracts, but I highly doubt religion wants out of the marriage business. That marriage should be available to Gays is the simpler solution.

The LGBT community simply wants the same rights and responsibilities available to you. I don't see what's so hard to understand about the concept of equality.

Seth R. said...

I didn't intend to trivialize the level of persecution. I can sympathize to some extent. People tend to trivialize the amount of persecution Mormons still go through as well. It happens with any minority where there isn't very good awareness.

You said that extending marriage is the simpler solution.

I suppose it is easier. But it will be much, much, more harmful in the long run. It sows the seeds of future hatreds.

When government is used not as an objective and neutral arbiter of common rights, but rather as a prize to win in some battle for societal clout and prestige, any seizure of that government - whether by Focus on the Family, or the GBLT community, it will breed intense and abiding resentment on the part of the party that thinks they got the short end of the stick.

The Christian Right has done exactly this, and the GBLT community has decided to fight them at their own game. Government support is now a zero sum game where its sacred blessing is being sought for and granting it to one side will mean denying it to the other side.

If gays are granted the government blessing and approval symbolized in a "marriage license," it will be just one more way that the Christian Right feels under siege by elements pushing a relentless creep of their own values into society at the expense of "Christian values."

It's zero sum thinking where more for you means less for me.

But that kind of equation is inevitable when you make government more than just an objective arbiter of rights, but rather a mechanism of social approval and the founder of cultural norms.

It's a cheap and easy alternative right now. But it's going to poison the well for the next 100 years.

You can't use government to make people like each other. It doesn't work, and it just really pisses people off.

It's that simple.

That said, I'm not so naive as to think my proposal really stands much chance of going anywhere. Politicians are about what is expedient in the short term. Not one of them is going to jeopardize his short term election concerns in the name of putting our social marriage system in a place we can all live with long-term.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

You said that extending marriage is the simpler solution.

I suppose it is easier. But it will be much, much, more harmful in the long run. It sows the seeds of future hatreds.

I'm up much later than I intended but feel compelled to respond to at least a bit of your comment.

The hatreds are already there. The hatreds are based on ignorance and insecurity. Cowtowing to that ignorance means to some extent condoning it. The only way people get used to things, and people do get used to things, is by exposure.

I feel certain that Gay marriage is in the very near future becuase ultimately it is the right and moral choice.

Seth R. said...

No, giving people equal rights is the "correct moral choice."

Whether you choose for it to take the form of a government sanctioned marriage ritual, or a more neutral set of civil union laws is a matter of practicality, convenience, and prudence.

Giving people equal rights is what this is about. Not marriage. Or at least, what it ought to be about.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Oh my Seth, I couldn't agree more. Like I said, it was late.

MarcLord said...

Hey, Hope, back from vacation. Your post both delighted and instructed.

As a matter of pure advocacy, it's best to keep away from religion, from the Constituion, from "gayness" itself. The Constitution already says what it needs to, so if church groups like the Mormons give up the moral high ground of equality under law, it should be enthusiastically seized. And that will ensure victories.

To hetero me, anything which moves needle towards equality is good--short of forcing churches to comply, which re-defining marriage would do. It's not even a winnable issue at the Constitutional level, nor should it be for either side, because taking it that far would not only remove a central pylon from America's foundation, but incite revolt. That's not winning, it's putting another stressor on a nation already at risk.

Yet marriage is a perfunctory civil matter. The state and federal governments don't care what circumstances we marry under, so long as there is a valid license. One we personally pay them for, and they love money. Legally, god plays no role whatsoever, and if two people want to get married, they simply show up with blood test results and pay the license fee. Winnable.

Re: Mormons, their fears are well-founded, they have long experience wrestling with government, and one of their scriptures says the Church must "obey the laws of the land." Of which all members are aware. Lawsuits from gay Mormons are quite predictable; they will sue to be married for eternity in church temples, or in civil ceremonies by their clergy. Not winnable.

Feelings aside, if the Mormons et al were assuaged before same-sex marriage became CA law, Prop 8 might not have existed at all, and would not have passed. No, it was not necessary to get their permission nor consult with them, it just would have been smart.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Welcome back Family Lord. I hope your vay-cay was enjoyable and filled with love.

I just want to address the "forcing to churches to comply" bit. The 'church' part of marriage is not included in the law. Neither would it be required of churches to perform such ceremonies or is it legally required. The religious part of marriage is the sole provenance of each organization.

There has been some turmoil in church over the Gay issue, the Episcopal church has been fighting since the elected a Gay bishop.

I do think marriage should be the sole concern of civil law and not have religion in it at all but that ain't gonna happen.

Thanks for reading here and writing your post re: this topical issue *wink* Glad you're home safe and sound.

MarcLord said...

Oh, there was no away vacation, just a passel of kids here because of unending snowdays. Son #1 went back to pre-school for the first time in 16 days today. But thanks anyway. ;-)

And thanks for your patience; not being a CA resident, I don't know the ins and outs of the actual law, am only versed in religious paranoia, and with the external practice of same-sex marriage, a church's problems will primarily be internal. The first question is "what will the saints say?" Most of them, not all, will tend to bend towards but not fully embrace prevailing practice to protect existing members and still compete for converts.

For all I know, the Mormon church was engaged, and spit on it. Whatever "hold harmless" clause they and others need should be crafted, because there are plenty of other churches which will perform ceremonies, and at some point they will ease if they think it doesn't apply to their flocks (donors).

They're the bottleneck. Whatever it takes to dull their resistance wins the day, and they are as prone to flattery and bribery as any organization.