Friday, May 23, 2008

California Dreamin' vs. Wisconsin's Nightmares

I wasn't going to spend time on this topic. Only because it is one of those subjects where there seems to be far more emotion in the debate than logic. Yet a recent posting on a blog of a conservative friend of mine caught my eye.


The headline of course was referring to the recent California Supreme Court ruling overturning the ban on same- sex marriage in our state. In his post he gushed with relief on that Wisconsin had passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in 2006;

“By amending the constitution, Wisconsin voters removed the possibility the courts would be equally activist here in expanding the definition of marriage. We do not have to fear that Wisconsin will be forced to recognize same-sex marriages by other states as well. “

Okay… So apparently the biggest “fear” that was facing the state of Wisconsin prior to 2006 was the looming terror of being “forced” to accept two consenting adults of no direct family relation living together in a committed and legally binding relationship?


Now granted, it has been a few years since I lived in Wisconsin, but I was born there, and I did grow up there. Strangely enough, I don’t recall people living in “fear” about that.

As to the claim that "activist judges" are rewriting our laws circumventing the democratic process, this is nonsense. Very easily packaged nonsense, sound byte-ready nonsense, but still nonsense.

If in 1860 you had put emancipation to a popular vote, it would have failed. If in 1960 you had but integration to a popular vote it would have failed. For that matter if in 1776, you had but independence to a popular vote it would have failed. The reason we have a judicial branch is balance of powers, remember that one from social studies?

It's funny how those who are so upset about the "judicial usurping of democracy", don' t consider someone who wants to bring religion in the courtroom with the Ten Commandments to be an "activist judge." But that is neither here nor there.

And as far as these judges being "un-elected" who appointed them? Elected officials did. So the idea that judges striking down discrimination is undemocratic is just not true.

What is true is this. Saying that letting two people of the same gender get married would in anyway "redefine" the marriages of heterosexuals, is the same thing as saying that equal rights for racial minorities would "redefine" being white.

The marriage amendment to the Wisconsin State Constitution is an insult the people and history of that great state, and does nothing to “defend marriage”

If my friend was truly interested in defending marriage in Wisconsin, then he should have pushed for a law making divorce, a far greater threat to marriage, much harder to get. Also adultery, a far greater threat to marriage should have been made punishable by criminal prosecution, fines and perhaps even jail time. Anyone in WI who makes a child out of wedlock should then by law be forced to marry the other parent. Or if they are already married legally adopt the child.

Funny how the amendment my friend is so thankful for, does none of the things I just listed. Clearly it was not enacted protect the people of Wisconsin from anything. It was designed solely to deny equal rights to some people in Wisconsin, and nothing more.

Whenever subject of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples is part of our national discourse conservatives always claim it is an "attack" on marriage and the family. So I decided to look up the word `attack' in the dictionary. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines it as:

Pronunciation: &-'tak
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle French attaquer, from (assumed) Old Italian estaccare to attach, from stacca stake, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English staca
transitive senses
1 : to set upon or work against forcefully
2 : to assail with unfriendly or bitter words
3 : to begin to affect or to act on injuriously
4 : to set to work on
5 : to threaten (a piece in chess) with immediate capture
intransitive senses : to make an attack
6: the act or action of setting upon with force or violence

Hmmm… to set upon or work against forcefully huh? Ok, so if we take that argument seriously, to give gay couples the same rights as straight couples; Not more rights, not any new rights that straight couples do not currently have, but ONLY the exact SAME rights, this would injure, damage and potentially even destroy heterosexual marriages and families?

Again... Wow. I guess I only have one question then. How?

Would gay marriage mean that straight couples would lose any of the 1,100 federal benefits and protections that they currently have? Does legal gay marriage mean straight couples can’t file joint tax returns, have, adopt or raise children, pass on social security survivor benefits, or make medical decisions for each other? Does the legalization of marriage for gays and lesbians mean that straight people can no longer marry, and those who are married must get divorced?

Would the marriages or families of any heterosexual change in any way?

The answer of course is no they wouldn't. But proponents of discrimination are rarely interested in facts. When faced with them ,they generally fire back with one of three arguments.

The first argument is that; Being gay is sinful because the bible says so.

Well ok, the bible has eight verses that talk about homosexual behavior, And over 360 that condemn heterosexual behavior. (Clearly God must think straight couples need more supervision.) But all this would only make sense if the United States was a theocracy where the church ruled the state. Which, it is worth mentioning would make divorce a criminal offense. My guess is the more than fifty percent of married heterosexual couples that avail themselves of divorce, are thankful this is not the case. And of course this entire debate is about CIVIL Marriage. NOT the religous sacrament of marriage administered by a church. No church will or could ever be forced to perform marriage ceremonies that go against their beliefs.

The second argument is even more fun. Allowing gay marriage will lead to polygamy, bestiality, pedophile marriages, and who knows what else.

Yet the structure and definition of civil marriage is, and has only ever been about two and ONLY two consenting adults of no direct family relationship. So find me the person who truly wants to marry their dog, and for that matter, find me a dog who is over 18 years old, can read and then sign a marriage certificate, and can then say the words "I do". This argument is as ridiculous now, as it was when it was tried in opposition to interracial marriage over half a century ago.

The third argument used against gay marriage is actually a bit more revealing of the the thought process of many conservatives. They say that gay marriage cheapens or lessens the value of the institution of marriage in the eyes of society.

But since none of the marriage rights or benefits that straight couples have would change if gays were able to marry, what opponents of gay marriage are really saying is that letting gay couples marry cheapens their own marriages in their own eyes. Letting gays and lesbians get married means they now have a right that only heterosexuals had. And for some people that is unacceptable.

It's not just that some people want to prevent gays and lesbians from having equal rights, they want make sure that gays and lesbians have no rights at all. They see equal rights for everyone as an attack on them.

That's interesting. Even though the rights and benefits afforded to couples in “traditional marriage” clearly would not change in ANY way, some people firmly believe that their own marriage would lose value, and might even come to an end, if gay couples are given the same rights.

It suddenly occurred to me there is another word for someone who is irrationally fixed on the artificial preservation of inequality that they feel is in their favor. Merriam-Webster's dictionary has the same word for it.

Pronunciation: 'bi-g&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French, hypocrite, bigot
1: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices

This irrational nonsensical argument against equality in civil marriage is nothing more that the fear of losing what is seen as a civil superiority, coupled with the desire to take religious beliefs and codify them into civil law. It is bigotry, pure and simple. That is what is being “forced” upon the citizens of Wisconsin.

Attempts to legally create a second class citizen are not new. We have seem them before. They had different names though. The inquisition, Jim Crow, States Rights, Reich Racial Purity Laws, the blacklist. Like its predecessors, the “defense of marriage” is bigotry fueled by politically expedient fear. It is time we call it what it really is, an affront to everything our nation has ever stood for, and completely un-American.

Interestingly enough, a similar proposal to add discrimination to the California State Constitution has no chance of passing. Even Governor Schwarzenegger thinks it is a ridiculous idea.

Just as my friend is thankful that he need not "fear" the horror that my good friends Jody and Dennis, who after years of buidling life, a thriving small business and a family together can now make a public and legally binding affirmation of their relationship. Likewise, now thanks to our state Supreme Court they don’t have to fear that California “will be forced to recognize” Wisconsin's bigotry.

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