Monday, October 31, 2011

New Washington Poll Shows Majority Support for Equality

A new poll was released by the Center for Survey Research, part of the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. The poll was a wide-ranging one covering matters such as the privatization of liquor sales in Washington—most voters support that—to the popularity of various political figures. It showed voters leaning Democratic in the presidential race, but going Republican in the gubernatorial race. It also showed a majority of voters would not overturn legislation deregulating marriage when it comes to same-sex couples.

The poll mentioned that the state legislature was expected to pass a marriage equality bill "allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married." Voters were asked how they would vote if a referendum were held to repeal equality legislation. Forty-seven percent of voters said they would NOT repeal marriage equality and that they felt very strongly about the issue. Only 31% were strongly motivated to vote against the bill. Another 8% said they would keep marriage equality but didn't feel strongly about it, giving the equality side a total of 55% of the vote. Another 7% opposed equality but didn't feel strongly about the matter, giving the anti-rights 38% support. Seven percent of voters said they were undecided.

The poll, however, also broke down support into various sub groups. And when this is taken into account there is massive support for some legal recognition of gay couples. Seventeen percent of voters say that the law should give no recognition to gay couples, a very small percentage indeed. Another 15% are willing to allow "domestic partnerships" provided they give a set of inferior rights to gay couples. So only one third of the population supports second class legal standing for gay couples.

But 43% of voters say that gay couples should be allowed to marry and should have the full rights of any other married couples. Another 22% will accept full legal rights for gay couples if they pretend that what the entails is something other than "marriage." Two-thirds of all voters in Washington are willing to grant full legal rights to gay couples.

I have found it odd that a set of legal rights called marriage are considered acceptable by some people provided they call it by some other name. This seems to imply that people endow the word "marriage" with magical powers. If it is viewed as a relationship endowed with the exact same rights as marriage then it is marriage no matter what you call it. The opposition to "civil unions" is that they consistently fail to provide full legal rights even when they are intended to, and the creation of this manufactured status only leads to lead confusion throughout the society. 

The poll seemed to show some general libertarian sentiments among voters in Washington. The initiative to close state liquor stores, auction their assets off, and allow private vendors to sell alcohol is leading in the poll by 7 points, with another 7% undecided. Interestingly it is self-described liberals who support the prohibitionist measure to restrict liquor sales to state stores. Liberals favor state control by 8 points while conservatives are against by almost a 2-to-1 margin. Independents favor privatization by 6 points.

A measure that would restrict funding, received from motor vehicles fees and toll fees, from being used for non-transportation purposes is ahead by 1.4 points with almost 19% undecided. One quarter of all voters want the state budget balanced ONLY using spending cuts and only 3% favor only using tax increased. Another 20% want mostly spending cuts to balance the budget with 39% supporting cuts and new taxes equally.

And while voters in Washington would support Obama over any of the leading Republicans a plurality oppose Obama's health care "reform," (47%-37%). Two-thirds of voters favored the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, with only a quarter supporting it. And a plurality, 48% to 42%, support the state law legalizing and regulating marijuana use in the state.

Add this all up and it appears there is a strong libertarian streak in Washington voters and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are tapping into it.

Does God Punish Bigots?

Whenever something unpleasant happens to individuals, who are not favored by fundamentalist Christians, the extreme fundamentalists claim it was the judgment of God. Pat Robertson does this all the time. A hurricane hits New Orleans and Crazy Pat tells the world it is punishment for a gay celebration that is going to take place a week or two after the hurricane—apparently God's timing is off. The same hurricane knocks down fundamentalist churches across the South—apparently God has trouble with his aim as well.

So, why not argue that God is executing anti-gay bigots?

Consider the case of Pastor Leo Godzich, of the First Assembly of God, Phoenix, AZ. Godzich runs a group called "National Association of Marriage Enhancement." Of course, to enhance his married he has to fight to deny marriage to same-sex couples. A fundamentalist, Godzich was involved in the so-called "restoration" of Ted Haggard, the top evangelical minister who was caught hiring male prostitutes. Godzich was in Uganda, a hot-bed of anti-gay work by the extremists from the United States. A "kill the gays" bill, which would impose death on some gay people, has been resurrected there. The bill has been directly linked to various fundamentalist groups from the United States. According to a badly written article in a local newspaper Godzich was traveling with a group of fundamentalist ministers when they stopped behind a truck. A second truck behind them failed to stop. All the occupants were killed.

Now, one fundamentalist minister on a crusade against the gay community doesn't amount to a hill of beans, anymore than one hurricane a week or two before a gay celebration. But fundamentalists have seen God's hand in less than this. But there is more.

In North Carolina, the Deputy Senate Leader, Republican Jim Forrester, introduced a new constitutional amendment to enshrine in the state constitution godly discrimination against gay people. Of course, it goes without saying that Forrester is a Republican. Forrester has claimed that he knows that gay people "die at least 20 years earlier" than other people and said "we need to reach out to them to try to get them to change their lifestyle and back to the normal lifestyle which we can accept."

Forrester's bill would make it illegal to recognize any "domestic legal union" of a same-sex couple. And there is concern that this would, like other Republican sponsored bills in other states, ban private recognition of gay relationships as well.

In the midst of a campaign to impose this anti-gay legislation Forrester was rushed to hospital over the weekend where he died. Forrester was a deacon in a fundamentalist Baptist Church.

Gee, maybe it is a pattern and maybe the fundamentalists got it wrong all along. After all those hurricanes keep hitting the Bible-belt .

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Partners in First Gay Wedding Now History

Axel & Eigil at their marriage
in 1989.
Axel Lundahl-Madsen and partner Eigil Eskildsen founded a gay rights organization together in Denmark in 1948. Four decades later, in 1989, they were allowed to marry, at a ceremony conducted by the deputy mayor of Copenhagen, Tom Ahlberg. The couple combined their first names to create a new surname for themselves, Axgil. They were the first gay couple in modern history to have a legally recognized marriage.

Axel, born in 1915, died today (October 29, 2011) at the age of 96. Eigil preceded him in death in 1995 at the age of 73. Their partnership lasted 47 years, they were only allowed to be married for six of those years, and then Axel lived another 16 years after Eigil had died.

The Sanctity of Marriage

Majority in New Jersey Back Marriage Equality

A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has found that a majority of residents in New Jersey support gay marriage. If they ask about "gay marriage" the support comes in at 52%, if they ask if people support marriage equality support jumps to 61%. People are strange. If you ask if they oppose gay marriage, 39% say they do, but ask if they oppose marriage equality for gay couples and then only 27% want legal discrimination. And 9% don't know what they believe.

The poll director, David Redlawsk, says that all age groups support marriage for gay couples except those over the age of 65. "Whatever it is called, support for state recognition of same-sex marriage remains strong and most likely will grow over time," he said. Democrats and independents support marriage rights strongly, while Republicans again are the party of inequality and big government regulation.

The poll shows the importance of terminology. A press statement from the poll says:
While support measured with the term “marriage equality” is stronger than for “gay marriage,” by 61 percent to 52 percent, certain groups are especially influenced by the name change. Support among those who never attended college jumps 25 points to 66 percent for marriage equality, while support among men climbs 16 points to 63 percent. Women, stronger supporters of the issue in the first place, are less influenced; their support increases 3 points to 59 percent when marriage equality is used to describe the relationship. Catholics are also particularly responsive to reframing the issue: 49 percent favor legalizing gay marriage but rises 63 percent when asked about marriage equality.
Language also greatly influences senior citizens. While opposition to gay marriage is strong among those 65 and over, with only 32 percent supporting legalization and 53 percent opposing it, results flip when marriage equality is used. Nearly half (49 percent) of older respondents approve if marriage equality is used. One-third oppose and 16 percent are unfamiliar with the phrase or are uncertain.
“This illustrates how language used to describe an issue really matters,” said Redlawsk. “While on the whole, New Jerseyans are ready to see the state legalize same-sex marriage, calling the issue marriage equality minimizes many of the differences between groups we see when gay marriage is used. Americans have a deep belief in equality as a concept. When equality is attached to same-sex relationships, it generates a more positive response based on that underlying ideal.”
Pollster suggest that Republican opposition "is deep and unlikely to change easily." Deep rooted prejudice is unlikely to change quickly. Young people, under 30 are most supportive. About 70% of them support "gay marriage" and 75% support marriage equality. Redlawski suggests that young people "are really responding 'why is this even an issue?'"

About one in four say they have gay family members and 53% say they have gay friends. People who do have gay friends or family are more supportive of marriage equality, at 60%.

Upper income people are more supportive than people at the lower end of the economic ladder. And religious people are least supportive. For Catholics 63% marriage equality where 49% support "gay marriage." The least supportive group of religious people remains fundamentalists with only 18% supporting gay marriage, though support increases to a plurality (41%) when asked about marriage equality.

Friday, October 28, 2011

GOP Congressman Says Marriage is a Special Right, Not an Equal Right

Republican Congressman Trent Franks says that marriage is a "special right" because it is the best way to "launch the next generation." Thus it has to be denied to gay couples. So what about children in gay families? If as the Religious Right continues to claim, that children are better off when their parents are married, then why deny these children that same right?

Franks continues say how "special" these rights are and that as "special" rights marriage can be denied to gay couples and, if it isn't, it threatens the very survival of the nation. Of course, he was talking to the bigots at the hate group, Family Research Association, which views gay people the way the Klan sees black people.

I wonder if the Congressman would point out the Constitutional power that grants "special rights" only to heterosexuals? But the Constitution does say: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Should Christian Firemen Let the Houses of Gay People Burn?

The question in the headline sounds bizarre. Obviously most people, except the most rabid bigot, would say that Christian firemen most certainly should not allow the homes of gay people to burn to the ground.

But what about Christians who don't believe that gay people have the same legal rights as they do, when it comes to marriage contracts? Should they be required to do their job if their job is issuing marriage licenses?

Rose Marie Belforti is the city clerk in Ledyard, New York. She is paid by the taxpayers to issue hunting licenses, marriage licenses, building permits and the like. When the state legalized same-sex marriage Belforti decided that God had revealed to her that she should not respect the legal rights of gay couples. Instead, she would tell gay people that they had to make a special appointment to come in another day. On that day the Clerk's Office would hire a second person, at taxpayer's expense, to come in and process the license.

Belforti says,"I want to do what the Bible tells me to do." Interesting, but the Bible doesn't say "thou shalt not do thy job if it means helping gay people." Whatever you think the Bible says about homosexuality it says nothing about marriage licenses or the duties of city clerks. But, what if someone argued, as the Church of the Creator does, that God doesn't want white folk, his "chosen people," to deal with black people. Would a clerk be able to require black residents to make special trips that white folks don't have to make, in order to get the same services?

Certainly the hatred that fundamentalists have toward gay people is well-known and widely documented. If a government employee, like Belforti, is allowed to take a salary from all the taxpayers, while not serving all the taxpayers equally, why should this principle stop with a city clerk? Can a fireman tell gay residents that he will not rescue them from a burning building or put out the flames in their home because he only wants to do what the Bible tells him to do?

According to a local newspaper Belforti "says people are opposed to accommodating her faith."

A fellow-Republican who is now running against Belforti says that is false, "it's about her beliefs not letting her do her job." And he is right. Belforti claims that religion, a claim to unsubstantiated revelation from a mystical source, has told her not to do the job for which she is being paid. Instead of doing her own job, she is hiring a second person, also at taxpayer expense, to do the work she refuses to do.

One has a right to religious beliefs, no matter how irrational, hateful, or silly they may be. But one does not have a right to a specific job. If someone takes a job they are obliged to do the job. If they decide that some revelation from beyond has told them to not to do the work, they should relinquish the job.

No employee has the right to hold his employer hostage to whatever religious whims he or she may experience. That remains true whether or not the employer is the government.

Belforti has the right to indulge her own religious beliefs but she is doing so by costing the taxpayers unnecessary funds to hire a second person to do the work she has refused to do. When employees have ceased doing their job they have effectively terminated their employment. If Belforti had the best interest of the taxpayers at heart, and was sincere about her religious beliefs, then she should pay the cost of her beliefs, not the taxpayers, and that means resigning. It would be the decent thing to do.

Where DADT and DOMA intersect.

Married, gay soldiers, sue to overturn parts of the odious Defense of Marriage Act.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pew Survey Documents Cultural Shift on Marriage Equality

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released numerous charts detailing the shifting attitudes toward marriage equality. Pew does tend to get results that are slightly more conservative than other polling firms. But what is important is the trend lines.

Pew's survey covers from 2001 until today. Had it gone back another 10 years the change would be more obviously dramatic. But in the last ten years opposition to equality of marriage rights has declined by 11 points while support has increased by ten points.

Support for marriage equality has increased generally among all age groups with one exception: those born between 1965-1980. I would, however, suggest that the 3 point drop in support there appears to be an anomaly and is fairly close to the margin of error. I can think of no reason that one age group would see support declining, even if only slightly. Older American, born 1945 or earlier have had the largest increase support. For them the numbers supporting equality increased by about 50% and now sits at one in three of all elderly Americans siding with the angels. About two-thirds of young people are supportive. The survey seems to be about gay marriage only, support in all groups would increase if civil unions were added as a "second class" option.
How religiously superstitious people are impacts whether or not they will accept others having the same rights as themselves. Among those who do not attend religious ceremonies support for marriage equality sits at 2/3rds. Catholics, in opposition to their own church leadership, are supportive as are mainstream Protestants. Fundamentalists, called evangelicals, remain the most bigoted, but that is to be expected. Black Protestants, who are often fundamentalists themselves, are also negative. While the survey shows a 1 point drop among white evangelicals, and a two point rise among black Protestants, the shifts are so minor as to be insignificant long term. It should also be noted that this doesn't tell the whole story.

This only shows the level of support among the various religious groups, it doesn't indicate the shift in the sizes of these groups. Fundamentalism has been experiencing a steep decline. Many more liberal and moderate "evangelicals" have left their churches. As the more reasonable types depart these more fanatical sects the result may well be hardening of positions among the church, which becomes more and more dominated by the most rabid elements within the sect. In that sense, one could see a decline in support for marriage equality among a much smaller number of fundamentalists, meaning less opposition over all, not more.

Individuals who describe themselves as liberal strongly support marriage equality. Among moderates a majority are also now in favor of marriage equality. The hold-outs are the conservatives, as to be expected, but even there support has gone up by 8 points since 2001.

Independent voters, an increasingly larger share of the public, saw support for equality go up by 8 points, and among Democrats support has increased by 14 points. Republicans, however, saw little to no evolution in their views—but then Republicans don't believe in evolution.  The Republican Party is becoming more and more alienated from mainstream views in America. It's opposition to equality is basically a result of the dominant role that the elderly and evangelicals play in the party. The problem for Republicans is that both groups are made up of shrinking populations. Old people die and fundamentalism is losing members, especially among the young.

The Republicans seem to have gotten involved with a horse & buggy race but have hitched their buggy to a dying horse. The only thing that continues to save their ass is that Democrats tend to ignore the independent voters and push through measure popular with their hard-core Left support base. Independent voters are becoming increasingly disgusted by both parties. Obama's unpopular health care "reform" has a lot of independent voters returning to the GOP, not because they embrace the narrow-minded universe of fundamentalism, but because they find Obama unpalatable.

I expect the Republicans to make gains, not because independent voters think that morons like Bachmann and Santorum represent them, but simply because they are not Democrats. Obama's policies of bailout, expanded war, higher taxes, and government control of health care are not popular outside the narrow circles of the "base" with the Democratic Party. One result is that anti-gay Republicans will make some gains in the upcoming election, not because the voters are embracing the bigotry of the GOP, but because they are sick of Obama's over-reaching grabs for power. Unfortunately the rights of gay people will suffer because of Obama's thirst for power.

Brazil's Supreme Court Rules on Marraige Equality

The Supreme Court in Brazil voted 4 to 1 on a case of two women who had tried to marry but were turned down. The court said that "sexual orientation should not serve as a pretext for excluding families from the legal protection that marriage represents."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Republicans Push Big Government, Regulatory Controls

Master Bates
Big Government Republicans in the New Hampshire House have pushed through a measure that would impose controls on marriage to prevent same-sex couples from entering into legally recognized marriage contracts. In a vote of 11 to 6 the Judiciary Committee voted to take away marriages from gay couples only.

The bill was sponsor by Rep. David Bates (Republican, Homophobia). Master Bates insists that stripping people of rights is keeping with tradition. It sure is. So was slavery, beating wives, and exposing newborn infants until they died. This didn't prevent advocates of deregulation and individual rights from changing traditions. All decent classical liberals support equality of rights.

Governor John Lynch has rightfully said he would veto the new regulations, which means the bigots in the Republican will need a 2/3rds majority to win.

It should be noted that Rep. Bates is another bigoted member of the so-called Republican Liberty Caucus. The problem is that when conservative Republicans pretend to be libertarians they do such a shitty job of it they embarrass real libertarians everywhere.

Bates claims that the purpose of the regulations and restriction is because "New Hampshire has a unique, distinct and compelling interest in promoting stable and committed marital unions between opposite-sex couples so as to increase the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by both of their natural parents." Interesting. I would assume that they should then make divorce illegal as well as ban adoption.

If Master Bates really means what he says, then he can't stop with just targeting gay couples by banning their marriage contracts. He would logically have to go after all heterosexuals who are divorced, would need to prevent adoption, in fact, he would have to require that parents who are divorced be forced to marry again because of the "compelling state interest" he imagines. There was a time when advocates of liberty argued that individual rights was the prime compelling interest, but when you mix "liberty" with Republicans like Bates, individual rights to contract marriages goes out the window and the state's "compelling interest" comes first, freedom comes second.

NOM Pretends Obama Rallies Are Their Own.

The National Organization for (sic.) Marriage is attempting to get big government Republicans to reregulate marriage in New Hampshire. Apparently the marriage laws are too laissez faire and Republicans are trying to reimpose regulations restricting marriage rights.

NOM, which has always had a tad bit of a problem with telling the truth has a website running for their New Hampshire push for bigger, more intrusive government. Here are two of the images they are showing. 

Wow! Look at the size of the crowds that seem to be showing up at NOM events. They are massive. You see the nice crowd shot and then close ups of the NOM supporters. Hey, did you notice what I noticed. I mean this is really big news. Notice the photo above the comment "Click here to get involved today!" Just above the g in "get" there appears to be a podium. And, maybe I'm hallucinating, but that sure looks like Obama speaking to the NOM rally.

Hmm, perhaps the reason it looks like Obama is because it is Obama and the photos that NOM are using to promote themselves were not taken at NOM meetings as implied, but just lifted from Obama rallies.

Notice the photo directly below.

You can see that NOM took the photo from Reuters, probably without permission, which is considered theft under copyright law. It is an Obama rally and has nothing to do with NOM, they just doctored the collage to make it appear that this was somehow connected with their own rallies, normally attended by a a few dozen bile spewing bigots.

You can see that the second photo was also lifted from an Obama rally. If you look at the second NOM banner you will see the same building in the background and as you compare the crowd they are the exact same people as at the Obama Rally in Ohio.

Considering the dishonest lengths that NOM, and its spokeswomen, Maggie Gallagher and Jennifer Morse, go to demonize gay people and twist the facts about marriage equality, it is no surprise that not even their photos are honest depictions of reality.

Dirty Harry Tells It Like It Is.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gay Marriage Adds $100 million to New York Economy Per Year

Helsinki Hudsom
Bloomberg Business Week reports:

New York may reap $310 million over the next three years from license fees, taxes, and tourism related to same-sex weddings, according to a May report by four New York state senators. Morgan Stanley (MS) Chairman John Mack, Goldman Sachs (GS) Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, and other Wall Street executives argue that legalization was necessary for the state to remain an economic leader. As other places “extend marriage rights regardless of sexual orientation, it will become increasingly difficult to recruit the best talent if New York cannot offer the same benefits and protections,” the business leaders wrote in an open letter in April urging legalization of same-sex unions.

Langdon Florist went after the gay market and found it increased sales of providing wedding flowers from an expected 100 weddings to 125 weddings. Bernadette Smith, a wedding planner typically organizes 50 weddings per year. But since New York saw the necessity for equality of marriage rights she has had 60 inquiries, about triple what she normally does in the same time frame.

The Helsinki Hudson, a huge banquet hall says that reservations for weddings have quadrupled for them and working with gay couples is "part of the daily routine." Co-owner Marc Schafler said: "We're not always motivated by the bottom line, but in this case the morally right thing also makes business sense."

Documentary on the Maine Marriage Attack

Here is a documentary showing some of the lies of the fundamentalist fanatics that ran the campaign against marriage equality in Maine, including them saying that they had to scare people even if they weren't honest about it.

Religion should not be legislated and this is precisely what the religious fanatics in the United States demand: they insist that law reflect their theology. It is the American Taliban with their own version of sharia law.

Linebacker Endorses Marriage Equality

Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens has taped a television commercial endorsing marriage equality. In the last legislative session marriage equality passed the senate in Maryland, but fell short in the House of Delegates. Governor Martin O'Malley has said he will sponsor another marriage equality bill in the upcoming session.

Plurality in Hawaii Back Marriage Equality

Public Policy Polling says that a recent poll of voters in Hawaii show that 49 percent of them support marriage equality, 40 percent oppose the idea, and 11 percent are still thinking about it. When it comes to support for marriage equality or civil unions support jumps to 77 percent. Among Democrats it is 90 percent, for independents it is 77 percent and for Republicans it is 59 percent.

Denmark's Government Says Equality is Coming

The Danish government said that they will introduce legislation to create same sex marriage early in 2012 and expect the legislation to pass shortly after. Currently Denmark allows civil unions but they are not fully equal in legal rights with marriage.

Scotland is also moving toward legalizing gay marriage and British Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) has said that his government plans on doing the same thing. The proposal in Britain already has the support of the Liberal Democrats, a coalition partner in Cameron's government and if Labour Party leader Ed Milliband.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Evangelical Gets Honest

One of the oldest, and most fraudulent of the "ex-gay ministries," was Love in Action. Love in Action had problems in that it claimed to pray away the gay. But right from the start they had problems—reality doesn't conform to their theology. They simply drove some people into suicide and others left with whiffs of scandal around them because the "cures' were just not happening.

John Smid ran "Love in Action" for years, pretending that Jesus was changing people from gay to straight, including himself. He now admits these cures were elusive and that he's still a gay man, even though he got married as part of the "cure" process. In this clip he says he hasn't "seen many people who have seen an orientation change." Previously he admitted he's seen none. When Rev. Kent Philpott founded LIA he published a book which supposed recounted six "testimonies" of people who changed. They hadn't and some of the people in the book petitioned the evangelical publishing house that was behind the book to withdraw it as fraudulent. The publisher refused.

Smid says that the state should not enforce Christianity. He now says, "I think two gay people should have the same rights as two straight people, because that should not be a Christian decision by the government."

Smid seems to be taking the view that since what fundamentalists have said about "change is possible" being fraudulent, the church needs to rethink how they will deal with the issue. All I can say is welcome to the real world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disabled Vet Denied Contractual Benefits Due to DOMA

Veterans who are disabled, as the result of service, are told that they will receive a disability check from the federal government, which hired them. When they marry, the presence of a dependent spouse and/or children, normally means the Veteran's Administration boosts the disability payments.

Carmen Cardona, is married, and was ruled to be 80 percent disabled due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. Cardona served for 18 years and rose to the rank of petty officer second class. She was honorably discharged.

But her legally married spouse is of the same sex. They were married last year after spending 9 years together. The VA turned down the request because DOMA requires them to pretend that legally married people are not legally married, if they are of the same sex.

The case was appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals. That Board said they were "sympathetic to the arguments advanced by the veteran, especially in light of her honorable service." But, the board said it had no authority to change the rule because of DOMA.

I find it interesting that Cardona enlisted before DOMA was passed by a Republican Congress. At the time she enlisted the law did not prevent the VA from giving benefits to disabled veterans who were legally married. So, after she had more than completed her end of the contract, the Republicans changed the rules of the contract, after the fact. Not only was Cardona treated differently from other veterans but the rules were changed midstream. DOMA requires the government to act as if a legal contract with a gay veteran doesn't mean the same thing as a legal contract with a heterosexual veteran.

New York Times on Equality of Marriage

The Defense of Marriage Act forbids the federal government from recognizing legally-bind marriage contracts if they are between two individuals of the same sex. The New York Times, recently editorialized about an attempt to deregulate gay marriage by repealing DOMA.

It noted that the deregulation move has 28 sponsors, none of whom are Republicans. Where are the Republicans in favor of deregulation of same-sex marriage? There aren't any, they are too afraid of the minority of people who are part of the Religious Right. Even at it's height there never was a Moral "Majority." And, on this issue polls show the Republicans are clearly part of an immoral minority.

The Times simply says: "Congress should not need court rulings to recognize the violation of equal protection inherent in the antimarraige act, and should repeal it." Amen. I just wish they felt this way about the reams of other regulations that stifle human freedom.

Read the entire editorial here.

DOMA, Regulations, and the Marines

With the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, military personnel who are gay no longer need worry about be thrown out of the military simply because of their sexual orientation.

But, by no means, are they allowed to the be treated equally. That would be too much for conservatives who firmly believe that gays have lesser rights. This discrepancy in treatment lead three Marines to try to come up with their own solution to government-mandated bigotry.

Under Marine regulations, individuals stationed at Camp Pendleton, who are married, are given a housing allowance as part of their pay packet. This is meant to allow the Marine to live with his or her spouse off-base. ONLY married Marines are allowed to live off-base. Cpl. Ashley Vice, wanted to live with her spouse Jaime Murphy. But the couple was forced to live apart because of the double-whammy of Mormon sponsored Prop 8 and DOMA. First, Prop 8 stripped gay couples in California of the legal right to enter marriage contracts, reinstating government regulations which had said that these contracts were reserved for heterosexual couples only—California had previously abolished regulations restricting marriage rights on the basis of race. Second, under the DOMA regulations the Marines would be forced to disregard any legal same-sex marriage. So, if Vice and Murphy flew to a state that deregulated marriage to allow same-sex couples equal rights, the Marines would still be required by federal regulation to pretend that the couple were NOT legally married.

Now, conservatives told us that military personnel, who will stand up to terrorists, tanks and bombs, are terrified of gay people. They predicted that personnel would flee the military in fear of gays, assuming that the young people in the military hold all the prejudices that old, conservatives hold. Apparently that isn't the case.

Two male Marines, Cpl. Jeremiah Griffin and Cpl. Joseph Garner, learning of the plight of the women agreed to marry them and then use the housing benefits to allow the two women to live together. For this, all three are being given bad-conduct discharges.

One of the things that law and order conservatives are incapable of comprehending is that when regulations restrict the choices of people the law forces people into making choices that are not legal. This is one of the detrimental effects of over-regulation. Now, conservatives whine about over-regulation all the time, but they don't mean it. They don't see how the regulations they support impact groups they hate: such as gay people and immigrants. So, they create a web of regulations, such as DOMA and Prop 8, which are meant to restrict the freedom of choice of groups they target for disparate treatment. The regulatory maze that they impose then leaves the targeted groups fewer choices than they leave white, heterosexual conservatives. This forces the groups who are targeted to take recourses that violate the law, because conservatives have closed off legal options intentionally. Then, these "small government" conservatives crow that they don't really hate immigrants, or hate gay people, they just want them to follow the law. You get this in the conservative whine that they don't oppose immigration, they just want legal immigration even as they work to make the latter nigh unto impossible for most immigrants.

DOMA and Prop 8 show how conservatives lie. They don't want deregulation, and small government. They want a maze of regulations that only apply to groups they really do hate. Both these Big Government sets of regulations strip freedom of choice from some people while living it intact for those conservatives favor. And, as long as legal options are forbidden, illegal options will prevail. In this case, the military lost three recruits, who otherwise were considered good officers. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were just flushed down the toilet because of DOMA and Prop 8 in just this one case?

Rhode Island Civil Unions Didn't Do the Job.

There are two arguments popular with conservatives who don't want to be quite as viciously anti-gay as Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann. One is that civil unions might be a perfectly fine substitute for marriage, and each state should establish it's own rules regarding marriage.

Rhode Island tried to do just that. The state passed a "civil union" bill instead of marriage with the intention of giving gay couples the same legal rights as straight couples. They found that, in spite of their best efforts, that was impossible.

The problem, it appears, is the Defense of Marriage Act, supported by conservatives like Ron Paul. They argue that DOMA "only" protects the states and their "right" to regulate marriage as they see fit. Rhode Island, however, discovered that DOMA actually prevents them from giving some rights to gay couples that intended to give.

When a person dies in Rhode Island, their spouse has an unlimited inheritance right from the estate of the deceased. This means, for instance, that if a man dies, his wife may inherit all his wealth without have to pay inheritance taxes on them. But, for all other beneficiaries of the estate the amount that may be inherited without paying taxes is capped at $859,350.

But, the problem arises because these matters are determined according to federal tax filings regarding the estate. And DOMA says that the federal government must treat gay couples in discriminatory manner, never giving them the same rights as a straight couple.

The state tax office says they are in a bind. The sponsor of the Civil Union bill is attempting to rescue a bill that is highly unpopular within the gay community. He insists that the tax office can just go ahead anyway.

Legislators are unsure of what to do. They had had hoped to create an equal legal situation for gay couples, in the face of the heated opposition of Republicans. But they failed. Interestingly state sponsored studies of civil unions in New Jersey and Vermont both determined that civil unions fail in their goals. The Massachusetts Supreme Court came to a similar conclusion. They don't work the way they are intended. And DOMA is just one reason. But who can resist the pure romance of a loving couple being declared civilly unionized?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gospel/Pop Singer, Cliff Richards, Says Yes to Equality.

British singer Cliff Richards isn't well known in the U.S. His only real claim to fame in the States was traveling with Billy Graham and singing as Graham's "crusades." Richards, known to be an evangelical Christian, recently told BBC 4 radio: "I don't see why gay people shouldn't be married. I have got friends, same-sex couples, who have been together for decades."

Richards says it "the commitment" that counts.

The Befuddling Contradictions of Ron Paul on Marriage Equality

The Washington Post has a blog entry by Rachel Weiner on "Ron Paul the religious." It notes how Paul left the moderate Episcopal Church for an ultra-fundamentalist Baptist Church which promotes anti-gay views. One of the groups that Paul's church loves so much is the Family Research Council, which is one of the few Religious Rights groups that is so extreme in its bigotry that the Southern Poverty Law Center has put them on the list of "hate groups." FRC has advocated "deporting" gay people and has said that being gay should be a criminal offense. This is rather extreme.  

Update: It has been pointed out that Paul's "Deputy Campaign Manager," Dimitri Kesari, was "director of state and local affairs for the Family Research Council, deputy executive directer of the anti-gay American Renewal and, special assistant to the president of the FRC. Kesari has said that allowing gay couples the right to enter into marriage contracts "will destroy marriage as we know it today." In particular, Kesari opposed California choosing to change their marriage laws (so much for state's rights) because what happens there "will happen around the country in 20 years."

Paul said he left the Episcopal Church because it wasn't anti-abortion enough to suit him. This does indicate he takes the political views of churches into account. But, he leaves one for not being statist enough, and then goes to another that is extreme in its fundamentalism. The church is a Southern Baptist Church. Just yesterday we reported on how Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, advocated that military chaplains be stripped of the right to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies—in the name of religious freedom. Land argued that the Defense of Marriage Act, which established a federal definition of marriage—in violation of the Constitution—means that chaplains have no right to participate in these ceremonies. Remember that these chaplains are not required to participate, the Pentagon merely said they are free to participate if they wish and it corresponds with their own religious beliefs. So, the denomination Paul fled to, wants to strips non-fundamentalist chaplains of their religious freedom in the name of religious freedom.

If Paul left one denomination over its political stands, and started attending a Southern Baptist Church instead, one can assume that he did so because their political stands are more in keeping with his own. The more cynical might point out that there are more Southern Baptists in Paul's district than Episcopalians and that his election chances improved by the shift as well.

Paul's record on gay issues is actually quite bad. He voted to overturn the reform of sodomy laws in Washington, DC, when the Moral Majority made a big things about that issue. The DC city council removed sodomy as a crime and a Republican congress used federal oversight as an excuse to reimpose those laws. Individuals were persecuted under those laws, contrary to the claims of some Paul apologists.

Nor should we forget that he published a newsletter, which listed himself as editor, and as the author of an article saying: "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities." In another attack on a gay writer the newsletter said he "certainly has an axe to grind, and that's not easy with a limp wrist." Using his "medical" credentials—he's a gynecologist—he told his readers that they are "virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay." After initially standing by these remarks and claiming authorship, Paul later said they were taken out of context, then changed his story again to claim he never wrote them, didn't remember who did, and wasn't interested in finding out who did this in his name. (His newsletter had four employees, making it easy to find out, and two "employees" were his wife and daughter.)

Paul's views on marriage seem befuddled and confused. They seem contradictory—because they are. It is his attempt to pander to social conservatives without totally alienating libertarians, whose wallets he eyes with enthusiasm.

Paul said the state shouldn't be involved in marriage, but that state governments should "preserve the traditional definition of marriage." Paul holds the view that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to the states and that states can infringe on individual liberty, almost with impunity. He defended the Kelo decision on eminent domain as properly decided because the State of Connecticut doesn't have to respect property rights. Similarly, he has argued that religious freedom need not be respected by the states and that separation of church and state is a myth. Oddly, while he has repeatedly mentioned that states need not respect the First Amendment, he takes the opposite view when it comes to the Second Amendment, promising that "he will continue protecting your Second Amendment rights as President." You would be hard-pressed to find Paul defending any state's "right" to infringe on Second Amendment rights.

DOMA establishes a federal definition of marriage, and Paul has consistently supported DOMA. Yet, at the same time, he claims that it preserves a state's right to define marriage as it wishes. But, DOMA restricts the federal government and doesn't really preserve a state's right at all. Whether the state's have the right to ignore marriage licenses issued by other states is a matter of the Constitution and congressional law doesn't trump the Constitution. Ron Paul, the supposed constitutionalist, should know that. Congress can't override the Constitution merely by passing legislation. If it could, there would be no need for a constitution. The purpose of a constitution, as the founding fathers noted, is to bind down the government from violating rights. Paul's view, on the marriage issue, is in direct contradiction to his own purported constitutionalism.

Paul is also quoted as saying, "I don't think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church." Marriage is a legal agreement. Why is a legal agreement subject to a church's approval? Should we allow trade unions to issue labor contracts? As a legal matter, marriage is not religious. Historically the Christian Church didn't concern itself with marriage laws for the first few hundred years of its existence. Marriage was a civil matter then, a matter of law and custom (which changed regularly), not religion.

Only when the Vatican started seeking political power did it seek control over marriage. It did so for two reasons. First, it restricted marriages in new ways, making it almost impossible for any member of the aristocracy to marry without violating restrictions by the church. This meant that the political elite had to seek Vatican approval for marriages, as well as annulments. This gave the church a great deal of influence and the aristocracy wanted to suck up to the Pope in order to get the waivers that were issued to political favorites. In addition, as Jack Goody notes, in his book, The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1983) the regulations that the Vatican imposed reduced the ability of land-holders to have legal heirs. This resulted in massive transfers of property from the private sector to the Church itself as heirless individuals left their estates to the Vatican. Church control over marriage meant increased political power and wealth for the Vatican.

Prof. Nancy Cott has noted that marriage, in the United States has always been a matter of law, not of religion. "State laws allowed religious authorities to perform marriage ceremonies... but not to determine which marriages would be considered valid by the public. For example, California's state Constitution stipulated, 'No contract of marriage, if otherwise duly made, shall be invalidated by want of conformity to the requirements of any religious sect,' a provision now retained in the state's Family Code."

Paul, on one hand, says the states should decide marriage laws for themselves. But they have. And every state, for the entire history of the country, had marriage as a legal contract, not a religious one. On one hand he wants the state's to have the power to decide, but then, on the other, says their decisions should be repealed and religion be given control over marriage contracts instead.

Protestants, Baptists included, wanted marriage to be a legal contract, as a means of reducing the Vatican's control over the lives of people. One of the great ironies is that "licenses" for marriage increased the freedom of couples to marry. Impediments to marriage, when under church control, were pervasive. And wedding bann's were publicly announced so that individuals could intervene and prevent marriages. A license removed that requirement. The actual history of marriage, for several hundred years now, has been to increase individual choice and freedom to enter marriage contracts, without third party intervention. As a civil contract marriage most certainly does not belong to the church, any more than any other contract. Legal contracts belong in the legal system and, as issues of law, individual liberty should be maximized. While marriage laws have sometimes become more restrictive it doesn't change the long-term trend in marriage law, which is to increase individual choice and freedom.

I would argue that it is precisely this trend that has religious conservatives upset. They simply don't believe in moral freedom and believe that by transferring the control of marriage contracts from the legal system to churches, the result would be a reduction in individual choice and freedom. Clearly the churches have opposed the right for married couples to use birth control and Ron Paul wants restrictions on a woman's right to choose, regarding abortion. The churches were in the forefront of laws banning  interracial marriage. Religious conservatives are loud about their desire to make divorce far more difficult. At every turn churches have pushed to reduce the freedom to enter marriage contracts, and to restrict the freedom to end such contracts. Conservatives want church control of marriage in order to lessen freedom, not increase it.

While state control usually means less freedom of choice, that has not been the case with marriage as a legal contract. The long-term trend has been for greater individual freedom in entering and exiting marriage contracts and it is precisely that freedom which organized religion has opposed.

The Conservative Who Changed His Mind

Conservative columnist David Frum, by his own admission, was a "strong opponent of same-sex marrriage," yet when New York adopted marriage equality he found himself "strangely untroubled."

Frum says the reasons was "that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality,. The case has not passed its test."

One of the bizarre thing about the claims by anti-gay religious fanatics like Jennifer Morse and Maggie Gallagher is that they simply can't really produce any evidence as to what harm is done by allowing loving couples to marry. They make vague, generalized statements which never get particularly precise. They seem to think that their fear is sufficient cause to deny others legal equality. It is a conservative "precautionary principle" and one that I feel is an invalid as the one presented by radical environmentalists. That one can imagine bad things possibly happening is not reason for precaution given that humans imagine all sorts of non-existent monsters. The history of species is full of such campaigns against non-existent creatures and threats. H.L. Mencken went to far as to say that the very nature of politics in a democracy is the pursuit of such imaginary monsters.

There are all sorts of issues regarding marriage that upsets the religiously-minded but what is missing is any link between gay marriage and these issues. Even where their are valid concerns, these conservatives tend to grossly exaggerate them or to ignore fairly clear cut reasons for the changes. Frum notes that what problems do exist simply are not possible "to connect [them] to same-sex marriage. As he put it, a 15-year-old girl becoming more likely to get pregnant in Van Nuys just doesn't seem connected to the fact that "two men in Des Moines, Iowa can marry." He says that perhaps there are some people who can prove such a connection, but he can't.

The bigots were given their chance in the Prop 8 trial and they were unable to point to any concrete harms. The attorneys for Prop 8 even admitted as such. Of course, the likes of Gallagher and Morse are unlikely to make such admissions. Their case was never built on evidence, but on fanciful religious presuppositions that they dare not announce in public. Since they fear that appealing to their own religious fantasies will lose the battle for them, they simply concoct unspecified dangers that they never will elucidate, or substantiate.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What History Tells Us About Remaking Marriage

Prof. Nancy Cott is Professor of American History at Harvard, and author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. She also prepared a report that introduced into evidence in the trial over the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 in California. An more in-depth version of Cott's remarks can be read here. Some high points include:

Seventeenth-century English colonists in North America created marriage laws almost immediately upon settling. In England the established Anglican Church ruled marriages, but rather than replicate that arrangement or treat marriage as a sacrament (as Catholics do), colonial legislators asserted that marriage was a “civil thing” because it dealt with matters of property. Although the great majority of colonists believed in the basic tenets of Christian monogamy, colonial legislators explicitly rejected religious authority over marriage. Thus even before the American Revolution, marriage was deemed a civil institution, regulated by government to promote the common good.

After the founding of the United States, state after state maintained this principle. State laws allowed religious authorities to perform marriage ceremonies and to recognize only marriages adhering to the requirements of their own faith, but not to determine which marriages would be considered valid by the public. For example, California’s first state Constitution stipulated, “No contract of marriage, if otherwise duly made, shall be invalidated for want of conformity to the requirements of any religious sect,” a provision now retained in the state’s Family Code. To be sure, many people, then as now, invested marriage with religious significance, but that had no bearing on any marriage’s legality.

...When the United States was established on republican principles, marital households continued to serve a governance function, but in a manner that reflected the novel style of the U.S. government. Sovereignty in the United States was understood to be based on the voluntary consent of the governed. Likewise with marriage—the male-led marital household was legitimized by consent.
Parallels between the voluntary consent joining a husband and wife in marriage and the voluntary allegiance of citizens to the new United States were common in Revolutionary-era rhetoric. The statesman and legal philosopher James Wilson saw mutual consent as the hallmark of marriage, more basic even than cohabitation. In a series of lectures delivered in 1792, he argued, “The agreement of the parties, the essence of every rational contract, is indispensably required.”

Because free consent—the mark of a free person—was at the core of the matrimonial contract, slaves could not enter into valid marriages. Considered property by law, slaves lacked basic civil rights, including the essential capacity to consent. Furthermore, marriage obliged those undertaking it to fulfill certain duties defined by the state, and a slave’s prior and overriding obligation of service to the master made carrying out the duties of marriage impossible.

Where slaveholders permitted, slave couples often wed informally, creating family units of consoling value to themselves. But slaveholders could break up those unions with impunity. Slave marriages received no defense from state governments.

After emancipation, former slaves flocked to get married legally. As free persons, African Americans saw marriage as an expression of rights long denied them and a recognition of their capacity to consent lawfully. The Freedmen’s Bureau, in charge of the transition of former slaves to citizenship in the occupied South after the Civil War, avidly fostered marriages among the freed people and welcomed the creation of male-headed households among the African American population.

...Race-based differentiation in marriage laws originated in the American colonies in the late seventeenth century. Most often, these laws banned and/or criminalized marriages between whites and “negroes or mulattoes” but also sometimes extended to native Americans. The bans continued after the founding of the United States.

After the Civil War and emancipation, even more states voided or criminalized marriage between whites and blacks or mulattos, and in response to immigration from Asia, a number of western states expanded the prohibition to Indians, Chinese, and “Mongolians.” As many as 41 states and territories for some period of their history banned, nullified, or criminalized marriages across the color line. These laws, too, were justified in their time by their supposed naturalness.

The prohibitions were challenged after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, but late nineteenth–century courts usually defended the laws by claiming that there was no discrimination involved: whites and persons of color were equally forbidden from marrying each other. No one was excluded from marriage; individuals were merely equally, so it was said, constrained in the choice of marital partner. Of course, the judicial defense of “symmetry” obscured the actual and symbolic force of such laws in a racially stratified society.

...Many features of contemporary marriage that we take for granted were fiercely resisted at first. Yet they did eventually win out. Three of the most important such features have been in the areas of spouses’ respective roles and rights, racial restrictions, and divorce.

Spousal roles and rights. Although gender parity between spouses would have been unthinkable at the founding of the United States, marriage laws have moved over time in this direction. In Anglo-American common law, marriage was based on the legal fiction that the married couple was a single entity, with the husband serving as its sole legal, economic, and political representative. Under this doctrine, known as coverture, the wife’s identity merged into her husband’s. She had no separate legal existence. A married woman could not own or dispose of property, earn money, have a debt, sue or be sued, or enter into an enforceable agreement under her own name. The spouses were assigned opposite economic roles understood as complementary: the husband was bound to support and protect the wife, and the wife owed her service and labor to her husband.

...In 1948 the Supreme Court of California, in Perez v. Sharp, became the first state high court to declare race-based restrictions on marriages unconstitutional. At that time bans on interracial marriages were on the books in 30 states. The California high court held that legislation addressing the right to marry “must be free from oppressive discrimination to comply with the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws.” Over the next two decades, more than a dozen states eliminated their own race-based marriage laws.

In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously for the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, striking down the Virginia law that made marriage between a white and a non-white person a felony. The Court thereby eliminated three centuries of race-based marriage legislation. Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion called such laws “measures designed to maintain White Supremacy,” which were insupportable in view of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

The Court’s opinion in Loving reiterated that marriage was a “fundamental freedom,” and affirmed that freedom of choice of one’s partner is basic to each person’s civil right to marry. Today virtually no one in the United States questions the legal right of individuals to choose a marriage partner without regard to race.

...Marriage has evolved into a civil institution through which the state formally recognizes and ennobles individuals’ choices to enter into long-term, committed, intimate relationships and to build households based on mutual support. With the free choice of the two parties and their continuing consent as foundations, marriage laws treat both spouses in a gender-neutral fashion, without regard to gender-role stereotypes.

At least, most of the time. Except in Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C., men may only marry women, and women may only marry men. This requirement is an exception to the gender-neutral approach of contemporary marriage law and to the long-term trend toward legal equality in spouses’ marital roles.

Those who would maintain this exception argue that the extension of marital rights to same-sex couples would render marriage meaningless. They say that the sexual union of a man and a woman, capable of producing children, is essential to marriage and is its centerpiece.

The history of marriage laws tells a more complex story. The ability of married partners to procreate has never been required to make a marriage legal or valid, nor have unwillingness or inability to have children been grounds for divorce.

And marriage, as I have argued, has not been one unchanging institution over time. Features of marriage that once seemed essential and indispensable proved otherwise. The ending of coverture, the elimination of racial barriers to choice of partner, the expansion of grounds for divorce—though fiercely resisted by many when first introduced—have strengthened marriage rather than undermining it. The adaptability of marriage has preserved it.

Marriage persists as simultaneously a public institution closely tied to the public good and a private relationship that serves and protects the two people who enter into it. That it remains a vital and relevant institution testifies to the law’s ability to recognize the need for change, rather than adhere rigidly to values or practices of earlier times.

Enabling couples of the same sex to gain equal marriage rights would be consistent with the historical trend toward broadening access. It would make clearer that the right to marry represents a profound exercise of the individual liberty central to the American polity.

Read the full article here.

The Evolving Freedom to Marry

Prof. Stephanie Coontz has written some important material about the evolution of marriage and the increasing demand for marriage equality. And, when she talks about marriage she is great. I can't recommend her when she speaks about classical liberalism, however. On that topic she doesn't seem to know what she is talking about and contradicts herself—for instance she damns certain periods of history as being classically liberal and says that is responsible for all the bad things that happened, yet she later speaks of how much state control there was during those same periods. But, on marriage she is good.

Here are some excerpts from a piece she wrote for the Washington Post.

For millennia, marriage was about property and power rather than love. Parents arranged their children's unions to expand the family labor force, gain well-connected in-laws and seal business deals. Sometimes, to consolidate inheritances, parents prevented their younger children from marrying at all. For many people, marriage was an unavoidable duty. For others, it was a privilege, not a right. Often, servants, slaves and paupers were forbidden to wed.

But a little more than two centuries ago, people began to believe that they had a right to choose their partners on the basis of love rather than having their marriages arranged to suit the interests of parents or the state.

Love, not money, became the main reason for getting married, and more liberal divorce laws logically followed. After all, people reasoned, if love is gone, why persist in the marriage? Divorce rates rose steadily from the 1850s through the 1950s, long before the surge that initially accompanied the broad entry of women into the workforce.

Coontz writes that freedom of choice in partners was a critical step in the evolution of marriage. Parental permission was no longer required. And people could pick partners on the basis of their love for one another, not because of concerns about property, wealth distribution, or politics, as was often the case in the past. But with this changes came another change, women started demanding equality of rights in the relationship. They were not simply there to assistance men achieve whatever they wanted. A couple now worked together to achieve mutual goals with neither being subservient to the other.

The laws changed to accept these demands for equality of rights within the marriage relationship. No longer did legislation restrict the role of women, or require them to have male permission in areas such as work, having children, property or divorce. But this change, with the others, set into motion the modern movement for marriage equality.

Gender neutrality has made many marriages fairer and more fulfilling than ever before, which has in turn been a big factor in the falling divorce rates and steep decline in marital domestic violence over the past 30 years. And spouses who share an egalitarian viewpoint report above-average levels of marital happiness, according to researchers.

The spread of gender-neutral attitudes about heterosexual marriage has also undercut support for limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Although well-financed campaigns against same-sex marriage still generate victories on Election Day, hard-core opposition has steadily eroded. In October, the Pew Research Center reported that for the first time in its 15 years of polling, less than half the public opposed same-sex marriage. That poll also found that 42 percent actively supported it - still less than a majority, but a new high. Two other national polls have found that a small majority of Americans endorse same-sex marriage.

Support for same-sex marriage is already higher than support for interracial marriage was in 1970, three years after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. And since young adults ages 18 to 29 are the group most supportive of same-sex marriage, it is largely a matter of when, rather than if, a majority of Americans will endorse this extension of marriage rights.

Opponents of gay marriage argue that this trend will lead to the destruction of traditional marriage. But, for better and for worse, traditional marriage has already been destroyed, and the process began long before anyone even dreamed of legalizing same-sex marriage.

People now decide for themselves who and when - and whether - to marry. When they do wed, they decide for themselves whether to have children and how to divide household tasks. If they cannot agree, they are free to leave the marriage.

If gay marriage is legally recognized in this country, it will have little impact on the institution of marriage. In fact, the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage - an indication that it's not just the president's views that are "evolving" - is a symptom, rather than a cause, of the profound revolutions in marriage that have already taken place.

The entire article can be read here. The important point for those of you who share Hayek's views on the evolution of society, is that gay marriage is not revolutionary, it is evolutionary

All in the Gay Family by Jesse Walker

The following is reprinted from the Reason Foundation.

"I can't go that far; that's the year 2000! Negroes [and whites], okay. But that's too far!"
—President Richard Nixon on gay marriage, speaking in August 1970; quoted in John Ehrlichman, Witness to Power

No one knows the names of the first gay couple to exchange wedding vows. You should keep that in mind as same-sex marriage becomes law in New York: The earliest milestones on the road to marital equality were made quietly, privately, and far from any civil authority. The public recognition of gay unions emerged gradually, reaching wider and wider circles until finally even governments started climbing aboard. Contrary to the rhetoric you still hear from some of the idea's opponents, gay marriage was not cooked up in some D.C. laboratory and imposed on America by social engineers. It was built from the bottom up, and it was alive at a time when the typical social engineer thought homosexuality was a disease.

Members of the same gender have been coupling off for centuries, sometimes with ceremonies that look rather marital to modern eyes. Here in America, gay marriages predate the modern gay rights movement. Six years before Stonewall, the 1963 book The Homosexual and his Society described informal gay weddings where "all the formalities of [a] legally certified and religiously sanctioned ceremony are aped with the greatest of care." Those unions didn't always last (the authors noted that it "sometimes takes no more than a week or two" before the lovers "recall that their marriage has no legal, religious, or moral sanctions" and take off), but as the resilience of the euphemism longtime companion suggests, a match between two men or two women could be as lasting and loving as any heterosexual coupling. As gay life became more visible, so did those permanent partnerships, and as social tolerance of homosexuality grew, more people accepted the partners' marriages as real. In 1992, long before any state recognized gay marriage as a legal right, Suzanne Sherman could fill a big chunk of a book by interviewing gays who had married and officiants who had blessed their unions. Such marriages were eventually honored by institutions outside as well as inside the gay community. By 1993, the list of companies that allowed domestic partners of the same sex to share benefits included Microsoft, Apple, HBO, Warner Bros., and Borders. By 2007, gay couples who wanted to get married at Disneyland were free to purchase the Fairy Tale Wedding package.

The numbers on public support for gay wedlock show a slow but steady surge of support for the idea. A decade and a half ago, according to Gallup, just 27 percent of Americans thought gay marriage should be legally recognized. This year the figure was 53 percent. It is often suggested that this sea change reflects the fact that more Americans know people who are openly gay. While I don't doubt that that's a major factor, I think another change is important too: More Americans know people who are openly gay and married. If you mentioned gay marriage to the average American three decades ago, he would have thought you were making a joke or spouting a science-fiction scenario. (Indeed, three decades ago the science-fiction comedy Airplane! 2 included an apparently married gay couple as a throwaway gag.) Today gays living as married are a part of everyday life, whether or not those unions have been licensed by the state. If you're an American, there's a reasonable chance that you've met a committed, cohabiting gay couple, and whether you like the duo or not it should be hard to see them as a threat to the sanctity of marriage. After all, they want to get married. That isn't necessarily true of the cohabiting straights who live next door. The gay couple may even want to have kids—and with restrictions on gay adoption falling away, that option is ever more possible.

And so a social institution took hold: first among gays themselves, then in the larger community and marketplace. Finally the government took notice. Judges started upholding gays' right to wed each other, then legislatures began to come around. In many places the foes of gay marriage have pushed back through ballot initiatives, a path that isn't open to them in New York. But even where a public referendum is possible, it's probably just a matter of time in most states before the votes against same-sex marriage just won't be there. As Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips recently pointed out in the American Political Science Review, it's the youngest American adults who show the strongest support for gay marriage. The strongest opposition is in the demographic that will be next to die off.

So I give credit to the legislature of New York, which just made life easier for gay couples who want to adopt a standard marriage contract. But even more than that, I give credit to the couples themselves, and to all the couples who came before them. They're the ones who started this revolution rolling.

Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine. This column first appeared at

Note: Mr. Walker makes an important point, marriage has been evolving. And while Walker's piece covers recent history the reality is that marriage today is vastly different than it was 100 years ago, which was vastly different from what it was 500 years ago, etc. Anyone who claims that marriage "has always" been (fill in the blank) is only exhibiting their own ignorance about the evolution of marriage. Anyone who tells you that marriage "belongs" to religion is equally ignorant. Marriage has filled different functions at different times. Often it was about politics, often it was about property, or production of goods, but the concept of two people loving one another and marrying because of that love is relatively new. Historically marriage was heavily regulated and controlled by the "community" if not the church. And, contrary to the assumptions of uniformed individuals, marriage today is less regulated. Oddly, state licensing of marriage gave couples more freedom, not less.

In Small Town Texas a March for Equality

Harlingen, Texas isn't a big city by any means. The population is estimated to be around 64,000 people. The town is mostly Hispanic, due not only to the proximity to the border but also because it, like much of the Southwest was part of Mexico before the United States invaded.

Straight allies of gay people staged a march through Harlingen in favor of marriage equality. Around 80 people participated in the "Coming Out for Marriage Equality Walk" sponsored by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Diana Bermudez told the local paper that she, her husband, and their daughter joined the walk in support of a niece who is gay. Casey Garcia said she was there to support the rights of a good friend. The local paper reported that two elderly women stopped to watch and wave support to the walkers but that one old woman complained the walk would be bad for the economy. (A novel approach to economics to say the least.) She claimed it would drive people away but one other observer said that the march brought more people to area than they are used to seeing at one time.

Southern Baptist Demands Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Richard Land

Recently the Pentagon said that military chaplains
are free to participate in marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, if they wished. There is NO requirement to do, just the freedom to do so, according to their own personal religious convictions. Southern Baptist "ethicist" Richard Land has demanded that such religious freedom be taken away from any chaplains who disagree with the Southern Baptist view of marriage.

Land said "we are outraged by the brashness of this attack on traditional marriage. We urge swift action to repeal these decisions." Land spewed out a lot of hate and made general comments about how this "degrades both the tradition of high moral conduct in the military and the vital and exclusive role of traditional marriage."

At precisely the same time that Land was calling for federal legislation to strip religious freedom away from chaplains he was whining that they need more protection of "religious freedom." Apparently in the mind of Mr. Land "religious freedom" is defined entirely by how much one agrees with the Southern Baptist Convention—a denomination founded to protect human slavery from abolitionists and awful people like that. Land says he wants stronger protections for "military chaplains who object to same-sex unions," at the same time he wants to strip away rights from chaplains who don't object. Hypocritical, of course, but then moral hypocrisy is a Baptist tradition.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage Takes Place in Texas Thanks to Republican Loophole

Megan Stabler legally married another woman
in Texas, as result of Republican regulations.
In a column published 4/26/11, Storey Institute president James Peron wrote that Republicans in Texas were passing a law "that would refuse to recognize sex change operations for transgendered people when it comes to marriage, without thinking through how it may actually legalize same-sex marriages for some."

If a person has a sex-change operation the courts issue a ruling that the individual is now legally considered a member of the sex to which they were reassigned. But Republicans passed a law saying that county clerks "would be prohibited from recognizing" those court orders. Republicans said they had to do this because sex changes confused the clerks. The April column, however, noted that the confusion would be greater because of the new regulations. It said that two women can walk in and be told they are not eligible to marry because they are both the same gender.  But then they hand over a document indicating that one was transgendered and had a sex change operation and "inform the clerk that under Texas law she has to ignore the evidence of her senses and assume that the woman standing in front of her is actually a man."

Fanciful? Hyperbole? Nope, history. It just happened as predicted. Meghan Stabler is transgendered and she was able to marry another woman in Texas. What she couldn't do is marry a man.

The law was passed because Nikki Araguz, a transgendered woman, had been married to Thomas Araguz, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. Araguz's family then brought a law suit claiming all of Araguz's estate claiming that the marriage was illegal because Nikki had been born male. To side with the plundering relatives Republicans passed the law.

As our column in April noted, the law would have made a marriage between a straight, transgendered woman and a man, illegal. But a marriage between a transgendered women who was lesbian, and another woman, would be legal. And, the absurdity was that Republicans claimed the law would make things less confusing.

Back in April we wrote:

There is an iron law of state bureaucratic interference that indicates that legislation they pursue has consequences entirely unintended by the central planners. This Republican legislation would allow gay couples to marry, provided one of them is transgendered, while forbidding straight couples to marry, if one of them is transgendered. And this, they think, makes matters less confusing.

That has now been proven correct. A woman married a woman in Texas because the law requires the county clerks to ignore her sexual reassignment and treat her as man. (By the way, would this require that such a woman be placed in a man's prison if convicted of a crime? Has anyone in Texas thought of what that would mean? Do any Republicans care?) You can read the original column, written before the law passed, here.

Mormons Push Questionable Poll on Marriage Equality

Brigham Young and some of his wives.
Our parent organization, The Moorfield Storey Institute, has put together an expose of a bogus poll being touted by the Deseret News, a newspaper that is owned by the Mormon Church. According to the "poll" some two-thirds of Americans are against marriage equality—numbers which contradict real polls done by reputable polling companies.

As our expose showed there are some facts which Deseret News choose not to share. Primarily, they left out that the so-called pollster was a leader in the Prop 8 campaign and a Mormon activist. He is not an unbiased researcher at all but someone who was actively involved in stripping gay couples of the right to enter into legal marriage contracts. We also revealed that he earned over $527,000 from Prop 8 for work he did for the campaign.

Most importantly we showed that the poll was highly questionable. A valid poll is one that weighs respondents according to demographic groups. For instance, a poll that consists of 90% Republicans is not valid. You want to poll a group that reflects the percentage of Republicans, Democrats and independents. If a poll is done at a rest home the results will be different than one done at a university. One tries to have a sampling which reflects the age demographics. A poll where half respondents are black will get different results than one where none are. Legitimate pollsters get this sort of demographic information and then weigh the results to reflect the actual population. 

What is clear is that the Mormon bishop who ran this "poll" didn't try to do that. Catholics tend to be more in favor of marriage equality than evangelical Christians. Catholics also make up 25% of the population, which is about the same number as evangelicals. The poll in question, however, sample a group where Catholics were under-represented at 16% but evangelicals were over-represented at 36%. Just that factor alone would skew the poll in an anti-equality direction.

But, there were other tricks used to produce results that would please Mormons, but would not reflect the truth. Seventeen percent of the poll's sample audience was over the age of 65, even though only 12.4 percent of the American population is that age. If you look at the sample you will see that 32% of the people polled were older than 55, whereas 20% of the population is that age. By over polling older Americans the pollster guaranteed a result that wouldn't reflect the actual opinion spread of the American public.

When you look at the entire poll it is clear that the pollster used a sample audience that was more conservative, more religious and older than what you find in a valid poll. It is a worthless poll, except as a propaganda tool. Our expose of the poll can be found at Huffington Post.