Friday, January 20, 2012

An Excellent Defense for Supporting Marriage Equality

Rep. Glenn Anderson
State Rep. Glenn Anderson of Washington, a Republican, has announced he is going to support the new marriage equality legislation there. The measure already has assurance of passing the House, and is now just one vote shy of passing the Senate as well. This means Anderson's vote isn't going to change the results, he isn't the one putting it over but his support helps cement the majority even more and puts more pressure on the senators who are still fence sitting.

What is unusual is that Anderson has not just released a statement announcing his support, but has also outlined his thinking on the matter. And his thinking wasn't just superficial. He looked at the history of marriage, something that is rarely discussed in the debates. He discussed religion and traditional marriage and the concept of equal protection under the law according to the Constitution. What impresses me is that his explanation is historically accurate and indicates he put a lot of thought into the matter. I don't agree 100% with everything he says, but he is pretty much spot on throughout. It has to be one of the best laid-out explanations I've ever seen by a politician. It indicates something very unique—he actually thought about the issue and research it before drawing a conclusion. That's damn refreshing. Here are his comments:

While acknowledging the extremely sensitive nature of the same-sex marriage issue, today Rep. Glenn Anderson announced that after extensive research into the three primary criteria in determining the definition of ‘marriage,’ he would vote for House Bill 2516 allowing same-sex civil marriage in Washington. The three criteria he used are:

1) The historical purpose of civil marriage;

2) The historical religious doctrines on traditional marriage; and

3) The federal judicial record for determining equal protection under the law in the 14th Amendment the U.S. Constitution.

“If there was ever an issue that deserved more than advocacy sound-bites by either side in our civic debate, this it is that issue. It is religion, sex and politics all wrapped into one issue. Advocates on both sides have used excessive language to attempt to discredit the other. Same-sex advocates have sought demonize the legitimate, deeply held religious convictions of one side, and traditional marriage advocates have sought to dehumanize the intense pursuit of civil equity by the other. Considering the intense passions on both sides of the issue, I believe it is important to pull back and genuinely examine the issue on its merits versus strong opinions.

“Based on my investigation of the relevant criteria defining marriage, I have concluded the following in making my decision: First, the compelling primary purpose of civil marriage remains to provide a neutral and secular foundation for social order and an orderly transfer of property rights for the collective good, regardless of individual differences.

“Second, the distinction between civil and religious marriage is a long-settled question between religious organizations and civil government in western culture. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that religious organizations have an exclusive exemption from employment discrimination liability and may legally employ only those persons that agree with and abide by their fundamental religious doctrine. In my view, civil same-sex marriage does not undermine the right of individuals to freely choose association with religious organizations that seek to encourage traditional marriage values with which they agree. Neither does it obstruct the ability to practice the values of religious marriage, either individually or with like-minded persons.

“And third, there is sufficient physiological research and consistent historical record to suggest that homosexuality is a normal, if much less frequent, genetic expression of human biology. If race is a genetically acceptable criterion for constitutional equal protection under the law in the 14th Amendment, then genetic sexual orientation is closely related as a fundamental expression of human biology.

“This is certainly a big change in our cultural expectations and it will take time to fully sort it all out. It took almost one hundred years from the ratification the 14th Amendment after the American Civil War until the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s. Hopefully, we have learned much from that experience and it won’t take so long on this issue.

“There will be a heavy burden on leaders at both ends of the political spectrum to respect the differences of opinion that will remain and to strongly emphasize the strengths of our common humanity, whatever the minor differences of our biology may be. As we take a step forward, I hope we can all share our views in a civil fashion that lends humanity and understanding to the dialogue.”

Below is Rep. Anderson’s extended statement regarding his conclusions in coming to his decision:

“The biological starting point is that male/female pair-bonding has been scientifically dated back about 1.5 million years. At its most fundamental that behavior it is an inter-gender compact on the division of labor to assure species survival by protecting and nurturing the young.

“As we wade into this passionate debate, we must first look at the historical purpose of civil marriage sanctioned by government. The first written legal texts defining marriage and marriage ‘rights’ date to about 2000 BC and the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylonia. The primary focus of that legal framework was collective social stability and the transfer of legitimate individual property rights. That focus was further refined by the imperial judicial codes of the late Roman Empire under the Emperors Theodosius and Justinian between 340-735 AD. Love and God were not considered of much importance, stability and property rights were.

“To this day, the interest in social order and protection of property rights remains the fundamental justification of civil marriage sanctioned by government. Indeed, that justification has been so strong that little change has occurred in the traditional definition of civil marriage until California authorized no-fault divorce in 1962.

“Additionally, we have to look at the root of our current religious marriage doctrines. Worldwide historical religious marriage beliefs and rituals have been extremely diverse. The more structured expectations of religious marriage did not really develop in western culture until 1563 when the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent made reforms to the holy sacrament of marriage in response to the Protestant Reformation. Prior to that, ‘religious marriage’ was a private affair with various pagan or Christian rituals conducted at the discretion of the participants.

“The Council of Trent also established the distinct separation between civil and religious marriage, as advocated by protestant reformers, which we practice to this very day. The Roman Catholic Church reformed the marriage sacrament for four primary reasons: First, to encourage the covenant of marriage, according the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, as a means to spread the faith of the Gospels; second, to counter the Protestant Reformation and re-establish the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church liturgies; third, to increase political influence over the rising royal family elites of Europe; and, fourth, to increase tax revenues collected by the Church from both royals and laypersons. Since then the religious tradition of marriage, both Catholic and Protestant, has evolved to fulfill the deepest aspect of human consciousness: Who am I in my relationship with God and with whom do I share that spiritual relationship with in life most closely?

“Finally, we must ask what the federal judicial criteria for constitutional ‘equal protection under law’ are related to our constitution. The 14th Amendment, which addresses equal protection under the law, was specifically designed to remedy the failure to address the issue of slavery in the original United States Constitution that allowed for the genetic segregation of humans into different classes of rights. The United States Supreme Court has an established and tiered criteria for defining ‘differentiation’ to determine questions of equal protection under the law. There is reasonable scientific evidence on sexual orientation that strongly suggests that sexual identity is, to a significant degree, genetically-driven, even if it is a small minority, roughly four percent, of the total population.

“It is the scientific consensus that the degree of both heterosexual and homosexual expression can be influenced personal socio-cultural experiences, but that does not necessarily change the underlying genetic predisposition. The genetic differentiation of race is externally observable. However, the genetic differentiation based on sexual orientation is not. Additionally, there is a continuous historical record of a homosexual minority in every civilization, and every race, worldwide which, again, strongly suggests a continuous genetic pattern.”

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