Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Right wants the right to tell you who gets into your pants and your heart.

I stumbled across this cryptic blog this morning, as I was checking my stats, and found this page on culture war issues, compiled by someone as preparation for the appearance of Michelle Goldberg ... somewhere, at some institution of higher learning.

In the first piece, Michelle is concentrating on the people behind the anti-gay marriage amendment in ohio, one with such profoundly restrictive language that it will likely have widespread unintended consequences. But the radical anti types don't care to consider the argument.

Critical Issues: Michelle Goldberg pieces: "This dynamic is on stark display on Friday, Oct. 8, when Columbus community leaders, activists and concerned citizens gather for a luncheon debate on Issue 1. Organized by the Columbus Metropolitan Club, a local civic group, the event is held in a second-floor dining room at the Columbus Athletic Club, an elegant place full of burnished dark wood and chandeliers. Several local businesspeople are there, including Cheryl McClellan. Every chair is taken.

The debate is between Melamed and Patrick Johnston, a physician and vice chairman of the Ohio branch of the far-right Constitution Party. Johnston isn't officially affiliated with Burress' group, Citizens for Community Values, but the two men worked together collecting signatures to put Issue 1 on the ballot, and Johnston says they talk often. He's also close to Minutemen United, whose members have turned up to support him at past speaking engagements.

Melamed, a distinguished-looking, gray-haired man in a well-cut blue suit and burgundy tie, begins the debate by emphasizing the likely legal and economic fallout from Issue 1. But Johnston, a blond, pink-faced 33-year-old, has no intention of arguing on Melamed's terms. 'Even if Ohio would be better off, gays should not be allowed to marry,' he says, because homosexuality is a sin that 'merits discrimination.' In fact, he says"



Earlier in the piece, Michelle informs us of the significance and context of the legislation.

A crucial electoral battleground state, Ohio hasn't done well during the Bush era. In the last four years, it's lost a quarter million jobs. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau recently rated Cleveland the poorest big city in the country. Young people are leaving the state in droves. In August, Brent Larkin, editorial page director of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote about Ohio's "raging brain drain."

But even as the state's economy decays, its big evangelical churches are thriving, and, with the tacit support of the national Republican Party, they have mobilized behind Issue 1. Preachers are exhorting flocks of thousands to vote their values in an election said to pit light against darkness. Ohio's gay citizens, a minority courted by no one, have been blindsided by the campaign against them. Many feel like they're under siege. Talk of moving to a friendlier state or country is widespread.

If passed, Issue 1 will force Ohio's cities and universities to stop offering domestic partner benefits, including health insurance. Right now, such benefits are offered by the city of Columbus, Ohio's Miami University, Ohio University and Ohio State University, the largest university in America. Cleveland Heights has a domestic partnership registry, and some Ohio public schools give gay employees family leave to care for ailing partners. Issue 1 would probably mean they could no longer do so. Because Ohio doesn't allow two-parent gay adoptions, Reeves had to go through a lengthy legal process to become Frannie and Charlies' legal co-parent. Her lawyer told her that if Issue 1 passes, her parental rights could be nullified.

The amendment's impact won't stop there. "Because the state can't create any legal status for unmarried couples, it's very possible that domestic-violence protection orders could no longer be used if there's a domestic violence situation with an unmarried couple," says Alan Melamed, an attorney and chairman of the anti-Issue 1 group Ohioans Protecting the Constitution. Private companies can continue to offer domestic partner benefits, he adds, but "if the employee feels that those benefits were being improperly denied, an employee won't be able to go to court and enforce those benefits."

Issue 1 is only two sentences long, but there's a world of uncertainty in it. While the first sentence simply decrees that marriage is between a man and a woman, the second says, "This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."

And here are the reasons for this push given by two leaders of the movement in Ohio.

Burress began thinking about the specter of gay matrimony in 1995, when a friend in Honolulu warned him that the same-sex marriage fight that had erupted there could spread to the mainland. In January of 1996, he called a meeting of about 25 national "pro-family" activists in Memphis, Tenn., to discuss strategy. Today, he makes no apologies for wanting to eliminate domestic partnership benefits as well as marriage rights for gay couples. "Ohio State and Miami University, Columbus and Cleveland Heights are all taxpayer-funded institutions," he says. "They're using taxpayer money and giving out the benefits of marriage when they have no right to do so."

Bauer, a close associate of Burress', also says the goal of the movement is to ban legal benefits for same-sex couples. "I think that you really haven't accomplished much if you say marriage is between a man and a woman and then you go down the road of giving to some other combination of individuals all of the rights that accrue to marriage, like filing a joint state tax return," he says. "All you've done then is play a word game with the electorate."

Well, yes; civilized people were trying to throw you a semantic bone. If your church doesn't want to marry gay people, that's fine by me. I'll marry them, feeling just as justified in doing so as you feel justified in refusing. I'm a ULC minister, and having taken five minutes to sign up on line, feel I'm easily as qualified for the job as you. More so, really; I'm neither a bigot nor an idiot.

No, the words you use indicate that you feel that "Traditional Family Marriage" is actually an institution that should thrive at the expense of all other forms of marriage and that you, and people that you approve of should be the only people who get to decide that. What breathtaking presumption, Sir!

So - who's next? Jewish marriages? Hindu marriages? What about people who live together for reasons of companionship and who wish to have mechanisms in place to validate their relationship, which, while not marriage, is significant? Who are you to meddle in their private financial affairs?

But I suppose any argument from reason will go unheard. Let's try a Biblical tack.

The marriage ceremonial that I am most familiar with includes these words; "Whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

Are you God?

Didn't think so.

Marriage is a sacrament that recognizes formally a state that should already exist - theologically. It doesn't create a bond; it blesses that bond.

Legally, it's the same, it's merely paperwork that establishes a publicly stated relationship and a legal commitment to that continued association, in order to recognize a voluntary, collective entity.

Or in other words, any marriage by anyone to anyone, or any domestic partnership agreement to anyone by anyone for any reason, including, but not exclusive of hot sex you consider personally uninteresting has absolutely no effect whatsoever upon your marriage.

None.

Zip.

Nada.

Nor does it in any way affect the view of marriage you hold religiously. It will stand and fall, as it should, on it's own merits, determined largely by how humanly practical it is and equally importantly, what your faith community does that would tend to positively reinforce marriages within your community.

Now, yes, some gay activists, and some non-gay activists of the libertarian persuasion, such as myself have indeed questioned the validity of there being any special legal recognition for a religious sacrament, and point out that while some religious definitions marriage are indeed between man and woman, the Constitution offers equal protection to all. There's no "except faggots" clause - and indeed, the entire tone of the Constitution precludes such a clause ever being legitimately attached to it, for the best of all reasons; each such exception would be a crack in the fundamental fabric of our society.

One can also argue that the Traditional Marriage you advocate bears no resemblance to the extended families and clans of the Bible, and offers none of the benefits of those social arrangements. It's a pale substitute at best, even with the legal recognitions, for those recognitions are largely exclusive to husband, wife and children; leaving recognition of extended family up to the whim of social workers and judges. Goodness, Biblical family units included multiple wives - and it made good sense at the time; still does in many parts of the world. The Bible is silent on that, probably due to the fact that one doesn't waste ink on the obvious.

Nor can the argument that a majority wish to restrict the rights of a minority be used as justification for such restrictions; the Founders were quite specific in their intent to forestall such an intemperance of pure democracy by mobs inflamed by lying demagogues. This is why we have a Constitutional Republic.

One of the great strengths of this nation is its tolerance of difference and long standing tradition of scorning those who would meddle in the lives and private matters of others.

But there has always been a counter-tradition of those who believe that their conspicuous, self-revealed piety entitles them to determine the moral worth of others, and impose whatever restrictions upon them that matches the whim of the moment.

It's always a singular flaw, there's no comprehensive talk of morality, nor any need for such bluenosed blatherers to exhibit any evidence that their prayers in the square command any attention. Their entire focus is on the speck in their brother's eye, whether it be a perceived "sin" of witchcraft, of drunkenness, of polygamy, of "the love that dare not speak it's name."

Well, hatred is a terrible thing to teach a child; it taints and poisons their entire life. And Jesus said nothing that can be twisted into approval for such behavior, leaving such folks to scrabble at the afterthoughts of St. Paul and Augustine, as if the term "inspiration" conveyed with it the full insight into the full sweep of reality that the Divine must presumably possess.

Inspired as one may be, one is an inspired human with limits to the degree of inspiration that is possible.

But there are indeed biblical texts that are clear and direct to this point. Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor. There are no conditions on that. He didn't say "love those that walk in My footsteps," further saying that "On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets." Love God; Love your neighbor. Not your heterosexual neighbor. Not your co-religionist neighbor. Not your sober, reliable, morally upright practicing Jewish neighbor who's fringes reach his knees and who's daughters shine brightly of chaste virtue.

Your neighbor lives in the Castro and in the trailer park, as well as next door in your gated mental community.

Love does not limit, nor does it teach with fear. Fear, to be blunt, is the preferred tool of Evil.

If you think your institution of marriage is so perfect, go and make it a shining example. That is the direct mandate given in the Bible; to teach by example. Let your actions be the fulfillment of your words. If it works as well as you say, there will be a stampede of eager converts to your view.

But the red-state divorce rate is actually higher than that of the places where us "godless" folk prefer to live. Was that not enough to give pause, the fact that you feel the need to give artificial legal advantage to your vision, and your vision alone speaks volumes about your doubt in the essential validity of your religion and the values it teaches.

And you are right to doubt. Your values stink on ice, and had I the right to speak to it, I'd outlaw them, for the evident and demonstrable harm they do. You arrogate moral authority to yourself, yet show contempt for everything Jesus taught; in chief using "tolerance," "liberality" and "diversity" as curses.

I, however, feel that you have the right to make mistakes on your own behalf with consenting adults, and grudgingly allow that must also apply to the children you raise as best as can be expected under the circumstances.

But don't expect me to support you in your foolishness, or remain silent in the face of what I see as willful, arrogant, malicious evil.

s.

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