Posts Tagged ‘Marriage Equality’

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Do You Like Capitalism? Then, You Should Love Gay Marriage.

08.24.10

Marriage is big business.

Sure, it’s about love and being together forever and all that jazz, too.  But, let’s be real: it’s a serious moneymaker.

I just went to a wedding of one of my best buddies out in Rochester, NY this past weekend and it was on the second leg of my cross-country flight that it really dawned on me just how much money I was spending on his wedding.

First, there’s the flight from LAX to ROC.  It’s the summer and while Rochester is no resort town, it’s still on the other side of the continent.  I brought my girlfriend along, so multiply that by two.

Then, there’s the hotel. We went cheap and stayed at a Microtel.  But, since I was in the wedding, I arrived a couple days early to make sure I was there for all the festivities and the rehearsal dinner and everything else.  So tack on a couple extra nights.

And there’s also the rental car, the gas for the rental car, eating out for several meals, bar tabs. You can see how it adds up.  And that’s just for one guest and a plus-one.

I can’t even begin to compute how much the actual wedding cost — renting out the event center for the reception, the dress, the suit, the transportation, the hotels, the flowers, the two huge meals, the entertainment, the booze.  And this wasn’t even an overly extravagant affair; it wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t huge.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining at all. I gladly would spend it all over again in an instant to be there with one of my best friends on his wedding day.  It’s a unique, joyous occasion to celebrate love and the expansion of friends and family.  It’s moving.  It’s hilarious.  It’s inappropriate.  It’s something you don’t forget.  You make all sorts of new memories while revisiting all of the old.

But, still.  It costs everyone involved a small fortune.  Receiving that welcomed honor of being in a wedding comes with its price tag.  And while you can’t put a dollar amount on being able to sing and dance and laugh with friends that you only get to see maybe once a year if you’re lucky, you kind of can.  The flight. The hotel.  The car.  The gas.

It all adds up.

And then it made me think about all of the different industries that I, along with my fellow weddingers, were helping sustain for this four-day excursion into upstate New York in August.  The flight attendants, the fast-food-joint workers, the caterers, the chefs, the gas station clerks, the airlines, the DJs, the waiters and waitresses, the photographers, the flower arrangers, the chauffeurs, the hotel staffs.  I’m sure I’m missing plenty more, but you get the idea.

Given the state of our economy, local businesses and big businesses alike could use the help.  And even though times might be tight for everyone, it’s a lot easier to swallow some big expenditures when its in the name of something as happy and joyous as a wedding.

Let’s forget the obvious reasons to support marriage equality on an emotional level for the moment.  Instead, think of it from the capitalist mentality. This is, after all, America, so might as well speak to the language of the land: the dollar.

If marriage is already reduced to being a thousand federal benefits anyway, what harm could it to do just talk about it like it is?  A cash cow for multiple industries.  What could be more American than that?

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What Do Canada and Mexico Have that the United States Doesn’t? Equality

08.13.10

For being the self-proclaimed “land of the free,” the United States sure has gone out of its way to deny freedoms to a minority group of Americans with so many states pushing legislation to ban same sex marriages.

I understand that a lot of that comes from traditional values associated with religious beliefs; but, being founded on religious freedom and purposefully not having any state-endorsed faith, it seems that of the countries legalizing gay marriage, the U.S. would be one of those few.

Quite the contrary.  And much of the reason that we’re not comes from those religious beliefs being favored over civil freedoms — see the Mormon Church spending millions to help pass Prop 8.

The reality is that religious belief and civil marriage equality can co-exist.  One doesn’t negate the other.  Case in point:

Our neighbor to the south: Mexico legalized gay marriage.

Mexico? Really?  A country whose population is over three quarters Roman Catholic — a faith whose leader has assailed against gay marriage as even being a threat to creation.  A country that has more Catholics than any other country in the world, except for Brazil?  That’s fascinating.

So how did this happen?  Opponents can’t argue that it was purely judicial activism — it was legalized in Mexico City by the legislature.  Only this week did the Supreme Court uphold the law and also required all states to recognize the marriages that are only currently performed in the capital city. And the vote wasn’t even close, either : 9 – 2, in favor.

So, what’s our excuse?

Sure we’re not so liberal as Canada, who also has legalized marriage equality.  But we’re also not so homogeneous in our beliefs as Mexico, either.  (Although if all you do is listen to the current vitriol from the conservative groups, one might forget that America has no official religion.)  Why have we instead gone the completely opposite direction in creating laws that ban same sex marriage?

If Mexico, with it’s overwhelming number of Roman Catholics can elect a legislature that rules in favor of equality, then why in the world can’t we?

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele

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Supporting Gay Marriage: It’s Not About the Children. Seriously.

08.05.10

Equal Rights is an American ValueCalifornia’s Proposition 8 has just been overturned.

While a huge victory for marriage equality, with many in favor of equality rejoicing in this, the opponents of gay marriage continue their failed arguments that make sense to their personal beliefs but don’t reconcile with the Constitution.

Even after logic, reason, and the law showed that their arguments held no legal water, gay marriage opponents continue with the same tired rationale:

Most people think of marriage as an institution which indicates the strong feelings which two people have for one another. But the state doesn’t have any interest in privileging strong feelings. Rather, the state is interested in the perpetuation of society, which — to again state the obvious — requires procreation.

So what about sterile couples who want to marry?  Should they be banned as well?  Or how about elderly couples who already have kids and don’t plan on (or are too old) to have any more?

But the bigger issue I have for this argument is: since when does the state have any business in my procreative inclinations? Where in the California or U.S. Constitution does it say anything about requiring married couples to have children?  I would like to see some evidence to this strong claim that our government has a vested, legal interest in whether or not its citizens procreate and that this interest is directly tied to the civil institution of marriage.

I believe this blogger at The American Catholic, along with many others who oppose gay marriage rights, is confusing state with church.  When it comes to secular law, (no, we are not a Catholic nation) the Constitution trumps any religious text.

The American Catholic continues:

The ease with which they [gay marriage supporters] threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage.

1. I question just how real those objections are when the person making them lacks the intellectual honesty to avoid snark by putting quotes around the word “marriage” in order to marginalize it and make it seem that its inferior or not even worthy of the word, making it hard to even have an honest discussion on a logical, rational level and not an emotional-only argument.  And when that person raises objections, offers no legal support for said claims (see above re: marriage being a device of the state to insure the procreation of its citizens.)

2. Given that Americans are a group of widely diverse people with all sorts of beliefs, heritages, and customs, to lump them all together as if there’s some universal consensus on something as personal and varied as marriage shows a very closed-minded, narrow, and narcissistic worldview that believes that one’s own views on marriage are the right way and the only way to think.

The reality is that there are religious rules and there are secular laws.  They don’t always match up because we live in a society that allows for the practicing of all faiths.  But our laws are based on equality and fairness.

Change is difficult. Fighting for equal rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution is extremely tough to secure.  But the fight is worthwhile.

Equality will prevail. This is just another step forward.

Photo courtesy of stevebott’s Flickr photostream

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A Simple Case for Humanity

01.30.10

Too often the case against gay marriage toes the religious or revisionist-history lines, people arguing that marriage has always been between one man and one woman since the beginning of time and that homosexuality is a sin.  People reduce gay marriage to terms of grotesque creatures, not loving human beings and breaking nature’s law.  People argue against it with broad strokes, sweeping generalizations, they point to old texts and hide behind their prejudices, their fears, their ignorance.  It’s much easier this way.  All too often the reality of the effects of the gay marriage ban get ignored.

This is the reality, in real terms, happening to real people, dealing with the greatest of human trials: grave illness.

Bryan Dickenson has been with his partner, Bill Sugg, for 30 years.  But their union is not recognized in any shape or form by any government entity because they live in Texas, where even civil unions and domestic partnerships are illegal.  This means that when Sugg had a stroke and has been in the hospital undergoing extensive rehabilitation since, Dickenson was not allowed sick leave to care for his partner by his employer AT&T, who would extend those benefits to a married, heterosexual couple.  Instead, Dickenson has to use his vacation time in order to go care for his companion, his lover, his spouse in the hospital and is worried that once he runs out, if he continues to ask for time off work to be with Sugg, he would be fired.

This is wrong.  Plain and simple.  Not that AT&T is necessarily to blame – the law is the law, and Dickenson and Sugg have no union to speak of as far as the state of Texas or the United States of America are concerned.  Legally, they’re merely roommates, friends at best.

But they aren’t just roommates or friends.  They are family.  If Texas legalized gay marriage, this wouldn’t be an issue.  As it stands, AT&T has no legal reason to allow Dickenson to use his sick leave.  This type of cruelty must stop.

I know that I haven’t written much about the trial against Prop 8 here in California – not having any legal education, I would merely be reposting what others already are saying in a much more informed way – so I am eagerly awaiting the potential ramifications if Prop 8 is indeed found to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.  I hope that it is, and that the case is eventually brought to the Supreme Court, whose ruling would apply to all gay marriage bans across the country, including this one in Texas.

Of course, by that time, it may be too late for Dickenson and Sugg, and the countless more gay couples with stories like theirs.  Banning gay marriage does nothing to help heterosexual marriage; it only seeks to harm homosexuals.  It’s cruel, it’s inhumane, and it’s heartless.

Here’s hoping Bill Suggs has a speedy recovery and that Bryan Dickenson can be there every step of the way.

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Challenging Prop 8 in Federal Court, Take One

01.11.10

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Today marked the beginning of the federal trial contesting the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in California, which outlawed marriage for homosexual couples.  Below is the opening statement from attorney Ted Olson, arguing on behalf of the couple challenging the proposition.  I just don’t see how any rebuttal holds any water whatsoever.  It’s a case for equal rights.  It’s as American an issue as it gets.  And while this will only be the first in many federal trials and appeals that most likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s a step forward.  Unless you’re blinded by religious fervor, the case for legalizing gay marriage is cut and dried.

Ted Olson:

This case is about marriage and equality.  Plaintiffs are being denied both the right to marry, and the right to equality under the law.

The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly described the right to marriage as “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men;” a “basic civil right;” a component of the constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, association, and intimate choice; an expression of emotional support and public commitment; the exercise of spiritual unity; and a fulfillment of one’s self.

In short, in the words of the highest court in the land, marriage is “the most important relation in life,” and “of fundamental importance for all individuals.”

As the witnesses in this case will elaborate, marriage is central to life in America.  It promotes mental, physical and emotional health and the economic strength and stability of those who enter into a marital union.  It is the building block of family, neighborhood and community.  The California Supreme Court has declared that the right to marry is of “central importance to an individual’s opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society.”

Proposition 8 ended the dream of marriage, the most important relation in life, for the plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of Californians.

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In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court concluded that under this State’s Constitution, the right to marry a person of one’s choice extended to all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, and was available equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

In November of 2008, the voters of California responded to that decision with Proposition 8, amending the State’s Constitution and, on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, slammed the door to marriage to gay and lesbian citizens.

The plaintiffs are two loving couples, American citizens, entitled to equality and due process under our Constitution.  They are in deeply committed, intimate, and longstanding relationships.  They want to marry the person they love; to enter into that “most important relation in life”; to share their dreams with their partners; and to confer the many benefits of marriage on their families.

But Proposition 8 singled out gay men and lesbians as a class, swept away their right to marry, pronounced them unequal, and declared their relationships inferior and less-deserving of respect and dignity.

In the words of the California Supreme Court, eliminating the right of individuals to marry a same-sex partner relegated those individuals to “second class” citizenship, and told them, their families and their neighbors that their love and desire for a sanctioned marital partnership was not worthy of recognition.

During this trial, Plaintiffs and leading experts in the fields of history, psychology, economics and political science will prove three fundamental points:

First – Marriage is vitally important in American society.

Second – By denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry, Proposition 8 works a grievous harm on the plaintiffs and other gay men and lesbians throughout California, and adds yet another chapter to the long history of discrimination they have suffered.

Third – Proposition 8 perpetrates this irreparable, immeasurable, discriminatory harm for no good reason.

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MARRIAGE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATION IN LIFE

Plaintiffs will present evidence from leading experts, representing some of the finest academic institutions in this country and the world, who will reinforce what the highest courts of California and the United States have already repeatedly said about the importance of marriage in society and the significant benefits that marriage confers on couples, their families, and the community.  Proponents cannot dispute these basic facts.

While marriage has been a revered and important institution throughout the history of this country and this State, it has also evolved to shed irrational, unwarranted, and discriminatory restrictions and limitations that reflected the biases, prejudices or stereotypes of the past.  Marriage laws that disadvantaged women or people of disfavored race or ethnicity have been eliminated.  These changes have come from legislatures and the courts.  Far from harming the institution of marriage, the elimination of discriminatory restrictions on marriage has strengthened the institution, its vitality, and its importance in American society today.

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PROPOSITION 8 HARMS GAY AND LESBIAN INDIVIDUALS, THEIR CHILDREN AND THEIR COMMUNITIES

Proposition 8 had a simple, straightforward, and devastating purpose:  to withdraw from gay and lesbian people like the Plaintiffs their previously recognized constitutional right to marry.  The official title of the ballot measure said it all: “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.”

Proponents of Proposition 8 have insisted that the persons they would foreclose from the institution of marriage have suffered no harm because they have been given the opportunity to form something called a “domestic partnership.”  That is a cruel fiction.

Plaintiffs will describe the harm that they suffer every day because they are prevented from marrying.  And they will describe how demeaning and insulting it can be to be told that they remain free to marry—as long, that is, that they marry someone of the opposite sex instead of the person they love, the companion of their choice.

And the evidence will demonstrate that relegating gay men and lesbians to “domestic partnerships” is to inflict upon them badges of inferiority that forever stigmatize their loving relationships as different, separate, unequal, and less worthy—something akin to a commercial venture, not a loving union.  Indeed, the proponents of Proposition 8 acknowledge that domestic partnerships are not the same as traditional marriage.  Proponents proudly proclaim that, under Proposition 8, the “unique and highly favorable imprimatur” of marriage is reserved to “opposite-sex unions.”

This government-sponsored societal stigmatization causes grave psychological and physical harms to gay men and lesbians and their families.  It increases the likelihood that they will experience discrimination and harassment; it causes immeasurable harm.

Sadly, Proposition 8 is only the most recent chapter in our nation’s long and painful history of discrimination and prejudice against gay and lesbian individuals.  They have been classified as degenerates, targeted by police, harassed in the workplace, censored, demonized, fired from government jobs, excluded from our armed forces, arrested for their private sexual conduct, and repeatedly stripped of their fundamental rights by popular vote.  Although progress has occurred, the roots of discrimination run deep and its impacts spread wide.

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PROPOSITION 8 HARMS GAY AND LESBIAN INDIVIDUALS FOR NO GOOD REASON

Proposition 8 singles out gay and lesbian individuals alone for exclusion from the institution of marriage.  In California, even convicted murderers and child abusers enjoy the freedom to marry.  As the evidence clearly establishes, this discrimination has been placed in California’s Constitution even though its victims are, and always have been, fully contributing members of our society.   And it excludes gay men and lesbians from the institution of marriage even though the characteristic for which they are targeted—their sexual orientation—like race, sex, and ethnicity, is a fundamental aspect of their identity that they did not choose for themselves and, as the California Supreme Court has found, is highly resistant to change.

The State of California has offered no justification for its decision to eliminate the fundamental right to marry for a segment of its citizens.  And its chief legal officer, the Attorney General, admits that none exists.  And the evidence will show that each of the rationalizations for Proposition 8 invented by its Proponents is wholly without merit.

“Procreation” cannot be a justification inasmuch as Proposition 8 permits marriage by persons who are unable or have no intention of producing children.   Indeed, the institution of civil marriage in this country has never been tied to the procreative capacity of those seeking to marry.

Proposition 8 has no rational relation to the parenting of children because same-sex couples and opposite sex couples are equally permitted to have and raise children in California.  The evidence in this case will demonstrate that gay and lesbian individuals are every bit as capable of being loving, caring and effective parents as heterosexuals.  The quality of a parent is not measured by gender but the content of the heart.

And, as for protecting “traditional marriage,” our opponents “don’t know” how permitting gay and lesbian couples to marry would harm the marriages of opposite-sex couples.  Needless to say, guesswork and speculation is not an adequate justification for discrimination.  In fact, the evidence will demonstrate affirmatively that permitting loving, deeply committed, couples like the plaintiffs to marry has no impact whatsoever upon the marital relationships of others.

When voters in California were urged to enact Proposition 8, they were encouraged to believe that unless Proposition 8 were enacted, anti-gay religious institutions would be closed, gay activists would overwhelm the will of the heterosexual majority, and that children would be taught that it was “acceptable” for gay men and lesbians to marry.  Parents were urged to “protect our children” from that presumably pernicious viewpoint.

At the end of the day, whatever the motives of its Proponents, Proposition 8 enacted an utterly irrational regime to govern entitlement to the fundamental right to marry, consisting now of at least four separate and distinct classes of citizens:  (1) heterosexuals, including convicted criminals, substance abusers and sex offenders, who are permitted to marry; (2) 18,000 same-sex couples married between June and November of 2008,  who are allowed to remain married but may not remarry if they divorce or are widowed; (3) thousands of same-sex couples who were married in certain other states prior to November of 2008, whose marriages are now valid and recognized in California; and, finally (4) all other same-sex couples in California who, like the Plaintiffs, are prohibited from marrying by Proposition 8.

There is no rational justification for this unique pattern of discrimination.  Proposition 8, and the irrational pattern of California’s regulation of marriage which it promulgates, advances no legitimate state interest.  All it does is label gay and lesbian persons as different, inferior, unequal, and disfavored.  And it brands their relationships as not the same, and less-approved than those enjoyed by opposite sex couples.  It stigmatizes gays and lesbians, classifies them as outcasts, and causes needless pain, isolation and humiliation.

It is unconstitutional.

Photo courtesy stevebott.

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D.C. Board: No Right To Vote On Same-Sex Marriage

11.19.09

From California to Iowa to Arkansas to New Hampshire, the debate over the legalization of same-sex marriage has crossed the country.  Recently, Washington, D.C. passed a bill recognizing the union of same-sex couples married legally in one of the handful of states where it’s allowed.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics put a stop to a ballot initiative that would’ve put the matter up to a vote, effectively clearing the way for the bill to be signed into law.  However, Bishop Harry Jackson sued in an effort to reverse the decision by the Board.

Let’s take a look at this current debate, shall we?

The Board’s reasoning:

The board ruled Tuesday that the proposed initiative on whether to define marriage as being between a man and a woman violates the city’s Human Rights Act because it would be discriminatory toward gay men and lesbians.

The opposition:

“The people of D.C. have a right to vote on the definition of marriage,” said Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, the conservative legal group representing Jackson. “The D.C. Charter guarantees the people the right to vote, and the council cannot amend the charter for any reason, much less to deny citizens the right to vote.”

Without knowing the law I’m not really the best person to weigh in on this topic, and I’m clearly biased in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.  Perhaps there’s something to look at in a government entity denying the right to vote to the people, but the Board is an elected group, so they’re representing the people.  Also, there is this:

[D.C] city code prohibits a public vote on a matter protected under the Human Rights Act.

Which makes perfect sense.  I don’t know where people got this sense of entitlement that made them think that they have the right to vote on the definition of marriage.  We live in a republic, not a true democracy; people don’t get to vote on every single issue.  Most importantly, no one should have the right to vote to deny a specifically targeted group of citizens rights that others have.

Here’s hoping Jackson’s lawsuit gets dismissed by the Supreme Court, that D.C. passes this bill into law, and that legally married same-sex couples from across the country will at least be recognized in our nation’s capital.

It’ll be another step closer to equality.

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Maine Joins the Ranks

05.06.09

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Maine’s legislators passed a bill to legalize same sex marriage.  On Wednesday, May 6th, 2009, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed it into law.

That brings the total number of states that allow same sex marriage to six (assuming that New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signs his bill into law).  And the second in a row to achieve this through legislative means, not judicial.

I have a feeling that New York and Rhode Island will be quick to follow suit.  This is all happening along with the announcement that Washington, DC will recognize same sex marriages that are legal in other states.  So, for all of you keeping score at home, that’s six states and one district.

It’s rather amazing that after the complete heartbreak of Proposition 8 passing in California, instead of that anti-gay, hyper-religious sentiment spreading like wildfire across the (supposedly) more conservative midsection of America, the tides are actually changing in favor of marriage equality, most notibly in the case of Iowa.  You can’t get much more heartland than Iowa.

While I am not at all complaining about hearing state after state passing legislation against discrimination, it’s almost as if the MSM already doesn’t care anymore.  My usual news sources this morning gave me no indication of the Maine’s legislature passing the bill through much less the Governor signing it into law.  Even now if you check CNN.com you will see nothing about it whatsoever.  You would have to search for it to find any articles on the topic.  It’s not even headline news.  I suppose that could be a good thing: it’s no longer this landmark, shocking development.  It’s becoming the norm.

And that is a wonderful thing.