Monday, September 19, 2005

Gay Marriage Ban Out of "Focus"

The nationwide campaign by conservative religious fundamentalists to forbid equal marriage rights to homosexuals reared its ugly head again in Wisconsin this week. Glenn Stanton, Director of Social Research and Cultural Affairs for Focus on the Family, is set to debate Evan Wolfson, renowned gay rights advocate and executive director of Freedom to Marry, at UW-Madison on September 21st. Wisconsin Public Radio featured both guests for a half-hour each this morning to preview each side of the debate.

The debate is in preparation for what is likely to be a showdown in 2006 over a state constitutional amendment banning all but heterosexual marriages. From Tom Scharbach at PurpleScarf blog:

In November 2006, Wisconsin may be at ground zero in the battle for civil rights for gays and lesbians, when a proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships may be on the ballot.

A large voter turnout is expected in that election, a general election in which Governor Jim Doyle, Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, and Senator Herb Kohl will be up for re-election, as well as all state Assembly representatives and half the state Senate. Political observers say Gard and other Republicans are attempting to leverage the amendment fight in a bid to help defeat Democratic candidates in 2006.

Wisconsin has tended to lean more socially conservative in recent years, which leaves the 2006 election as a big concern for those, like myself, who support equal rights for homosexuals. The good news is that when examples like Massachusettes are considered, it appears that the right of gays to marry is gaining more acceptance with the everday people of the country. Marriage has been legal there for over a year and Boston has yet to be smote by a pillar of fire. However, organizations like Focus on the Family, whose "primary reason for existence is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ", have made discrimination against homosexuals one of the core pillars of their political platform.

Let's look at some of Mr. Stanton's less-than-compelling reasons for wanting to deny equal rights to his fellow Americans.

Marriage in the United States has traditionally always been between one man and one woman.

True, but misleading. Yes, the civic institution of marriage has been between one man and one woman in the United States. But the implication of the above statement is that, because marriage has an aspect of "tradition", it should not be changed. The true history of marriage in the United States has been one of frequent revision. The right of women to end a marriage has been added, as has the right to marry those of other races. Women are no longer considered the legal property of men and married couples have gained the right to use birth control. A plethora of legal rights and protections have been enacted concurrent to the understanding of a basic right to privacy within a marriage. Clearly, whatever marriage may be in the United States today, it has changed significantly when compared to the same institution of 20, 50 or 100 years ago.

Gay marriage creates a motherless or fatherless environment which is detrimental to a child.

Patently false. As I've written about in a previous post there is not one shred of evidence that having homosexuals for parents has any ill effects on the development of children. This is a bald-faced lie; ironic, given the contents of the Ten Commandments with which one would expect an executive of Focus on the Family to be familiar. As any parent knows, there is an entire spectrum of qualities that make one a mother or father. What Stanton argues here is nothing but pointless gender stereotyping.

Homosexuals already have the same rights to marry as heterosexuals. They just choose not to exercise them.

I have to confess that this was a new argument I hadn't heard before. It's basically predicated on the notion that living a homosexual lifestyle is a choice, regardless of sexual orientation. A gay man has the right to marry a woman the same as a heterosexual man, but the gay man chooses not to because of his lifestyle. This seems to me a particularly cruel and unjust expression of bigotry; reminiscent of the treatment of blacks in the South during the Jim Crow era. A right constrained by a loss of liberty is no right at all! Perhaps we should change marriage so that everyone must have a Druidic wedding ceremony by law. Would Mr. Stanton be offended at being forced to engage in a pagan ritual in order to marry? By his own reasoning, he shouldn't be, as he still has the right to marry as long as he sets aside his Christian lifestyle.

Sadly, I suspect that the religious conservatives will likely win this battle, though I also expect a vigorous series of court battles to follow. This level of cultural tyranny will not sit well with liberal Madison. It's my sincere hope that one day, so-called Christian organizations like Focus on the Family will actually read and follow some of the teachings of the man whose name they so casually toss about.


DAS said...

I say those of us of liberal faiths should make a faith based compromise with religious conservatives:

we'll support their notion that they have a right to have their idolatrous 10 commandments displays and creches and such legitimized by having them displayed on government property so long as they'll support our denominations' gay marriages being legitimized by government licensing them.

If they are unwilling to take this compromise, then their claim that they are merely concerned about government being overly anti-religious is completely bogus.

After all, according to some religions gays can and should marry their partners just as straights do.

Samurai Sam said...

That's a very reasonable compromise. Sadly, "reason" is not widely accepted as a strong point of religious fundamentalists. The entire Christian position against homosexuality is bogus; it's based on a misinterpretation of a handful of verses, all but one from the OT.
By the way, DAS, any chance you'd start your own blog? You're not at Eschaton nearly enough for my reading pleasure!

DAS said...

By the way, DAS, any chance you'd start your own blog? You're not at Eschaton nearly enough for my reading pleasure! - Samurai Sam

I'm actually considering it (actually, I probably spend too much time commenting on Eschaton). I think I should at least do some sort of comment on the week's Torah portion or something.

Gifted-1 said...

Marriage for all, baby!

That's all I can say, without getting completely nasty!

Mr. Bill said...

Well, dang. As the gay guy with kids, and good relationship with a guy I don't want to marry, I can survive despite the legalized bigotry the (alledgedly)Religious Right is promoting.
I only know one gay couple, some older Lesbians, who have gotten married. They deserve it.
My own church, the Unitarian Universalists, will happily marry (or perform services of union, or joining) gay couples. So the Religious Right wants to discriminate against me....

Samurai Sam said...

Gifted-1 and I were married in a Unitarian Universalist church in Indianapolis. It was the only church we could find that didn't require one to be a member to get married. Very nice folks.
The anti-gay bigotry on the Right has grown to obscene proportions. I really think they have deeper issues and just use homosexuality as a whipping boy, so to speak. All because there doesn't seem to be any Bible scholars on the Right that can translate Greek correctly...

Mr. Bill said...

Wasn't there a governor of Texas who said something like "You should read the bible in the King James English like it was written in"?

Samurai Sam said...

Mr. bill,
I believe it was Gov. Miriam Ferguson and it was something like "If English is good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!" or some such.
The Republican party should be indicted for killing off both satire and irony. They make The Onion seem like a legit news source.

Jessica said...

I love that gay men can get married...they are just choosing not to excercise that right by being with a man instead of a woman. Well, smack me on the ass and call me Dumbo! Geesh! Hey SamauriSam...wanna be my hero? LOL