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The Post-Game Show » doma

Posts Tagged ‘doma’

Danger, Danger; Gay Marriage

Monday, November 9th, 2009

In an opinion piece for the Star Tribune this past weekend, columnist Katherine Kersten posed the question, “How will same-sex marriage harm the institution of marriage — and in the long run, all of us?”

As Ms Kersten rightly points out in her piece, gay marriage won’t make your marriage any weaker, John and Mary. Some opponents of marriage equality have seriously posited that, if we let men marry other men, they’ll all leave their wives, but that speaks to issues that those folks are just going to have to work out in their own lives. Like Ms Kersten, most conservatives concede that gay marriage will not cancel, weaken or destroy any specific straight marriages. (Mrs Haggard, your husband is gay whether he can marry his masseur or not.)

No, the danger is not to individual marriages, but to the whole institution of marriage. As Ms Kersten tells us, “Marriage is a universal human institution. Across the world and throughout history, it’s been exclusively male-female.”

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Well, actually, that’s not true. Just as they used to say that there are no gay animals because no-one had bothered to check, so they say there’s no historical record of gay marriage because no-one’s doing their homework. The first recorded incidence of gay marriage goes back to the early days of the Roman Empire, but it almost certainly occurred throughout the ancient world, from China to America. It’s only our modern post-Christian bias that makes us think otherwise.

Just as we now find gay animals everywhere we look for them, so we find evidence of gay marriage wherever the historical record allows us to look, except where it has been outlawed by zealots. The Christian laws of the Theodosian Code of the fourth and fifth centuries AD give us perhaps the earliest known record of someone banning same-sex marriage, which had until that time been legal in the Roman Empire. It was the DOMA of Roma.

Then there’s the small matter of gay marriage having existed in the Netherlands since 2001, Belgium since 2003, Spain and Canada since 2005, South Africa since 2006, and Sweden and Norway since earlier this year. Those are all places in the world, and those are all years in history, so on that basis alone, even discounting more ancient records, I think we can say that marriage has not in fact been “exclusively male-female” across the world and throughout history, unless we’re also discounting recent history, in which case there has never been an internet.

But, Katherine, do please carry on.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts,” she claims. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children. The evidence is overwhelming: Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

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And here’s the rub. Actually, there’s quite a lot of rubbing going on here (and she rubs rather furiously), but in this one paragraph, Ms Kersten neatly encapsulates most of the myths of the ‘protect marriage’ argument into a bitesize nugget of bile. Let’s look at them one by one.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts”. I suppose this isn’t a lie so much as an evasion. You’ll note she says, ‘primary purpose’, so she’s cognizant of there being other purposes to marriage. She is perhaps aware that some people get married with no intention of rearing children, and that some people rear children without any intention of getting married. There can be no absolute presumption that all unmarried parents are creating a worse environment for their children than all married parents. (In fact, looked at statistically, the divorce rate for unmarried parents is nil!)

Marriage and childrearing are demonstrably separate concepts, so there is no need for a law to ‘protect’ the false presumption of an indivisible link between them. You might as plausibly argue for a law that says girls should not eat bread crusts because eating crusts puts hairs on your chest.

The advantage of marriage in childrearing comes not from the fact of marriage, but from the rights and benefits that the contract of marriage allows. If our concern is for the children, then those rights and benefits should of course be extended to children being raised by gay couples, so that they are not disadvantaged. Ms Kersten, won’t you please think of the children?

(Incidentally, the children of gay parents are also frequently born of male-female sexual acts, though I see no reason to treat children conceived artificially as second-class citizens.)

Next. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children.” I’m not sure, but I think the argument here is that, without marriage, all men are rapists. How does gay marriage undermine the need to shackle straight men to their wives? It doesn’t. If gays can get married, Ms Kersten, it will not make anyone’s husband more rapey.

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Sidenote: If marriage is a binding harness, an awful lot of marriages end in escapology.

And then: “Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

Children must have a mother and a father! If a boy is raised by two women, how will he learn to wire a plug? We all know lesbians can’t handle home maintenance! And if a girl is raised by two men, where will she learn to cook? It is established fact that you can’t trust a gay man with a soufflé!

No, I’ve got this backwards. If a boy is raised by two men, how will he learn to wire a plug? True fact: In gay households, all light is provided by candles, because when a fuse goes, gay men run around flapping their arms and squealing until finally fatigue overcomes them and they collapse into a heap of warm male sodomite flesh. In the morning, there is sunlight, and that’s when they go out and buy candles. The fuse is never replaced. Their children will never learn how to change a tyre, whittle a stick, or shoot a caribou, but they will know all the words to Don’t Rain On My Parade, and you will just die when you see what they’ve done to the guest bedroom.

Or, Ms Kersten got it wrong again, because she can hardly think with all those stereotypes swishing around in her head. Boys and girls flourish best when they are loved and supported by their parents, regardless of how many parents they have or what their sexual proclivities are. Fathers and mothers do not slot into pre-set roles, any more than their sons and daughters do. Anyone who tries to impose quota-based parenting models is concerned about tradition to the detriment of the children’s welfare and development.

As for the children’s ability to deal with the opposite sex (or with the same sex - we gays are mostly created from out of straight people’s bodies, you know), I think that can best be supported by parents who don’t impose outmoded sexual hang-ups on their kids.

Straight parenting ain’t all that anyway. Look how many messed up children it’s managed to produce so far! By the ‘one man, one woman’ standard, serial killers Fred and Rose West are exemplary parents. And it’s pure supposition on my part, but I really do think that Adolf Hitler would have turned out better if he’d been raised by Alois and Klaus instead of Alois and Klara.

child-pageantStraight parenting.

Our friend KK isn’t done yet. “Same-sex marriage would not — as advocates claim — merely extend the benefits of marriage to more people,” she says. That’s an interesting bit of perspective. From where she’s sitting, that’s a “merely”. When you don’t have those benefits, that’s not really a “merely”. That merely is sought rather dearly by those feeling queerly. The fact that same-sex marriage would extend additional benefits is kind of a big deal. It’s kind of the whole deal. You’d think so too, if you didn’t have those rights.

But, go on.

“It would gut marriage of its fundamental meaning and transform it from an institution centered on children and the mother/father nuclear family to one centered on adults. Marriage would become an artificial institution, bestowing state approval on any adult relationship based on affection and interdependence.”

I hate to have to go here, but; Ms Kersten, I do not think that word means what you think it means. Marriage is an artificial institution bestowing state approval on adult relationships based on affection and interdependence. That’s why marriages need to be validated by state officials.

Ms Kersten’s ‘fundamental’ definition of marriage is not the legal definition of marriage, and as such it should not be used to dictate the law on marriage. We do not decide property laws by reading the inside of a Monopoly box.

Ms Kersten continues; “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose, why restrict it to two people? Two lesbians and the sperm donor for their child, polygamists, bisexuals: All will want society to recognize and respect their relationships.”

Quite apart from the fact that she hasn’t grasped how bisexuality works (have the traditional marriage side really not worked out that their gay-proofed holy institution has already been infiltrated by the bisexuals?), and that she seems a little shaky on lesbianism as well (I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I think most lesbians would rather not have to see a sperm donor at breakfast every morning), this panicky paragraph shows Ms Kersten’s misapprehension in a nutshell. “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose”? If reproduction was ever fundamental to the institution of marriage, it isn’t now. She’s locking the stable door after the groom has bolted.

“And why should marriage be open only to people with a sexual relationship?” she adds. “That discriminates against two female friends who want to share the burdens of rearing their kids, or a disabled brother and sister who live together.”

Yes. Why should it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could allow those people in those situations to choose to enjoy certain legal benefits with each other? That Ms Kersten thinks we should respond to this suggestion with spluttering outrage shows us the sickly pallor of her soul. These ultra-liberal marriage laws she posits would allow people to help each other in difficult situations. We must nip this in the bud at once!

On she goes.

“It’s ironic that in other realms of life, Americans are very aware of the risks of tampering excessively with nature.”

dogwedding

Here we learn that Ms Kersten thinks that marriage grows on trees. Marriage is the vegetable lamb of Tartary, and it blossom with little three-tier cakes that imbue the eater with fidelity, parenting skills, and the ability to change a fuse. The problem, it seems, is that Ms Kersten genuinely believes that marriage and reproduction are interchangeable concepts. She must think all rabbits are Mormons.

Ms Kersten ends with a flourish. “We understand little about how marriage has undergirded the order and prosperity we take for granted. We tamper with marriage at our peril.”

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, except that I think it was lifted from a 1953 issue of Tales From The Crypt, and she’s put in the word ‘marriage’ where it used to say ‘the jewelled death mask of Chandragupta’.

Still, if marriage is so important in preventing the coming apocalypse, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have more of them? Even if the gay ones only count for, say, half a normal marriage, that’s still a net gain, isn’t it?

Here’s my counter-argument in favour of gay marriage. Marriage is a legal institution that confers special benefits that everyone is entitled to, and couples should be free to share those benefits as they see fit. Whether or not they intend to raise children is no-one’s business. Their religious beliefs are no-one’s business. Their sexual attitudes are no-one’s business. None of these things are a qualifying bar to marriage; they should not be treated as such, especially not for an isolated minority.

Ms Kersten; Ms Gallagher; Bishop Malone; President Obama;  There is no single model for marriage. If you insist that there is, and if you allow the people to vote out anyone who does not fit that model, then you are not protecting the institution of marriage; you are destroying it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this call to suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

A President, Like Any Other

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Barack Obama has never impressed on the subject of gay rights. He made a few encouraging promises, and it was refreshing to hear him mention gays and lesbians in his speeches, but despite claiming that he is a “fierce advocate” for gay rights, he has no record of substance, and on the campaign trail he made it clear that he supported civil unions rather than same-sex marriage - a separate-but-equal position that was shared by the opposition ticket. I think the widely held hope was that this was just politics; Obama was being cautious on the campaign trail, but he would show more social liberalism in office.

Then came the inauguration, and Obamas’ choice of Reverend Rick Warren - who had then only recently compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality - to lead the inaugural prayer. For many of us that choice rang alarm bells - how could the hope-and-change candidate be so tone deaf as to choose a bigot to represent him as the nation’s pastor? - but it was Obama’s first day on the job, and to ring that alarm bell too loudly was to be off-message. The gays would not be allowed to ruin this historic moment for everyone else.

The alarm bell should have sounded louder.

In January, press secretary Robert Gibbs gave a one-word answer to the question of whether Obama would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT); “Yes”. A couple of months later that seemed to become ‘maybe’ when the language on the White House website went from ‘repeal’ to ‘change’. In fact, Obama could have issued an executive order suspending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as soon as he entered office, putting all investigations on hold until the law could be repealed. He did not do so, even at a time when polls show two-thirds of conservatives, and a majority of churchgoers, now support gays serving in the military. That was the second alarm bell.

Here’s the third. On Friday, the US Department of Justice filed a brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in response to a case challenging the act’s constitutionality. DOMA states that, “No state … needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state”, and, “The federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states”.

There is some debate about whether or not the Department of Justice was obliged to defend DOMA at all, let alone insist that it was constitutional. Certainly, the last four presidents have all filed briefs in opposition to existing laws, in line with their policy platforms. Perhaps Obama doesn’t want to govern that way, and is determined to uphold existing laws until they can be overturned through the proper channels. Certainly that’s his official position on why he hasn’t ended DADT. In contrast to his predecessor, he’s apparently working to limit the executive power of the president.

But even if Obama felt that the DoJ had to defend DOMA, the language of the brief is erroneous, disingenuous, and gratuitously offensive. It echoes Michael Steele’s disgraceful notion that withholding rights is good because it saves the government money, even though gay Americans pay the same taxes as everyone else. It implies that limiting marriage rights to heterosexual couples is necessary to protect ‘traditional’ marriage.

It dredges up the old bigot’s saw that says gays already have the same rights as everyone else - to marry someone of the opposite sex. It argues that homosexuals should not be deemed a minority class deserving of special protection from the courts. It goes so far as to undermine the arguments that helped end restrictions on interracial marriage. Perhaps most damaging of all, it enshrines the view that same-sex marriage cannot be considered a fundamental right. Then, for good measure, it equates same-sex marriage to incest and statutory rape.

This is the Obama position. This is the position of the ‘change’ administration. These are all familiar arguments that we expect to hear from bigots opposed to gay equality, but coming from Barack Obama, this is devastating.

As with DADT, Obama initially pledged that he would repeal DOMA, which he called “abhorrent”, but as with DADT, that pledge disappeared from his website in May. With this brief, Obama has now made the legal landscape of the United States more hostile to gay rights. He is working backwards. Far from being a fierce advocate, Obama now appears to be a threat to gay rights.

There is still time for this to change. There is still time for Obama to keep all of his promises to the gay community. What there is not, any longer, is hope that he will. Now the presumption for anyone who supports gay equality is that Obama is the opposition, and he will have to be fought against rather than worked with. Obama has no empathy for gay rights. It turns out that what he said on the campaign trail was just politics, but he wasn’t hiding his social liberalism; he was masking his social conservatism. On the civil rights issue of our age, Barack Obama is our villain.

Barack Obama Doesn’t Care About Gay People

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Dan Choi is one of my new favourite people. A first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader with the New York National Guard, Choi recently came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show. Choi is a founder and spokesman for Knights Out, an organisation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender US military academy alumni dedicated to fighting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he knew that by coming out on TV - by ‘telling’ - he would risk getting kicked out of the military.

Last week he got the letter telling him this was exactly what was happening. By saying he was gay, he had engaged in ‘homosexual behaviour’ and would be dismissed from service. Dan Choi went back on the Maddow show to say how outraged and offended he was. But of course, he expected it. And I suspect he wanted it. I think Dan Choi is attempting a very deliberate and courageous gambit; he is making himself the public face of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debacle.

Choi is a West Point graduate, an infantry officer, an Iraq veteran and an Arabic linguist. He is proud and keen to serve. He was already out to the men and women he served alongside, to no detriment to ‘unit cohesion’ (the bogus bogeyman that provides the sole justification for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). He’s being drummed out of the military for the weakest, silliest of reasons; because of something he said. Because of something he said about himself.

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There’s no scandal here. He did not behave in a disgraceful way. He did not do anything inappropriate or sexual while serving. Dan Choi is a dedicated serviceman. He is intelligent, eloquent and informed, and he has skills that are of tremendous value to the US military. He is being forced out of the military because he said, “I am gay”. That places the issue front and centre, with the perfect spokesman at its fore. No-one could look at a man like Dan Choi and seriously believe that the US military is better off without him than it is with him.

I hope that Dan Choi’s case will force the Obama administration to take action. It’s a shame that the Obama administration needs to be forced, but it’s increasingly evident that it does. Barack Obama is not living up to his claim that he is a “fierce advocate” for gay rights. He has done nothing about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, nothing about the Defense of Marriage Act, nothing about the Matthew Shepard act; he hasn’t made any attempt to repeal bans on gay adoption or to expand health-care benefits to same-sex couples, and he’s been conspicuously quiet on the advances in marriage equality in Iowa, Vermont and Maine. Obama’s single greatest contribution to the most pressing civil rights issue of his day has been to invite homophobic pastor Rick Warren to lead the nation in prayer at his inauguration.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about gay people. The impression that I get is that his position on gay rights is entirely political, not personal; he talks the talk to stay on-side with his core constituency, but he does not have any empathy for, or interest in, gay rights.

I don’t think he’s homophobic - not at all - but I do think that he’s ignorant, blinkered and tin-eared when it comes to this topic. I suspect that, like a lot of otherwise liberal people, he does not really grasp the extent to which gays still feel maligned and marginalised, and he does not see gay equality as belonging in the same league as racial equality or gender equality - despite that inconvenient word, ‘equality’.

It does not escape my notice that Barack Obama has had a lot on his plate during his first four months in office, and the standard defence offered of Obama’s inaction is that he has two wars and a financial crisis to deal with; gay rights are not - and should not be - a priority.

Nonsense. The Obama administration can do more than one thing at once, and civil rights ought always to be a priority. Civil rights are not something you wait to address when it’s convenient. The world does not wait, and minorities should not be asked to wait. On the contrary; at a time when people are worried about real issues, like keeping their job or keeping their house, they don’t have the luxury to indulge themselves in reactionary fights against things that have no actual bearing on their lives. We are at the flashpoint now. The time to act is now.

It would take a stroke of the pen. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can only be overturned by Congress, but the President can suspend all investigations and prosecutions by executive order while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is reviewed, and that would effectively put an end to it. At a time of war, the president can stop the American military from haemorrhaging people like Dan Choi who want to serve, with a stroke of his pen.

Obama has not made this minimal effort. He has not found the time for it.

Before he left office, George W Bush took steps to lift the ban on people with HIV entering the United States. It was one of the only good things he ever did. In his rush to undo all of Bush’s farewell gestures, Obama undid this one as well. He kept the travel ban in place, and he did it with a stroke of his pen. He found the time for that.

When elected, Barack Obama made a pledge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now the language from the Obama administration is about ‘changing’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not repealing it. The word from his national security adviser, General James Jones, is, “I don’t know” if the administation will overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Not only is Obama doing nothing; he’s backpedalling.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about gay people.

Hopefully people like Lieutenant Dan Choi can make him care.