Thursday, February 26, 2015

How same sex marriage will change straight marriages

An ally writes, after a pro-equality rally in a non-marriage state,
As someone who was born straight, marriage was always just laid out in front of me, ripe for the taking whenever I wanted, and even (theoretically only, honey!) as many times as I wanted to. It was never something I had to fight for, to dream about, to yearn for. The people in that room Saturday night treat marriage like a priceless treasure. That doesn't mean they don't have bad days or months or years, or don't fight over who is doing bedtime, but it is one hell of a good reminder for every marriage.

So you LGBT advocates can stop saying that same-sex marriage won't affect my marriage, because it will. In fact, it has already made my own marriage better.

Thanks, you guys.
You're welcome.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Marriage opportunity: fighting the marriage gap

Writing in the Washington Monthly, Jonathan Rauch, David Blankenhorn (former equality opponent) and others argue that the marriage crisis in the US is not due to same sex marriages but due to the class limits.  Marriage is doing fine in better-off demographics, but is not doing well in poorer communities. And yet, marriage is an agent of stability and well-being, and kids really DO do better with stable, two parent families. (Sexuality is not the issue).

They argue,
Many advocates of strengthening the family, for many years, have praised the two-parent married family as a touchstone of America’s economic and moral vitality. So it is, but where marriage advocates may often have gone wrong in the past was to imply that those who could not or did not conform to the standard template—gays, single mothers, and others—were opponents rather than potential recruits. In fact, what the same-sex marriage movement shows is that gay and lesbian Americans did not want to undermine marriage: they wanted to join it.

Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the same is true of many single mothers and fathers: they are not rejecting family values so much as feeling rejected by them, or at least unable to sustain them. No doubt, there are people out there who purposefully reject social norms like marriage and parental responsibility. But they are not the typical case or the case to which public policy should primarily address itself. The constructive focus is on the many more who would like to practice family values, if only they had the social, cultural, and economic capital to do so.

This is why we stress marriage opportunity. Changing minds and hearts has much value, but as a social-policy goal, removing impediments to success is more achievable and less polarizing. More important, improving opportunity has been, arguably, the great unifying American idea since before the days of the Declaration of Independence. Speaking of marriage opportunity is as natural in American public conversation as speaking of social opportunity and economic opportunity. It is a goal Americans can broadly agree on.
 and gay couples are a big part of this.
Establishing marriage opportunity for gays and lesbians is an important dimension of expanding marriage opportunity in America—not only for gay and lesbian couples, but, as we’ve tried to suggest, also for the nation as a whole. Supporting gay couples who seek to form lasting unions, gay parents who seek to raise successful children, and gay young people who aspire to a future in marriage—this is part and parcel of reestablishing a culture of marriage. And it brings society that much closer to ending forever the conflict between gay rights and family values: that is, to being a society in which all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or social class, can aspire to a rich family life and a lasting marriage in a supportive community. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

A reminder: no arguments are new

Although we've covered this ground before, it's worth remembering that the arguments made against same sex marriage equality are very like those made against inter-racial marriage.

I mean, doesn't this sound familiar?
First, there's the "slippery slope" idea, which says that if we allow gay marriage, we have to allow all kinds of stuff. ..... But the argument was made by R. D. McIlwaine III, then Virginia's assistant attorney general, in Loving v. the State of Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that overturned miscegenation laws:
It is clear from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems then those of the intermarried and that the state's prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.
Then there's the "think of the children" line, which says that kids raised by two parents of the opposite sex are better off than those who aren't. ..... McIlwaine made that case too:
Now if the state has an interest in marriage, if it has an interest in maximizing the number of stable marriages and in protecting the progeny of interracial marriages from these problems, then clearly. there is scientific evidence available that is so. It is not infrequent that the children of intermarried parents are referred to not merely as the children of intermarried parents but as the 'victims' of intermarried parents and as the 'martyrs' of intermarried parents.
And of course, other arguments are also familiar from the anti-miscegenation laws.
1) First, judges claimed that marriage belonged under the control of the states rather than the federal government. 
2) Second, they began to define and label all interracial relationships (even longstanding, deeply committed ones) as illicit sex rather than marriage. 
3) Third, they insisted that interracial marriage was contrary to God's will, and 
4) Fourth, they declared, over and over again, that interracial marriage was somehow "unnatural." 
On this fourth point--the supposed "unnaturality" of interracial marriage--judges formed a virtual chorus. .... 
The fifth, and final, argument judges would use to justify miscegenation law was undoubtedly the most important; it used these claims that interracial marriage was unnatural and immoral to find a way around the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection under the laws." How did judges do this? They insisted that because miscegenation laws punished both the black and white partners to an interracial marriage, they affected blacks and whites "equally." ....During the late 19th century, this judicial consensus laid the basis for an ominous expansion in the number, range, and severity of miscegenation laws. In Southern states, lawmakers enacted new and tougher laws forbidding interracial marriages. Seven states put miscegenation provisions in their state constitutions as well as in their regular law codes, and most raised criminal penalties to felony level.
The arc of history is indeed long. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Coming Home in China (video Sunday)

Powerful short film on coming home as gay in China. As you may know, we just celebrated Chinese New year and in China, a significant part of the holiday is going home to be with family.

Friday, February 20, 2015

One couple marries in Texas

 Ken Paxton, the newly elected Republican Attorney General for the State of Texas, has just filed a motion with the State Supreme Court to officially declare a same-sex marriage performed at the direction of a county judge null and void. Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend married in front of the Travis County courthouse Thursday morning, after one county judge struck down the Texas same-sex marriage ban, and after another county judge ordered a county clerk to issue the license.
Goodfriend is battling ovarian cancer, leading the judge to grant the order.

No sooner had the couple, together over 30 years, been legally married, than AG Paxton announced the marriage was "void." Later, he announced he was "seeking to void the marriage license issued due to the erroneous judicial order."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New poll: 63% approve of marriage equality

From CNN:
63% of Americans say that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and have their marriages recognized by the law as valid. That's up from 49% in August 2010. Over that time, the share who see marriage as a constitutional right has climbed 15 points among Republicans to 42% and 19 points among Democrats to 75%.
What a difference a decade makes!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Unexpected results in a new poll

The polls, in fact, show that about half of likely GOP caucus and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina said they find opposition to gay marriage either "mostly" or "totally" unacceptable in a candidate. Fifty-two percent of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina said opposing gay marriage is either mostly or totally unacceptable, while 47 percent of likely Iowa caucus voters agree.
Possibly because the likely GOP voters in IA, NH, and SC can include non-Republicans?  Still, it's amusing to think that the GOP candidates will have to figure out how to thread this needle.
You also have to wonder just how much of a deal-breaker gay marriage support is. The poll asked about opposition to gay marriage -- not support -- so it's a little harder to suss out just how many people would vote against a candidate who supports gay marriage. We're guessing it's still more of a voting issue for those who oppose gay marriage than those who support it -- at least on the GOP side. (For what it's worth, though, between 25 and 31 percent of likely GOP voters in each state say opposing gay marriage is "totally unacceptable" -- a number that is on-par with all of these other issues.)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's going on in Alabama?

There's chaos in Alabama .  A Federal District Court Judge found their marriage ban unconstitutional.  Both the 11th circuit court of appeals, and the Supreme Court, refused to provide a stay.  However, there is some ambiguity how this decision, addressed to help a particular pair of couples, is now a proxy for the entire state.

Virulently anti-gay religious conservative Roy Moore (Chief of the state supreme court) demands that the probate judges who provide marriage licenses refuse those Godless homos. But a thoughtful piece in the NY Times blames this particular conflict on an unwillingness of the 11th circuit to do its job.

First, a review of what's happened elsewhere:
In some states, like Pennsylvania, the governor decided not to appeal, and gay marriage became legal more or less by default. In other states, like Wisconsin, an appeals court (in this case, the Seventh Circuit) stopped a district-court order from going into effect and then issued its own decision making gay marriage legal. This is a more orderly process. In fact, the Seventh Circuit stayed its own order pending Supreme Court review; only after the Supreme Court turned down an appeal in Wisconsin did marriage licenses start getting issued there in October. That meant there was no question about their legal validity. The same was true in states where gay marriage arrived via legislation, voter referendum, a federal appeals court or a state supreme court ruling based on the state constitution. In all those scenarios, no question lingers about what the law is or who is in charge.
Okay, when federal courts at the upper levels rule, that becomes binding.  So why is this different? In Alabama, the federal district court judge Granade
...struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage on Jan. 23 with a 14-day stay, to allow the state time to appeal. The 11th Circuit refused to step in and stop her order from going into effect.

“Maybe the 11th Circuit said, We might as well let marriage go through because we all know that’s how this will come out in the end,” Wasserman said. After all, the Supreme Court let many other judges legalize gay marriage without intervening, and then in January agreed to hear an appeal from the sole federal appeals court that has upheld gay marriage bans. The 11th Circuit could be forgiven for assuming that most of the justices aren’t with Roy Moore on the merits here.

The problem is that this kind of anticipatory thinking practically invites the kind of chaos we’ve seen this week. Because this time, unlike in Utah, the Supreme Court refused to stay the district court’s order too. .... The court is creating, or allowing lower courts to create, facts on the ground that favor one side in the gay-marriage case it has agreed to hear. There’s no constitutional rule that requires the Supreme Court to go along with the rising number of states that have legalized same-sex marriage. But the momentum starts to seem inexorable. And to the extent the Supreme Court is encouraging this, it’s not really a good thing, because courts aren’t supposed to tip their hands in advance of ruling. The definition of justice, after all, includes giving the parties a fair and open-minded hearing.


Wasserman couldn’t think of a precise historical parallel to the weird stand-off in Alabama, and neither can I. But it’s not fair to say that Roy Moore is acting like George Wallace. When Alabama’s segregationist governor blocked the entrance of the University of Alabama in 1963, in defiance of court-ordered integration, he was standing in the way of the Supreme Court and its desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education nine years earlier — as well as a federal injunction ordering the university to admit two black students. In that case, the Supreme Court absolutely had the power to tell Alabama what to do, because it is the Supreme Court. But Judge Granade is not. And so far, at least, her order doesn’t even clearly apply to all of Alabama’s (understandably confused) probate judges. If that changes — a hearing has been set to sort this out — then they’ll know for sure it’s time to start signing marriage licenses.

In the meantime, you might even argue that Moore has done the country a favor, by making us think about the various methods for changing the law, and which are better — or at least more orderly — than others.
Only about 30% of the counties in AL are providing licenses.  Suits are now being brought in  to enforce this decision.  Argument in the Supreme Court on marriage equality nationwide are scheduled for April with a decision expected in June.

Meanwhile, the KKK has come out in support of Roy Moore.  Nice bedfellows.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Voices of Faith: A shift in biblical paradigm

Click image for more
Voices of Faith
David Gushee is a prominent Evangelical who is now LGBT-affirming.  In an interview, he says
Christianity has a toxic fragment of tradition that needs to be abandoned like previous toxic fragments have been abandoned such as anti-Semitism. This toxic fragment of tradition is really hurting people, every day. It is hurting young people, children, kids coming out at the age of thirteen. It has to stop. A shift in biblical paradigm is not just mandatory, it’s doable. There are many people working for that shift and I hope to contribute to that.

I also want LGBT people to hear me say I’m sorry for the things that I wrote in the past. I didn’t get it. I hear from some people who have read some of the things I’ve said in the past on this. My writings on LGBT people were superficial and inadequate treatment. So I’m sorry, I want to stand in solidarity. I want the voices of those who are directly affected to be heard. As an ally, I hope to be heard by those who would dismiss those who are young, LGBT, or both. Hoping to provide some cover for more of those voices to be heard. I am dedicating myself to this cause — I’m all in on this.

Monday, February 9, 2015


The Supreme Court denied a stay in Alabama so that the decision stands, and marriages are to begin today.  Proudly anti-gay judge Roy Moore is calling on the state to defy the federal courts.  There's a history of that in Alabama, as Memeographs reminds us.

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Gay rights aren't human rights"

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith earlier this week announced gay rights are not human rights. "I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and I do not construe homosexual rights as human rights," Smith said. He also suggested that the Obama administration’s "views on LGBT rights affected or hindered our support for Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram."


Heightening the impact of his anti-gay statement is that Rep. Smith is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, and made his comments at a meeting of that subcommittee, which is a part of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Smith is from New Jersey.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Segregation now, segregation forever

You may recall that the Southern States did not take kindly to the Supreme Court's civil rights decisions.  They barred the schoolhouse door to prevent integration.  They fervantly promised that segregation would live on.  They contested the supremacy of the Federal Constitution over their own laws.

And, here in 2015, they are doing the same thing.  The NY Times
Republican state legislators in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have introduced bills this year that would prohibit state or local government employees from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, despite federal court rulings declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in those states and questions about the constitutionality of the proposed state laws. The bills would also strip the salaries of employees who issued the licenses.
Political figures including Mike Huckabee are actively calling for  states to refuse to recognize the Federal Courts' decisions.

But history tells us they haven't a leg to stand on. Back in 1958, Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus claimed that he was not bound by Brown v. Board of Education. He sent the National Guard into Little Rock to block school integration.  From THe Atlantic:
The Little Rock dispute brought federal troops to Central High. It led to the landmark opinion in Cooper v. Aaron, the only one in history signed by all nine Justices, which proclaimed that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution,” and that Brown “is the supreme law of the land.” All state officials, the Court noted, take an oath to support the federal Constitution. “No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can war against the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it.”
So, in response to the efforts to nullify marriage equality,
The answer to this argument is the same today as it was in sovereignty shucking or jurisdictional jiving will, in the long run, prevail. If the Supreme Court, as seems likely, finds that same-sex couples have an equal right to marry, those who stand in the courthouse doors will certainly lose, and possibly pay.
But regardless there is a cost:
Huckabee and Moore, like Faubus, will take their place as laughingstocks of history. But that is not to say that they can do no damage; many of history’s villains masked malign intent with a touch of the clown. Faubus’ intractability led to riots in the streets of Little Rock; to beatings of reporters by a mob; to threats and trauma that would remain vivid for the nine black students for the rest of their lives. And if the high court strikes down same-sex marriage bans, clerks or legislators who invoke pretended power to ignore that decision will spread lasting damage and pain far more widely than they know. Official discrimination and hatred scar their victims, however bravely they press on to eventual victory. 
The Court can minimize that cost, by speaking clearly about the rights and dignity of LGBT people.  
Justice Kennedy’s three gay-rights opinions have been ground-breaking, but also opaque. He has consistently refused even to discuss whether sexual-orientation is more like race or red hair. Instead, he has insisted that each challenged provision was invalid no matter what level of “scrutiny” applies. 
The rumblings from the South give the Court notice that equivocation may encourage resistance. Now might be the time, with four other Justices at his back, for Kennedy to say forthrightly that when any agents of the state—legislators, judges, clerks—discriminate on this basis, they violate both the Constitution and their oath. 
This time, we can but hope that the trumpet the Court sounds will not be uncertain.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The secret history of same sex marriage.

If we conceive of marriage as the long-term, exclusive cohabitation and sexual union of two people, then, in the Christian west at least, few male couples would qualify before the dawn of the 20th century. In fact, for the last 400 years, the practice of same-sex marriage has been largely the preserve of women. 
To begin with, this was a secretive and punishable matter. In medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was often not even possible for two women to live together independently: households were supposed to be headed by men. Yet we know of a few 16th-century cases of women who disguised themselves as men and lived in marriage with other women. ....

Such cases were even more common in 18th-century England. In the early 1730s, when both were in their late teens, Mary East and her girlfriend decided to move to London and make a life together as husband and wife. Mary put on male clothes and turned herself into “James How”. The two of them became successful publicans and pillars of their East End community. Everyone presumed they were married. Over the years, James was elected to almost every parish office: s/he served as the foreman of juries, on the night watch, as overseer of the poor. For more than three decades, they kept their secret, and lived as a married couple. 

It is impossible to tell how many other female husbands lived undetected with their wives. Quick, secret marriages were easy to contract in London until the 1753 act: there was a busy trade in no-questions-asked ceremonies in taverns, brothels, prisons and chapels. On 15 December 1734, a Soho couple calling themselves John Mountford and Mary Cooper decided to get hitched. The first clergyman they approached refused to do it. “Suspected 2 women”, he wrote in his notebook. But they would easily have been able to find another priest. A few years later, a London minister performed the wedding of Elizabeth Huthall and John Smith, “a little, short, fair, thin man, not above 5 foot”. Afterwards, he wrote “my clerk judged they were both women”, but they left as a legally married couple. “After marriage I almost could prove them both women,” runs yet another laconic cleric’s note, “the one was dressed as a man.” That pair, too, departed happily married. (Bishops and legislators take note: same-sex marriages have already taken place within the Church of England.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Mormon Shell Game

Yesterday the headlines blared that the Mormons (or Latter Day Saints, LDS) had come out in support of non-discrimination rules for housing and employment for gay people.

Today, people are noticing the catch.  The so-called support comes with a large poison pill, the recurrent theme of "religious freedom".  That is, they want people who express religious objections to gay people, to still be free to discriminate.

Andrew Rosenthal: 
The Associated Press explained: “Mormon leaders still want to hire and fire workers based not only on religious beliefs, but also on behavior standards known as honor codes that require gays and lesbians to remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. The church also wants legal protections for religious objectors who work in government and health care, such as a physician who refuses to perform an abortion, or provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.”

Substitute the word “black” or “Jewish” or “Catholic” or, say, “Mormon” for LGBT in these statements, and everyone would be outraged.

Or, as Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT rights, put it: “All Americans should have the right to be employed, receive housing and services in environments free of discrimination. We await the day the church embraces that fully, without any exceptions or exemptions.”
Hobby Lobby, the gift that keeps on giving. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The latest in "unhinged"

The panic of the extreme right over marriage equality continues to bubble in ugly ways.  And Oklahoma appears to be the epicenter of The Crazy.

Item:  Oklahoma rep thinks marriage should be restricted to religious practitioners.
Under House Bill 1125, judges would no longer have the power to officiate at marriages and court clerks would not issue marriage licenses. The clerks' only responsibility would be to file the licenses that couples received through their officiating clergy member. Of course, clergy can grant licenses according to their own religious beliefs, which again leaves a lot of gay couples on the outside looking in.

Representative Russ, (photo right) however, has a solution for those who aren't religious or aren't able to receive religious approval.

"They don't have a spiritual basis for a marriage and don't want to have a clergy member or a priest or someone involved in the spiritual aspect, then they can file an affidavit of common-law marriage," Rep. Russ told reporters.

Item:  ever reliably anti-gay Oklahoma Rep Sally Kern has a trifecta of anti-gay bills.  In addition to outlawing taxpayer's money supporting gay marriage licenses, and legalizing ex-gay therapy, Rep Kern wants to specifically enable anti-gay discrimination:
House Bill 1597 would make it legal for businesses to flat-out refuse service to LGBT people:

No business entity shall be required to provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association.
Supermarket, hotel, paramedic, hospital:  you can all discriminate against Teh Gayz.  Leave 'em dying on the street, if you want.

This is reminiscent of the brief effort in Washington to pass a similar bill, at which a legislative staffer commented if a supermarket refuses to sell food to gay couples, they can just grow their own.

Animus, much?

Meanwhile, not in Oklahoma ,Ben Carson warns gays ominously that if they keep asking for wedding cakes, they might be poisoned.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Holding hands: Video Sunday

A straight guy sees what it's like to hold another man's hand in public.