Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The latest on the same-sex marriage front

This just in from Maine:

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine's governor signed a freshly passed bill Wednesday approving gay marriage, making it the fifth state to approve the practice and moving New England closer to allowing it throughout the region.
New Hampshire legislators were also poised to send a gay marriage bill to their governor, who hasn't indicated whether he'll sign it. If he does, Rhode Island would be the region's sole holdout.
The Maine Senate voted 21-13, with one absent, for a bill that authorizes marriage between any two people rather than between one man and one woman, as state law currently allows. The House had passed the bill Tuesday.
Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who hadn't previously indicated how he would handle the bill, signed it shortly afterward. In the past, he said he opposed gay marriage but supported civil unions, which provide many benefits of marriage.
Debate was brief. Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, turned the gavel over to an openly gay member, Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, to preside over the final vote.
Republican Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden argued that the bill was being passed “at the expense of the people of faith.”
“You are making a decision that is not well-founded,” warned Plowman.
But Senate Majority Leader Philip Bartlett II said the bill does not compel religious institutions to recognize gay marriage.
“We respect religious liberties. ... This is long overdue,” said Bartlett, D-Gorham.
Maine is now the fourth state in New England, to allow same-sex marriages. Connecticut enacted a bill after being ordered to allow gay marriages by the courts, and Vermont passed a bill over the governor’s veto.
New Hampshire’s House was also expected to vote on a bill Wednesday and send it to Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.
Massachusetts’ high court has ordered the state to recognize gay marriages. In Rhode Island, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been introduced but is not expected to pass this year.
Outside New England, Iowa is recognizing gay marriages on court orders. The practice was briefly legal in California before voters banned it.

The interesting quote here, for me, is from Sen. Plowman, who said the bill was being passed "at the expense of the people of faith." However, the new law does not require churches to perform gay marriages or to recognize them, and it doesn't require Sen. Plowman to like it. The two statements most often offered in opposition to gay marriage are: 1. It's wrong (under some religious belief system) or 2. How do I explain to my children why their friend has two mothers? To the first objection, I would say, we should not be basing our laws on any particular religious belief system. Who is to say that one church's beliefs are better than another's? And there are some churches that are very welcoming and accepting of gay people. As to the second objection, try something like this: "Honey, God created many different kinds of people. It's not for us to judge them just because they are different from us." Or maybe, "The main thing is that Bobby's parents love one another." Trying to shield a child from the fact that gay people exist or that they are married is just idiotic, and it's going to prove fruitless, because someday all people, whatever their sexual orientation, will have equal access to marriage rights. And if you're still convinced that being gay is a choice, you're either in deep denial of reality or you need help matching socks. I'm still waiting for a good explanation from a gay-marriage opponent as to how allowing gay folks to marry hurts them or their own marriage. I'm all ears.

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Blogger Ellipses said...

My wife and I are drifting apart... emotionally, sexually, psychologically...

And it's all Sulu's fault...

May 6, 2009 at 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nate Silver, the polling analyst who runs the Web site thinks that most states will end up legalizing gay marriage by 2016. And some poll or another came out last week that showed 49 percent support it and 46 percent oppose, so opposition seems to be crumbling pretty rapidly.

--Brad Hundt

May 6, 2009 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

And within that opposition, there are supporters of civil unions, ie, people who don't see a reason why gay people can't share health insurance, get their partner's property in the event of death, pay taxes at the same rate as married straight people, and make end of life decisions...

They are, in effect, FOR the concept and the benefits that come with the concept... but they have a hangup on terminology...

Once factored out, the ones absolutely against are... well... probably the same 21% that identifies as "republican" :-)

That was a cheap, partisan sucker punch, and I apologize for it.

May 6, 2009 at 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's pretty ironic to me that puritanical New England is at the forefront here.

May 6, 2009 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Amanda Gillooly said...

Uh oh. First we let them marry, and then they'll be replacing the the Pledge of Allegiance with homosexual brainwashing. There goes the neighborhood.

May 6, 2009 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Didn't you know? Hollywood is placing subliminal messages in TV shows and movies that are turning people gay.

May 6, 2009 at 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, Brant, I'll bite.

There are good arguments against the redefinition of marriage, and bad ones. Among the bad ones are the "yuck" factor - people who are opposed not out of principle, but because they find homosexuals themselves somehow alien(this disappears quickly with exposure, explaining, I think, the rapid poll swing that Brad mentioned); and theological objections (I'm a Christian, but I can't expect the state to enforce particular points of doctrine).

There are, however, at least three good, reasonable, non-theological (or at least not specifically theological) arguments.

The first is the religious liberty argument. I'm not paranoid. I know that no one will force churches to perform or accept same-sex marriages. But experience elsewhere - Canada, even a few US states - suggests that individuals can be punished for refusing to participate. A Muslim photographer, for example, might be sued for discrimination for refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding. Already, a Methodist association in New Jersey has been sued for refusing to allow same-sex weddings on a private beach that it owns. So it's a real concern.

The second compelling argument is the "slippery slope". I don't doubt that supporters of same-sex marriage are sincere when they say they're opposed to polygamy, consensual incest, etc. I agree that, morally speaking, those things are utterly different. But the legal reasoning behind same-sex marriage, particularly the court-imposed variety, is easily co-opted, and already has been, by splinter-group Mormon polygamists. You may not like the definition of marriage that's been foundational in European and American society for two thousand years, but it does guard against certain excesses.

The third good argument (and the one that I find most compelling)is what you might call the "conservation" principle. In short, marriage as traditionally defined has been the foundational unit of western society for thousands of years. Everything else is built upon it. Shouldn't one be very, very careful about monkeying with it?

Someone will object that we already have monkeyed with it, a lot, and that adultery, divorce, etc. pose a greater threat. And in all honesty, I agree. No-fault divorce laws have proven disastrous. (Poverty in this country is largely a factor of broken families - divorce, absent fathers, etc.) But that actually supports my thesis. If a modest change to the divorce laws reaped long-term, unintended consequences (which weren't appreciated for twenty years or more after the fact), why would we expect the wholesale redefinition of marriage to turn out well? Shouldn't we at least acknowledge that there are potential problems?

It would be nice if the 49 percent supposedly in support of same-sex marriage would acknowledge that the other 46 percent might - just might - be motivated by something other than naked theocratic bigotry. In any case, you did ask...

-Andy Scott

May 6, 2009 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but people monkey with marriage all the time. Adultery, polygamy, multiple serial monogamy. If marriage can survive marriage between heteros, I have no doubt that it will survive a "challenge" by a vastly smaller number of gays. We'll keep churning out kids until the government figures a way to tax birth.

May 6, 2009 at 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant and I have been round and round on this issue, along with the other member of PFLAG, -ellipses.

Homosexuality is a mental disease, so why are we giving mentally ill individuals extra privileges and extra rights?

May 6, 2009 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger {cher} said...

i do hope the mentally ill statement was a joke, because if that's the case, i'd love to hear your explanation of those born with both sex organs. i think i'd find it quite comical.

as far as i'm concerned, any loving relationship should be allowed the right to have a union. whether it's gay marriage, poly, because the only fear people have is the fear that their own kids might actually grow up and have a mind of their own.

May 7, 2009 at 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Homosexuality is a mental disease? What about the inability to remain faithful to your husband or wife? Or subscribing to Internet porn sites? But, even accepting the premise that gayosity is a head thing, what makes you think we don't already afford special prvileges to the mentally ill in other cases?

May 7, 2009 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Our dear friend Phony likes to delude himself into thinking that allowing a gay man to marry another gay man is a "special" right...

I know that this is quite redundant, and some of you may have heard the argument before... but for those of you who are new... here you go...

We have a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms... yet, some people choose not to own guns. This is not viewed as a "special" right for people who like guns... it's a right that everyone has and is free to exercise.

Allowing marriage between people of the same sex is not a "special" right just for gay people... Once adopted, Phony and I would then be permitted to run off and get hitched at some quaint little spot in the Lowcountry... Now, whether or not we would choose to exercise that right is something altogether different... but the right... essentially, would apply to everyone... whether you took advantage of it or not.

May 7, 2009 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Brant said...


Thanks for your input. It's always good to hear from a practitioner of the "dark arts." I'm kidding. For those who don't know Andy, he's a Presbyterian minister who was once a pretty fair reporter at the O-R. That said, I have to disagree with your post (I'm sure you knew that was coming).
On the first argument, I'd say that we're a nation addicted to litigation, but I think most of the cases that arise will be tossed out as being without merit. But even if they aren't, fear of legal entanglements is not a good excuse to deny people equal rights. Frankly, I don't think too many people are going to go where they're not wanted or try to deal with people who don't like them. There are plenty of places, including some forward-thinking churches, where gay people will be welcomed. I think they'll choose that route rather than try to be married someplace like Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church.
As for the "slippery slope" argument, if a majority favors it and the courts uphold it, something like polygamy could be made legal. Is that likely? No. It's a red-herring argument that is similar, though not to the extreme, of Slick Rick Santorum's linking of gay sex to "man-on-dog" relations. We're talking about two consenting adults being allowed to marry one another. We already allow consenting men and women to do so. It's just a different combination, not a departure from one-on-one, adult-to-adult unions. Also, people are born gay. They are not born with a bent toward polygamy, sex with children or an unhealthy attraction to golden retrievers. The first of those is really a lifestyle choice (a phrase favored by the gay marriage opponents). The second two are the result of mental illnesses. Some also argue that allowing gay marriage runs counter to the need for procreation to keep our society growing. Well, the world population already has grown beyond our capacity to handle it. We need more people who are not having children, and gay couples might be interested in adopting some of the children who really need parents.
On the third issue, I'm trying to think of even one way that allowing homosexuals to wed threatens the sacred institution of marriage, and I can't come up with one. Opponents always talk about an attack on traditional marriage, but they're invariably vague about what the damage actually would be. What are these potential problems you speak of? If marriage is a "traditional unit" of our society, then by allowing gay people to marry, we would seem to be adding to that foundation, just in another form. It's not as if an outlawing of gay marriage would suddenly compel millions of gay people to become heterosexual and form "traditional" families. They're already living together, raising children, working, paying taxes, serving in public office, volunteering in their communities and doing everything else that you and I do. They just want the same rights and benefits.
To me, this is a civil rights issue and a moral issue. I cannot, in good conscience, support denying someone else the rights that I enjoy just because their sexual orientation is different from mine. And without the right to marry, there are very tangible benefits that are being denied to gay folks. As I've said before, this argument will go on and on, but the end result is inevitable. Just as black people finally became equal under the laws of our country, so will gay people. It's just a matter of how long it takes.
Again, I appreciate your comments, and I hope you'll be a regular visitor on a variety of issues. It's always good to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

May 7, 2009 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Why is Polygamy illegal?

May 7, 2009 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Yeah, I'd say that if a man is that much of a glutton for punishment, go for it. ;-)

May 7, 2009 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

LoL :-)

It just seems like all of the things that are posited as reasons to have polygamy illegal are already covered by other laws...

Welfare fraud
Tax fraud
Child abuse

It's like a few years ago... when the state wanted to enact a special law that made it illegal to use a corner parking lot as a way to bypass the intersection... on the basis that if you drove recklessly through the parking lot, you could hurt someone... and the point was made that we already have reckless driving laws and if you drive through a parking lot like a jackass, you can be cited for it already.

I just don't see the sense... if my wife and I wanted to, we could move 3 or 4 more women into our house with us... it wouldn't be legit to jesus, but the same function would be served...

May 7, 2009 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polygamy has a problem in the divorce side of a marriage. If 3 women and one man are married and one leaves the relationship, how are the goods divided? What if the woman are all married to the man and he wants out of one or all? it is the most incredible of slippery slopes.

May 8, 2009 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Problems when it ends? I thought marriage was forever! :-)

May 8, 2009 at 6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree that if marriage itself and all its associated problems hasn't destroyed the "institution," a few -- or even a few million -- gay marriages isn't going to hurt it. Just because two men or two women are permitted to marry isn't going to make a billion heteros "go gay all of a sudden", as Cary Grant says in the movie "Bringing up Baby." Divorce hasn't killed marriage. Adultery hasn't killed marriage. Premarital sex hasn't killed marriage. Wife beating hasn't killed marriage. Having kids hasn't killed marriage, although if anything could, that'd get my vote. The "dissolution of the family unit" hasn't been caused by gay marriage or, for that matter, any of the above. Marry away, gays. If nothing else, you'll give marriage counselors new business.

May 8, 2009 at 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the hetero marriages haven't turned me straight yet. I'd like to thank all of the heterosexuals above and everywhere who will allow my kind to marry. Where can I send your wedding invitation? As others seem to think...we gays sure know how to throw a party! Open bar!

May 8, 2009 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Who doesn't love weddings (mostly the receptions)? Send my invite to 122 South Main St., Washington, PA 15301.

May 8, 2009 at 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for the "slippery slope" argument, if a majority favors it and the courts uphold it, something like polygamy could be made legal. Is that likely? No."

Brant, your retort to Andy nearly had me in your corner until you got to this point. Polygamy being legal is the next logical step in this process. On what basis do you think the courts could refuse? Because it goes against the traditional values of society? Gee, isn't that what same-sex marriage does? Or do you think you can open the barn door just so far?

This is the same type of argument made when atheism was gaining a politcal foothold in this country. Just take prayer out of school, the pacifiers said then, and these crazies will go away. Now, we have them winning court battles to remove religious artifacts from government buildings to preserve the separation of church and state.

How can lawsuits against churches who refuse to perform same-sex marriages not be right down the road?

Allowing same-sex marriage destroys not only the traditional standard of marriage but opens it to any interpretation. To believe that you can regulate that is a really naive point of view.

May 10, 2009 at 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Allowing same-sex marriage destroys not only the traditional standard of marriage but opens it to any interpretation. To believe that you can regulate that is a really naive point of view."

This is not a compelling argument. Why will you not let me get married?

May 10, 2009 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

The reason polygamy is unlikely is because it is unlikely to gain much popular support...

But if it DID gain popular support... what would be the reason NOT to allow polygamy?

May 10, 2009 at 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Popular support is not necessary for allowing polgymists to marry; legal support is.

Why NOT allow polygamists to marry? Geez, maybe because the majority of religions labels it as a sin before God.

But if you don't like the regligious angle, here's another: Allowing polygamists and homosexuals to marry will eventually lead to other members from the darker side of our society to seek inclusion, including man-boy love, consensual incestuous relationships, etc.

May 11, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

There are plenty of things that are legal that "most religions" consider a sin before god...

I'm an atheist... does my marriage count?

That slippery slope argument is tired... if you check the record, society has been in constant decline since... well... since the first generation after the first generation. Even Plato wrote something to the effect that "kids these days are crazy... with their iPods and their rap music. Fiddlesticks!" And yet, the Man-Boy love thing was much more commonplace in Plato's time than it is now...

And back to the sin before god thing... That seems to change a bit over time, doesn't it? For a big chunk of our time at the top of the food chain, multiple wives was the status quo... still is, amongst some of the world's religions...

But hey, if you don't want to marry another person of the same sex... or if you don't want to have multiple spouses... don't.

May 11, 2009 at 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does your marriage count? In a legal sense, yes, if your papers are in order. :)

Millions of people believe in God and take the word of the bible literally, including its definition of marriage.

I used to have this discussion with my friend, who is an atheist, about what would happen if all the major religious leaders came out tomorrow and told us this had all been a long-running joke and that God does not exist. When you die, that's it. You're dead.

Among the questions I asked him is, Would you remain faithful to you wife, if you were sure you could get away with the infidelity, and not fear any retribution from a God?

Many live their lives in fear of God's retribution to breaking the laws of the bible. In a way, it helps keep order in society.

But that topic might be better left for another day.

May 11, 2009 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

How do you make the determination as to which God you trust? There's a whole bunch of them out there, you know...

And to answer your question... YES. I would remain faithful to my wife... I am faithful to her now, not because I am afraid of some mythical being in the sky... I don't go around burning down buildings or killing old ladies, either... again, not because of some fear of eternity in hell.

Gay people are gay... they are going to be gay whether they can get married or not... so, by your reasoning, they are going to hell whether they marry or not... just like I am, apparently.

Why not at least give them some equality and happiness on earth? I mean, I have a better go at it as a heterosexual atheist than a homosexual Christian does...

May 11, 2009 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I don't really think all that many people in the Western world live their lives in fear of God's retribution. If they behave themselves solely on the grounds that their God might smite them, that's pretty sad. I really want no part of a religion that features a God who says, "Believe in me, or you'll be tortured like nobody's business for all eternity." I'll pass on that.

May 11, 2009 at 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think gays are going to hell. I don't think anyone can judge that.

We make decisions based on the losses we would incur. If you burned houses and killed old ladies, you would lose your freedom by going to jail. If you cheated on your wife and she found out, you would lose your relationship with her.

But if you believe that a god, any god, demands you to live by certain rules, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not commit adultery, etc., you are less likely to commit those sins for fear of losing a spot in heaven.

That's the point I was trying to make with religion. And I don't think it's the fear that a god will smite them but rather an exclusion from heaven that motivates us to live a better life on earth.

May 11, 2009 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

And my point is that I have no such fear, and yet... I am a freakin' saint compared to a LOT of people with calluses on their knees

May 11, 2009 at 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't the same book in the bible that chastises homosexuals also chastise eating shrimp and wearing clothes made of mixed fabrics. I swear I read that somewhere and laughed so hard I almost coughed up my shrimp scampi all over my "other" mom's poly-blend dress.

May 11, 2009 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

True, it is. Thanks for the laugh. When you point that out, the people who take the Bible literally, as if every word were fact, take great pains to tell you that they have moved on from the Old Testament and live their lives by the New Testament. But the New Testament has only a few verses that even mention homosexuality, and there are no quotes from Jesus condemning it. I think a lot of people just use the Bible as cover for their own deep-seated antipathy toward gay people. For more on that subject, I recommend this from the Westar Institute:

May 12, 2009 at 6:58 AM  
Anonymous nomen nescio said...

The bible was also used to justify racism. I don't really buy the claim that a belief in or fear of God keeps us from doing harm to one another considering that some of the worst crimes against humanity were committed in the name of God. I don't cheat on my wife because I love and respect her, not because I'm afraid of retribution from God.

I think all this talk about a loss of values in this country is nothing more than politicians and entertainers exploiting our beliefs their own gain. It's easy to manipulate the facts to make people think they're losing rights. For example, contrary to what some politicians want you to believe, the Constitution does not prohibit prayer in public schools. The rights of a student to pray before an exam, to pray at the beginning of the day and to pray before eating their pizza burger are protected by the constitution. It also protects their rights to form religious student groups. The only thing prohibited is teacher-led prayer, and religious groups organized by the school district or administrator. Again, this is only for public schools. Parochial schools are permitted to do as they see fit.

A secular government protects the rights of every person to practice his or her religion without government intrusion, not the opposite. That was the intention of the Founding Fathers, not to have a Christian Theocracy.

May 12, 2009 at 7:54 AM  

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