Feelings, nothing more than feelings — the Prop. 8 trial in San Francisco

One of the things I’ve been watching is the trial attacking Prop. 8 in California.  As you know, in November 2008, California voters, by a solid majority, passed Prop. 8, which states affirmatively that, in California, marriage is between a man and a woman.  Two gay couples sued in federal court, alleging discriminatory intent.  To that end, the plaintiffs have been trying to prove, through discovery and through testimony, that the people who put the initiative on the ballot had discrimination in their hearts.  I’ve found these personal attacks bewildering, since it seems to me that what you really have to show is that the 54% (or so) of California voters who passed the initiative all had discrimination in their hearts.

Charles Winecoff has also been following the trial, and he’s very dismayed by the “feelings, nothing more than feelings” on display in the court room:

The curtain went up on Monday, January 11th.  Olson opened the show by declaring that “domestic partnership has nothing to do with love” – essentially admitting that the two couples are seeking legal recognition of their feelings. Then the complainants took to the stand to deliver a string of what even the Los Angeles Times called “emotional accounts,” proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that non-celebrities no longer need Oprah (or Jerry Springer) to validate their existence.

First, Jeffrey Zarrillo testified that ”the word marriage” would give him the ability “to partake in family gatherings, friends and work functions as a married individual standing beside my parents and my brother and his wife.  The pride that one feels when that happens.”  Does he mean that, like Michelle Obama and her country, he never before felt pride being with his partner?  In their nine years as a couple, did they never attend any of those events together?

If “the word” means so much, why not just call yourself married?

Similarly, when Olson asked Berkeley lesbian Kristen Perry why she was a plaintiff in the case, she replied, ”Because I want to marry Sandy [her partner, also of nine years]… I want the discrimination to end and a more joyful part of our life to begin…  The state isn’t letting me feel happy.  The state isn’t allowing me to feel my whole potential.”  Yet “the state” never prevented Perry and Stier from making a home together, or from raising four boys in that home.

Rule number one: make yourself happy.

What Winecoff might not know is that, in California, feelings matter — at a constitutional level.  Few people who aren’t lawyers (and even few lawyers) know that the California Constitution pretty much guarantees Californians happiness:

All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

Some people are rolling their eyes at this moment and saying, “Well, I have the same right under the federal Constitution.” Au contraire, my friends.  Our United States Constitution, wisely, says nothing whatsoever about happiness as a legal right.  Instead, the only mention of happiness in a seminal American document is the statement, in the non-binding Declaration of Independence, that all people have the right to pursue happiness:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That, in a nutshell, sums up the purpose and effect of individual freedom.  But it’s no guarantee that any given individual will be happy.

If you’ll cast your eye back up to the California Constitution, you’ll see something very different.  Strip away the extra verbiage, unrelated to happiness, and you get this promise to its citizens from the California government:

All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are . . . pursuing and obtaining . . . happiness . . . .

Live in the land of perpetual sunshine, and you are guaranteed the right, under the law, to obtain happiness.  If the state does something that makes you unhappy, well, the state had better remedy that problem.

Sadly, the California Constitution does not explain what it’s supposed to do when a given law brings happiness to some (for example, those who believe marriage is a male/female thing) and unhappiness to others (those who believe the word “marriage” is the only thing that can make their relationship a real one). I am reminded of a quotation, the source of which I can’t trace, to the effect that “The real tragedy is not the conflict of good with evil but of of good with good.”  As Dorothy L. Sayers says, in Gaudy Night, “that means a problem with no solution.”

Being punished for thought crimes in Oakland, California

A Mormon in Oakland who is seeking re-appointment to a city-run board is being turned away because he supported Prop. 8.  There’s no indication that he is homophobic.  Like me, he favors civil unions for gays, which would extend to them the full panoply of legal rights available under the law.  (I also favor civil unions for all couples, thinking that we should, once and for all, leave marriage to the marketplace of religions, and let the states figure out what unions they wants to promote for society’s overall benefit.)  For supporting marriage, Lorenzo Hoopes is being banned from civic participation on a matter entirely unrelated to redefining marriage in California:

A $26,000 contribution to the initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California appears to have cost a 96-year-old former Mormon temple president his seat on the board that oversees Oakland’s historic Paramount Theatre.

Amid rising criticism from the gay community, Mayor Ron Dellums said Tuesday that he was putting on hold the reappointment of Lorenzo Hoopes, most likely signaling an end to Hoopes’ 30-plus years on the Paramount board.

“The community is asking us to reconsider, and that is what we are going to do,” mayoral spokesman Paul Rose said.

Hoopes, a past president of the Mormon temple in Oakland as well as a former Safeway executive, has been on the Paramount board since before the downtown theater was restored in the early 1970s.

Even if Dellums had gone forward with Hoopes’ renomination, there was little chance the City Council would have approved it, council President Jane Brunner said.

“A lot of us don’t think that he represents our thinking in Oakland,” Brunner said.

Maybe, but from what we hear, some council members were nervous about even having to vote on the matter and were happy to see the mayor take them off the hook.

Mormon church members contributed an estimated $20 million to the Proposition 8 campaign. Hoopes, who supports civil unions for gays but not marriage, said his support for the 2008 initiative – and the contribution he made – was a personal matter.

“I don’t know if it’s fair or unfair,” Hoopes said of his imminent bouncing from the Paramount board. “I happen to think that they are wrong, but that’s just my opinion.”

Hoopes, as you can see, is handling the situation gracefully.

(Welcome, Linkiest readers!  Take a minute to look around, and see if there’s anything else you like here.)

Illegal immigrants, gay rights, gun safety, and other stuff *UPDATED*

This is a portmanteau post, filled with interesting things I read today, some of which come in neatly matched sets.

Opening today’s San Francisco Moronicle, the first thing I saw was that an illegal teen’s arrest is causing a stir in San Francisco’s halls of power.  You see, San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and its official policy is to refuse to allow police to notify the federal government when arrestees prove to be illegal immigrants.  As has happened before, one of those nice legal illegal immigrants is, in fact, a cold-blooded murderer.  This particular 15 year old is accused of having held the two victims in place so that his compadres c0uld execute them.  The hoo-ha is happening because someone in City government, disgusted by the legal travesty that encourages people like this to make themselves free of our cities and our country, reported the kid to the INS, which is now on the case.  The liberals in the City ask “How dare a San Francisco employee help enforce federal immigration law?” My question, of course, is a little different:  “Why doesn’t the fed withdraw every single penny of funding from sanctuary cities?”  After all, I was raised to believe that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

As you’re thinking about the above travesty of law and justice (and the two dead kids executed in San Francisco), take a few minutes to read this American Thinker article about California’s self-immolation, a Democratic autodestruct sequence driven, in part, by the state’s embrace of illegal immigrants.  Illegal immigrants place a huge economic burden on California’s already over-taxed individuals and businesses.

The next Moronicle article that drew my eye was about the ongoing Prop. 8 trial taking place in San Francisco.  As you recall, Prop. 8 reflected the will of California voters, who wanted to affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Prop. 8′s opponents are trying to prove that voters had impure thoughts when they cast their ballots, making the entire proposition an illegal exercise of unconstitutional prejudice.  Prop. 8 backers are arguing that you can support traditional marriage (as President Obama has claimed to do), without harboring bad thoughts about the GLBT community.

As you think about the ramifications of that lawsuit, I’d like to introduce you to Chai R. Feldblum, who is President Obama’s nominee to the EEOC.  She has a law professor at Georgetown, who really thinks that people’s brains should be purged of evil thoughts, especially evil religious thoughts:

Chai Feldblum, the Georgetown University law professor nominated by President Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has written that society should “not tolerate” any “private beliefs,” including religious beliefs, that may negatively affect homosexual “equality.”

[snip]

“Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people,” the Georgetown law professor argued.

Feldblum’s admittedly “radical” view is based on what she sees as a “zero-sum game” between religious freedom and the homosexual agenda, where “a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side.”

“For those who believe that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is not morally neutral, and that an individual who acts on his or her homosexual orientation is acting in a sinful or harmful manner (to himself or herself and to others), it is problematic when the government passes a law that gives such individuals equal access to all societal institutions,” Feldblum wrote.

“Conversely, for those who believe that any sexual orientation, including a homosexual or bisexual orientation, is morally neutral, and that an individual who acts on his or her homosexual or bisexual orientation acts in an honest and good manner, it is problematic when the government fails to pass laws providing equality to such individuals.”

Feldblum argues that in order for “gay rights” to triumph in this “zero-sum game,” the constitutional rights of all Americans should be placed on a “spectrum” so they can be balanced against legitimate government duties.

All beliefs should be equal, regardless of their source, Feldblum says. “A belief derived from a religious faith should be accorded no more weight—and no less weight—than a belief derived from a non-religious source.” According to Feldman, the source of a person’s belief – be it God, spiritual energy, or the five senses – “has no relevance.”

[snip]

Feldblum does recognize that elements of the homosexual agenda may infringe on Americans’ religious liberties. However, Feldblum argues that society should “come down on the side” of homosexual equality at the expense of religious liberty. Because the conflict between the two is “irreconcilable,” religious liberty — which she also calls “belief liberty” — must be placed second to the “identity liberty” of homosexuals.

“And, in making the decision in this zero sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people,” she wrote.

I don’t think Harry Truman would have understood or appreciated Feldblum’s effort to quash religious freedom in the U.S.  He was someone who was able to separate his acts from his prejudices in all the right ways.  As I like to tell my children, he was a racist who integrated the American military; and an anti-Semite who helped create the State of Israel.

I believe all people should be treated equally under the law.  I do not believe, though, that this means that religions should be wiped out, or that Americans should be subject to the thought-police so that their impure ideology is brought in line with the identity politics of the left.  I believe most Americans are capable of being Harry Truman:  that is, they can recognize that their own personal prejudices against a lifestyle, a skin color or a religion, cannot be elevated to legal doctrine.  One of my problems with Islamists is that they’re no Harry Trumans.  They want to do away with the rule of law and, instead, substitute their 6th Century desert theocratic code.

Moving on, at this weekend’s soccer games, the other moms and I were speaking about a gal who is quite possibly the worst teacher in middle school.  She’s a lousy teacher, which is bad enough, but one can layer over that the fact that she is vindictive, mean-spirited and lazy.  Everyone I know has vociferously complained about her to the school administration.  And yet there is is.  She’s too young to have tenure, so I asked, rhetorically, why don’t they just fire her?  One mom’s answer told everything we need to know:  “The union makes it impossible to fire people.”

At least one union leader, at least, is trying to make it so that the American Federation of Teachers is less of a tyrannical dictatorship holding children as hostage, and more of an institution aimed at helping to educate children.  I don’t think Randi Weingarten is going to turn unions around, nor will she much change my opinion of unions.  Historically, I think unions were necessary and important.  In certain low-wage, low-skill, low-education fields (meat packing springs to mind), I still think they’re potentially useful.  Overall, though, I have a deep dislike for unions that goes back to my dad’s years as a member of the various teachers’ unions controlling California public schools.  The unions did minimal work helping to raise my Dad’s wage (he earned $21,000 annually in 1987, the year he retired), but were excellent at (1) kick-backs to administrators, who got great wages; (2) beginning what became the profound devaluation in the quality of California’s education; and (3) making sure that bad, insane and malevolent teachers were impossible fire.

Other unionized businesses are just as bad.  Hospital worker unions make a certain amount of sense.  The 24 hour a day nature of a hospital makes it easy to abuse nurses and other care givers.  However, when I was a young college student who got a summer job in the virology lab (an interesting time, since AIDS was first appearing on the radar as a series of bizarre diseases in gay men), I took over for a secretary who was leaving on maternity leave.  Although a secretary, she was unionized too, which explained why, despite disposing of old sandwiches in her file cabinet, and being incapable of getting her researcher bosses to the medical publishers (a primary part of her job description), she could not be fired.  This was not for want of trying.  It was simply that the unions had made it impossible to fire people like her.  They’d also made it impossible to fire people like the nurse I had many years later who, the first night after I’d had major abdominal surgery, refused to give me any painkillers and isolated me from any other caregivers.  Apparently I had said something that offended her.  Sadly, this was not her first time playing this kind of sadistic game.  But there she was, thanks to the unions.

On a more cheerful note, guns don’t kill people, guns rescue people from sinking cars.

And lastly, Steve Schippert highly recommends today’s Daily Briefing at Threats Watch, so I do too.

UPDATE:  Please visit A Conservative Lesbian for a thoughtful take on the nexus between religious belief and gay rights.  No knee jerk liberalism here; instead, a good analysis about religious freedom and minority rights.

The march of the thought police

You remember Prop. 8, don’t you?  That was the successful California ballot initiative that said that, in America, marriage is between a man and a woman.  Immediately after November 4, gay rights activists sued.  So far, the courts are being helpful.  A court in the Northern District of California just ordered the Prop. 8 backers to turn over all their documents so that the gay rights activists can see whether there’s any anti-gay basis in the documents:

A federal judge said sponsors of California’s ban on same-sex marriage may not delay in handing over campaign strategy documents to gay-rights groups that are looking for evidence of anti gay bias as they try to overturn the measure.

The sponsors had sought to keep the documents while challenging the order to turn them over in an appeals court.

But in a ruling late Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco said backers of Proposition 8 had failed to show that disclosing internal memos and e-mails would violate their freedom of speech or subject them to harassment.

He said they had refused to identify any documents that needed special protection and noted that he could order their opponents to keep any sensitive material confidential.

“It simply does not appear likely that (Prop. 8′s) proponents will prevail on the merits of their appeal,” Walker said.

He said he doubts that a federal appeals court even has jurisdiction to consider the dispute at this early stage of the case.

[snip]

The measure’s sponsors, a conservative religious coalition called Protect Marriage, said voters were entitled to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage and that the organizers’ alleged motives were irrelevant.

I suspect that every document will be redolent of anti-gay bias.  After all, if one takes the stand, as the activists do, that it’s anti-gay to want to limit marriage to the western tradition of one man and one woman, every document that strategizes about ways to encourage traditional marriage is, by definition, homophobic.

If you’d like a glimpse into what happens when the government seeks to control, not only what we do but what we think, this story out of Britain gives you the answer:

After witnessing a gay pride march, committed Christian Pauline Howe wrote to the council to complain that the event had been allowed to go ahead.

But instead of a simple acknowledgement, she received a letter warning her she might be guilty of a hate crime and that the matter had been passed to police.

Two officers later turned up at the frightened grandmother’s home and lectured her about her choice of words before telling her she would not be prosecuted.
Mrs Howe, 67, whose husband Peter is understood to be a Baptist minister, yesterday spoke of her shock at the visit and accused police of ‘ wasting resources’ on her case rather than fighting crime.

‘I’ve never been in any kind of trouble before so I was stunned to have two police officers knocking at my door,’ she said.

‘Their presence in my home made me feel threatened. It was a very unpleasant experience.

‘The officers told me that my letter was thought to be an intention of hate but I was expressing views as a Christian.’

Interestingly, even a gay rights group in Britain is worried that the government is going too far (which echoes an earlier report I found in which a Muslim rights group also protested the government’s heavy-handedness):

And homosexual equality pressure group Stonewall has branded the authorities’ response ‘ disproportionate’.

All of this is a reminder that, once government takes over “rights,” the whole concept of rights basically vanishes.  Government control and “rights” are pretty much antithetical to each other.

Orwell was amazingly prescient. For so long it seemed silly that he’d set his nightmare story of complete totalitarianism in Britain which was then, despite a Labour government, one of the freer countries in the world. He must have glimpsed something in his nation’s character.

(This story of the White House inveigling kids to a fair and then giving them heavy-handed lectures about diet somehow fits in perfectly with the above theme, doesn’t it?  H/t:  Sadie.)

Roe v Wade a warning about Supreme Court involvement in gay marriage

Whether you are for or against gay marriage, Robert George issues a sound warning about the dangers that flow from letting the Supreme Court get its hands on the issue:

It would be disastrous for the justices to do so [rule against California's Prop. 8 and, by extension, make gay marriage the law of the land]. They would repeat the error in Roe v. Wade: namely, trying to remove a morally charged policy issue from the forums of democratic deliberation and resolve it according to their personal lights.

Even many supporters of legal abortion now consider Roe a mistake. Lacking any basis in the text, logic or original understanding of the Constitution, the decision became a symbol of the judicial usurpation of authority vested in the people and their representatives. It sent the message that judges need not be impartial umpires—as both John Roberts and Sonia Sotomayor say they should be—but that judges can impose their policy preferences under the pretext of enforcing constitutional guarantees.

By short-circuiting the democratic process, Roe inflamed the culture war that has divided our nation and polarized our politics. Abortion, which the Court purported to settle in 1973, remains the most unsettled issue in American politics—and the most unsettling. Another Roe would deepen the culture war and prolong it indefinitely.

Obama is now citable legal authority

Traditionally, in arguing cases to the court, there have been a very limited number of available types of legal authority:  cases, statutes, administrative rules, and law review articles (with the last being advisory only) have pretty much made up the universe of things the court needs to consider.  In this Age of Obama, though, there’s a new authority:  Obama himself.  Yup.  In an anti-Prop 8 lawsuit, the plaintiffs are citing an Obama speech as legal authority (emphasis mine):

An attorney for the couple said he will argue that the administration is on the wrong side of the case, in light of Obama’s latest comments.

“I’m not sure who the attorneys for the United States are representing,” attorney Richard Gilbert said.

Pressed by gay-rights groups to live up to his campaign promise to be a “fierce advocate” of equality for gays and lesbians, Obama denounced the 1996 law Wednesday while announcing limited benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

“Unfortunately, my administration is not authorized by existing federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples,” the president said. “That’s why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

“It’s discriminatory, it interferes with states’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it,” Obama said.

Obama also criticized the law as a presidential candidate. But as president, he was speaking with more authority - and his statement that the law was discriminatory appeared to contradict what his Justice Department argued only six days earlier in Smelt and Hammer’s case.

Now, one can certainly quote Obama’s statement as part of the argument section in a legal brief, but it’s apparent that the suing couple want to cite him as law.  Even the Chron, though, is not so sure, as it cites two law professors who point out that, as far as the workings of the court go, Obama just doesn’t rank with a statute or case precedent:

Two law professors had a different view, saying Obama’s statements were noteworthy but probably had no legal effect.

“I would say Obama was speaking in a nonlegal manner … more policy oriented,” said Vikram Amar of UC Davis. He said the president may have used “discriminatory” as a term of moral condemnation, while the Justice Department used a narrower legal definition to argue that the law did not violate anyone’s rights.

In a way, though, this lawsuit illustrates something kind of sad, which is the way in which supporters of gay marriage are trying to dig their idol’s feet out of the clay.

What I see when I read my “real me” facebook page (where a lot of my old friends are either gay or gay-friendly), is that many gays feel betrayed by Obama’s stance on gay marriage.  They’re unimpressed by his speeches about his own feelings on gay marriage, since his own government is actively continuing the Bush era policies.  Now that he’s president, Obama, despite setting up straw men left and right to maintain himself in the magisterial middle, is finding it hard to be all things to all people.

Carrie Prejean: Not a hypocrite

As one of the weapons in its arsenal against Carrie Prejean, the attack media has dug up the fact that both her parents, during their obviously rancorous divorce, hurled charges at the other regarding homosexuality, and now another paper alleges that Prejean’s mother walked away from a lesbian affair.  No magazine has yet claimed that Prejean herself has been involved in a lesbian affair.  The implication of all these reports, of course, is that Prejean, with her background, is a gross hypocrite for daring to state politely that she favored traditional marriage.

Aside from the fact that Prejean is (so far as we know) not herself a lesbian nor is she married, so she cannot be deemed a hypocrite for preventing others from living a life she herself enjoys, there is nothing hypocritical about gays supporting civil unions without supporting the cultural sea change of gay marriage.  There is nothing inherently hypocritical in being gay, or having friends who are gay, but still have a reasoned, principle opposition to changing the age-old, religiously charged institution of male/female marriage.

The inevitable result of identity politics

Identity politics turns people into one dimensional characters, who must act out a set script.  If you’re black or Hispanic, you must be a Democrat, even if you oppose abortion, take a jaundiced view of gay marriage, and want school choice.  If you’re a woman, you must support equal pay for comparable work, even if that will destroy the economy and dramatically lessen the total number of jobs available.  If you’re a white male, you must be the epitome of all things regressive and evil.  Oh, and if you’re gay, you cannot be a principled conservative and must, instead, be humiliated and destroyed:

California GOP Rep. David Dreier and a number of other politicians are the unwilling stars of a controversial new documentary with an explosive premise – it’s time to blow open the closet door on prominent politicians who have hidden their homosexuality while actively working against gay causes.

The film “Outrage,” which opens today at the Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, presents interviews and documentation charging that a number of prominent legislators – including Dreier, the U.S. representative from San Dimas (Los Angeles County), GOPFlorida Gov. Charlie Crist and former Democratic New York Mayor Ed Koch – have remained closeted while publicly opposing legislation on issues such as same-sex marriage, HIV/AIDS funding, and gays in the military.

Liberals frequently confuse their compulsive need to typecast with hypocrisy.  Let me set the record straight.  Hypocrisy means to advocate one course of conduct or belief for others (usually with a sacrifice to them), while espousing another for yourself (usually to your benefit).

Thus, it’s hypocrisy when Al Gore goes around demanding that we all drive in cars made out of tissue paper, and live in houses that are freezing cold in winter and furnace hot in summer, all the time driving himself in a safe and comfortable SUV, and living in a series of energy-hog mansions.  It’s hypocrisy when Michael Moore demands that we all divest from Halliburton, but invests in it himself.  It’s out and out lying when Bill Clinton says “I did not have sex with that woman” or John Edwards assures the American people he never had an affair.

It is neither hypocrisy or lying, however, when gay men and women have a principled opposition to same-sex marriage, HIV/AIDS funding or gays in the military.  These same gay people, after all, are not being accused of sneaking off to Holland to get married, while denying those rights to American gays; of funneling money to those of their friends ill with HIV/AIDS while denying it to others; or whatever would be hypocritical behavior with regard to gays in the military.

Without any hypocrisy, it is perfectly possible to be gay, but believe that marriage is a specific institution unique to men and women.  You can hold to that position and still colorably demand full civil rights for gay unions that are then recognized nationwide.  Likewise, without hypocrisy, you can be gay, but recognize that cancer or heart disease or some other disease deserves equal access, not just to funding, but to fund raising.  And of course, you can be gay and believe that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a workable compromise that allows gays to serve in the military without offending the heterosexual sensibilities that currently prevail in “this man’s Army” — all without being a hypocrite who voices one view and acts upon another.

The film “Outrage,” however, typecasts gays, and denies them the right to examine issues through a lens other than their own sexuality.  I say this without knowing or caring whether the men and women named in the movie are actually gay.  What I care about, deeply, is the pressure the gay community imposes upon its members to abjure independent thought, and to march lockstep through a series of complicated and contentious issues.

For a community that, a mere 40 years ago, broke free of the shackles imposed against it, it’s a real tragedy that it now insists upon imposing similar shackles upon itself.

A mish-mash

It’s been an incoherent day, one that never gave me the opportunity for contemplation and writing.  Instead, I’ve been bopping here and there, and dealing with one thing and another.  Nevertheless, I have been tracking the news, so I thought I’d just write up a mish-mash of thoughts about current issues and events.

Gaza

The top issue/event, obviously, is Gaza.  By now you’ve all seen the hysterical headline about Israel having blown up a UN school, killing scores of civilians.  At the exact second I read the words “UN school,” I knew it wasn’t a school at all but was, instead, a weapons storage facility and a headquarters for fighters.  Why did I know this?  Because the UN in Gaza is completely complicit with Hamas.  In that part of the world, the two are one and the same entity.  I also knew that the school wasn’t really a school because Gaza intentionally places fighters and weapons around children precisely so that it garner this type of scare headline.  Michelle Malkin has a fact-filled post detailing all the many ways in which my instincts on this one were dead on the money.

Speaking of Hamas setting its children up as targets so that it can further vilify Israel in the eyes of the world, you really must read Ron Rosenbaum’s article explaining why, to the extent there are differences between Hamas and the Nazis, Hamas is infinitely worse.  As part of that line of thinking, it’s worth noting that even the Nazis weren’t willing to sacrifice their own children merely to score propaganda points.

As is always the case, everyone in the world outside of America is urging Israel to back down.  (In America, while Obama is ominously quiet, even Dirty Harry Reid has acknowledged Israel’s right to defend against the non-stop rocket attacks that have poured death and destruction on the land for years now.)  In the past, Israel has listened.  This time, I’m hoping against hope that she gives the world the middle finger and does what she has to do to defend herself.  I’ve never understood why Israel, rather like the pathetic nerdy kid in high school, keeps twisting herself into damaging contortions to satisfy people who will despise her regardless.  Eventually, the nerd just has to go it alone and the hell with the critics.

Incidentally, although the world doesn’t deserve good fortune, if Israel is wise enough to give it the finger, it may just get good fortune anyway — the good fortune in this case being that an Israeli victory against Hamas in Gaza is also an Israeli victory against the mad Mullahs in Iran.  As has been the case for decades now, Israel is our proxy, and we should be grateful that she’s putting her bodies on the line so we don’t have to.

And one last word on the subject:  Reader Lulu send me an email pointing out something interesting, which is that Hezbollah is doing nothing right now.  You’d think that this would be a perfect time for Hezbollah to force a two-front war on Israel.  That it’s not doing so might be a good indication that, all propaganda to the contrary, Israel may have inflicted serious damage on it back in 2006.  Iran can replace the arms, but maybe she can’t replace the men.

God

In England, the atheists have launched an ad campaign encouraging people to abandon religion so that they can be happy.  One of the brains behind this initiative is Ariane Sherine. She decided to launch the ad campaign because “she became angry after noticing a set of Christian advertisements carrying a website address which warned that people who reject God are condemned to spend all eternity to ‘torment in Hell.’”

I’m perfectly willing to admit that trying to scare people into religion may not be the smartest way to go about things.  I do find the ad campaign peculiar, though, because I was under the impression that polls show religious people are more happy, not less happy, than the average atheist (putting aside the fact that the average vocal atheist always seem to be a pretty darn angry person).

As you all know, I’m a big believer in the many virtues of religion, although not particularly religious myself.  Aside from liking the core moral aspects religion brings, I’ve also always appreciated (and envied) the way religion brings meaning to life.

In a religious world, man is not just a random collection of atoms, molecules, cells and organs, put on earth to procreate and scrabble for food until he dies.  Instead, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition with which I’m familiar, man’s life has meaning and purpose.  Whether God used evolution as his tool or instant creation, man exists in God’s image.  His corporeal body may not necessarily be the mirror image of God’s being, but he is in God’s image to the extent that his mind and spirit are attuned to justice and a higher purpose.  We’re not just meaningless bugs.  We are something special and our time on earth has meaning, whether we emphasize that in our own lives or not.

All of which is to say that it strikes me as mighty darn peculiar to advertise an absence of religion as the answer to the search for happiness.  You might as well say, “You’re a meaningless bug.  Get used to it.”

Tolerance

While the first wave of hysteria following the passage in California of Prop. 8 has finally died down, hard feelings continue.  A Catholic Church in San Francisco was covered with offensive graffiti, likening the church and its parishioners to Nazis. The beautiful irony of this story is that this particular church, located near the Castro district, has always been a welcoming place to gays.

Aside from the fact that vandals, by their very nature, can’t be expected to be intelligent (I guess), I find it strange that we live in a world in which hewing to unexceptional traditional values that span all cultures and all times is an invitation to vandalism.  As you know, I’d be perfectly happy to see the state get out of the marriage business, leaving that to religion, and instead get into the domestic partnership business, with an emphasis on encouraging stable behaviors that strengthen society.  Pending that unlikely situation, however, I can’t help but wonder if the gay marriage advocates realize that offending ordinary people who support ordinary values is not likely to advance their cause.

Living in an alternate reality *UPDATE*

I think I’m processing history wrong, and I need your help filling in the gaps.

As you know, Obama invited Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration (a much better choice, I might add, than Wright would have been).  Some in the gay community, however, are very upset, feeling that Warren’s support for California’s Prop. 8 means that his selection is a direct insult to the gay community.  Those are facts.

What confuses me is this statement from Kevin Nash of the Washington Blade (a publication by and about gays):

We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians.

I know that the Bush administration was not a particularly homophilic administration.  Mostly, it was a homo-ignore-it administration — at least, that’s what I always thought.  Naff speaks of “eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president….” and I don’t know what he’s talking about.  Again, while Bush preside over a political agenda that showered new rights on gays, I don’t recall anything emanating from the White House that was hostile to gays.

One could point to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but that was a Clinton era relic.  So too was the Defense of Marriage Act.  While gay marriage became a huge issue during the Bush administration, it was an issue at the state level, not the federal level.  What am I forgetting that would see Mr. Naff feel that Bush specifically was responsible for psychic or physical insults to gays?

I should add here that I’m not seeking any input from y’all about the virtues or demerits of the gay agenda, which is a debate for another day.  I’m just wondering if I’m missing anything that the President — not the State, not individual preachers or speakers, but the President himself — did that constituted assaults on gays’ “dignity and equality.”

Hat tip:  Brutally Honest

UPDATERight Wing News has more on the reactions emanating to the Left with regard to Obama’s choice.

This is where the gay marriage battle should be fought

The New York Times today has a headline story that a group of conservative Episcopalian bishops is breaking away from the mainstream church because of objections to the church’s stand on gay marriage:

Conservatives disaffected from the Episcopal Church are expected to declare on Wednesday that they are founding their own rival Anglican province in North America, the biggest challenge yet to the authority of the church in a five-year battle over the ordination of an openly gay bishop.

I am delighted by this story, not because I am siding with one Episcopalian tradition or another in this debate, but because I think it demonstrates perfectly where the battle over gay marriage should be fought — in religious organizations.  Because religion in America is a marketplace, the different denominations can battle the matter out and, if they cannot reach agreement, they can create splinter organizations reflecting doctrinal differences.  Parishioners will follow according to their beliefs.  That’s certainly what the Founders envisioned when they wrote a Constitution that disallows state involvement in religious affairs.

What we’ll eventually see are religious organizations that believe their source documents (the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran, etc.) authorize gay marriage, and therefore that sanction such marriages; religious organizations that believe those same source documents do not authorize gay marriage, and that therefore refuse to sanction such marriages; and religious organizations that recognize that the source documents do not countenance gay marriage, but nevertheless believe that their religion properly allows for the uniting of two loving hearts.

These last-mentioned organizations will create new traditions that are some sort of joining ceremony with a religious imprimatur.  People will then select their churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc. according to their clearly stated stance on gay marriage (amongst other doctrinal issues), which is the way in should be in a nation committed to freedom of religion.

As for the state, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it should get out of the “marriage” business altogether.  This does not mean that the state should not sanction partnerships.  It is to the state’s benefit to have people join in stable relationships and start families.  The state will therefore want to continue encouraging couples to join up in permanent relationships — and the encouragement resides in the financial incentives (tax benefits) and life conveniences (intestacy statutes, hospital visits, etc), that automatically flow from a state-recognized relationship.

The state should therefore continue to issue licenses, but these licenses should all be for “civil” unions.  After all, the state is a “civil” entity, and should not be going beyond those parameters.

Having this clear distinction between religiously sanctioned unions (of whatever nature the religion chooses) and state sanctioned unions (which have to provide concrete benefits to the state in terms of societal stability and population maintenance) should prevent entirely a couple of problems.  The first problem is attacks on religion.  A perfect example is the vicious attacks now being launched against the Mormon Church, which encouraged its members to put their money behind traditional marriage.

The second problem right now with the emphasis on changing state definitions of marriage, rather than religious definitions, is the risk that there will be direct challenges between church and state. A lawyer I know assured me that this couldn’t happen because, for example, the Catholic church does not get sued because it opposes abortion.  That was facile reasoning.  While abortions may be a civil right, the Catholic church does not provide abortions.  What the Catholic church provides is communion, which is not a civil right, so the church can withhold it at will.  What happens, though, when the church provides something which is both a core doctrinal belief (marriage) and a state right (marriage)?  It’s a head-on collision, and I can guarantee you that the courts will get involved and that some activist judge will state that the Catholic Church is constitutionally required to marry gay couples.

Do I see a “to hell with democracy” moment in California’s future? *UPDATED*

A few months ago, the California Supreme Court overruled the will of the California voters and announced that gay marriage was a fundamental right.  The voters responded by changing the California Constitution to state that, in California, marriage is between one man and one woman.  As you know, if it were up to me, I’d get the state out of the “marriage” business altogether, leaving it to religions, and limiting the state to civil unions.  Second best to that, though, is that marriage remain what it has been in Western culture for thousands of years:  a male/female thing.

What do you bet, though, that the California Supreme Court, smarting from the rebuff that the voters issued, will once again sweep aside the people’s will and announce that gay marriage is so fundamental a right that it cannot even be addressed through constitutional amendment:

California’s highest court has agreed to hear legal challenges to a new ban on gay marriage, but is refusing to allow gay couples to resume marrying until it rules.The California Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted three lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8. The amendment passed this month with 52 percent of the vote. The court did not elaborate on its decision.

All three cases claim the ban abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group. They argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change.

UPDATE: At Power Line, there’s a feeling that the anti-Prop. 8 party’s briefs are so awful that they don’t give the California Supreme Court a legal leg to stand on when it comes to declaring unconstitutional the California constitution.

A new direction for American conservatives

It’s time to end the post mortem and get moving, the only problem being that “getting moving” is proving to be as rancorous amongst conservatives as was the political cycle itself.  One of the schisms I’m seeing in my own blog is between pro-Life and pro- (or, at least, not anti-) abortion types.  That got me thinking about a potential way out of that, which was something that Danny Lemieux raised in an email:  libertarianism.

I have to say that, when I was growing up, the term libertarian had exactly the same meaning for me as “completely nuts in a creepy way.”  Ron Paul’s candidacy, which attracted an unseemly number of unpleasant people and ideas, didn’t help the whole concept of libertarianism.  In fact, though, libertarianism is probably about as good an answer as there is, whether your question is “How do we counter Obama’s statism?” or “How do we cause the disparate elements of conservatism to coalesce?”

If you want an excellent primer on core libertarian principles, you can’t do better than Charles Murray’s What It Means to Be a Libertarian.  In this short little book (almost a pamphlet, really), Murray spells out the fundamental libertarian concept, which is that maximum freedom means minimum government — and especially minimum federal government.

Contrary to big-government aficionados, who envision libertarianism as a sort of anarchic situation, akin to a perpetual Lord of the Flies world, Murray does not demand that government vanish.  Instead, as I’ve often said here (inspired, no doubt, by Murray’s book), he envisions government as an entity that doesn’t guarantee prosperity, but that clears the way for individuals to seek that prosperity.  When you think about this concept, you’ll quickly realize that it sounds familiar:  it echoes Jefferson’s formulation of a free society as one in which the government creates the circumstances under which citizens are guaranteed, not happiness, but the right to pursue happiness.

In this libertarian world, government continues to be responsible for national security; domestic safety (which includes police forces, fire fighters, and guidance and protection during epidemic and endemic diseases); transportation infrastructure; and the assurance that no single group is targeted for discrimination in any of the marketplaces that make up a functional country (business, housing, education, etc.).  As to that last, government would be charged with protecting citizens such as women and minorities from discrimination, but it would no longer use its brute force to give them a leg up in the marketplace.

Because the country is so large as to be unwieldy, we can also hand government a few more powers:  it can make and enforce clear, limited rules for the securities market, but it may not control the market;* it can provide a safety net for those temporarily down on their luck; and it can provide resources for people permanently incapable of taking care of themselves (such as the profoundly handicapped).

Once upon a time, I would have said that the government should also provide public school education, but I’m more inclined to say that the (state) government should use tax dollars to provide vouchers to parents who can then enter the marketplace in a search for the education of their choice.  In this marketplace, those vouchers may, in the first few years, be used for some pretty flaky and abhorrent schools.  However, the fact that most parents want their children to succeed in the world would mean that the flaky schools would quickly vanish from the marketplace as their graduates would likely not do well in market competition.  (And before you get upset about the poor guinea pig kids who are unlucky enough to have parents who make bad choices, think about the generations of children who have been condemned to the hell of poorly-performing public schools.)

There’s also an argument to be made for government to get out of the business of education altogether, but I can see that turning into a situation such as existed in the world before public education:  only affluent people got educated.  As a republic, I do believe we owe all of our children the right to a good education.  Since the government is proving increasingly inept at providing that education, however, I just think we should let the marketplace take over.

The libertarianism I envision would also bypass the gay marriage issue which is becoming every more ugly.  (And, really, do you think harassment and intimidation is really the way to win hearts and minds?)  I would get the government out of the “marriage” business entirely and make everything “civil unions.”

Owing to the fact that, up until the American experiment, religious and civil marriage were inextricably intertwined, we’ve ended up with a bastardized system that uses the word marriage, but that is really concerned with extending certain civil benefits to those formalized relationships of which the state approves.  These are relationships that, in gross (even if it is not true for every specific relationship) confer a benefit on the state.  The most obvious benefit, of course, is population stability through children.

In addition to these civil concerns, marriage continues to exist in a parallel world as a purely religious construct.  In Catholicism, for example, its part of core religious doctrine, and is, I understand, one of the seven sacraments.

If we continue to conflate religious marriage and civil unions, I can readily envision a situation in which a gay couple sues the Catholic church for refusing to conduct a marriage ceremony.  Someone I know said this will never happen, because the Catholic church isn’t sued for refusing to give communion to pro-abortion people.  This erroneous argument shows precisely the problem with conflating civil rights and religious doctrine.  While abortion is a right, the church isn’t in the business of giving abortions; and while the church is in the business of giving communion, communion isn’t a right.  However, the church is in the business of presiding over marriages and if you make civil “marriage” a right, even though you’re dealing with two entirely different concepts (a religious sacrament and a civil contract for tax and other benefits), you end up with a sued church.

In my libertarian world, the state would stop using the word marriage altogether and would allow people to register for civil unions.  These civil unions would confer on the participants all the benefits and burdens that the state feels would best encourage such unions.  And the state traditionally encourages these unions (1) because of children (every state needs citizens) and, due to those same children, (2) because of the stability those couples seek to create in order to protect those children both in the present and in the future.  Frankly, the civil unions would look pretty much like modern civil marriages, but we would have gotten the state disentangled from its hangover relationship with religious marriage.  We would also force the state to focus on societal goals in defining civil unions, which should allow us to bypass polygamy, polyamory and bestiality, all of which are tugging on the coat tails of “gay” marriage.

The approach I’ve outlined above also takes the federal government out of the abortion issue.  As a voter, you would not need to investigate a candidate’s stand on the abortion issue.  Instead, a solid conservative/libertarian citizen would simply vote for a candidate who would, in turn, appoint strict constructionist judges.  These judges, if they’re intellectually honest, would say, as should have been said in 1973, that abortion is not a Constitutional right and therefore not a federal matter.

Once abortion is returned to local jurisdictions, citizens will have much more control over the issue, with those who are pro-Choice gravitating to states that allow less fettered abortion and those who are pro-Life gathering in jurisdictions with more fettered abortion.  Time will tell which geographic areas are physically and emotionally healthier, more stable, more productive, more affluent, and generally more agreeable.

I realize that what I’m proposing is somewhat revolutionary, since it envisions dismantling large sectors of the federal government.  And indeed, after several years of unfettered Democratic rule, there will be even more sectors to dismantle.  Nevertheless, it’s a template that can bring the largest number of people into the conservative tent because it’s basic message is clear and attractive:  You need to give just enough money to the government so that it can provide a safe, stable, fair environment that takes care of its weakest members.  After that, all the choices are yours.

___________________________________

*As a lawyer who has had the misfortunate to do some securities work, I can tell you that the plethora of extraordinarily confusing and poorly written regulations (both state and federal) does little to protect the “widows and orphans,” but it does make lawyers rich, all the while keeping businesses from maximizing their profitability.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Three good reads today

Yesterday, my dear, sweet European mother confided to me that she was pleased Obama won, because he speaks so much better than Bush.  This jived completely with a bumpersticker I just saw:  “At last, complete sentences will come from the White House” (or something like that).  I was struck again by the faith the Left right has in verbal abilities.  I happen to be very good verbally myself.  Words come easily to me.  I like them.  I play with them.  But I never make the mistake of confusing them with intelligence, knowledge, common sense, courage, or moral decency.  Neither does Thomas Sowell.

And would it surprise you to learn that Dennis Prager has some practical, optimistic takes on Obama’s election?  As I did, he opposed Obama strongly during the election.  He’s now willing to count some of the blessings that flow from that election, and to adopt a wait-and-see attitude that evaluates Obama on what he actually does (such as reinstating offshore drilling bans!), rather than on what he might do.

Lastly, Steve Schippert has an impassioned post about the way in which the disappointed Left, deprived of gay marriage by a majority of California voters, is heading to the Courts as a way to undermine a true democratic process.  The Courts being what they are, they might win — in the Courts.  I have my doubts about whether voters are going to be happy to have their will undermined twice by a bunch of guys and gals in black robes.

Civil and religious marriage *UPDATED*

This is the second in my series of marriage posts.  My first draft, which was a failure, tried to trace the history of marriage, something that’s much better done by better informed people.  What I realized from that valiant, although pointless and time-wasting effort, is that what I’m really interested in is a religion’s interest in marriage, a state’s interest in marriage, and the intersection between those two in America.  This post may ultimately not end up being any more useful or interesting than my abandoned effort, but it still accurately represents some of the things I believe we need to think about before signing off on gay marriage.

Before I dive into the substance of my post, let me say here what I always say in connection with these gay marriage posts.  I think gay marriage represents a sea change in human relationships.  Since the dawn of time, in all cultures, marriage has involved men and women, and that’s true whether we’re talking polygamy or monogamy.  Even in Greece, a culture people like to point to as one that encouraged homosexual relationships, marriage itself was still strictly a male/female event.  This traditional approach to marriage reflects basic biology, something I explored more here, in my post about the procreative component of marriage.

In other words, what’s being proposed now is something that runs counter to all of human history — and a facet of human history deeply rooted in human biology.  That’s not in and of itself a good reason to issue a categorical “no” to gay marriage.  It is, however, a very good reason not to rush into the subject and definitely not to let judges, who are one of the weakest links analytically, intellectually and emotionally in modern society, to make the decision for us.  This is a topic that requires debate and thoughtful analysis, and I’m doing my bit here, at my blog.  So, back to the post:

Religion and marriage:

As far as I know — and please correct me if I’m wrong — all of the world’s major religions incorporate marriage as a component of faith.  The Catholic Church defines marriage as one of the sacraments.  For the uninitiated (and I count myself among that crowd), Wikipedia has what seems to me to be a nice summary of what the sacraments are:

According to the Catechism, Jesus instituted seven sacraments and entrusted them to the Church.[46] These are Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Sacraments are visible rituals which Catholics see as providing God’s grace to all those who receive them with the proper mindset or disposition (ex opere operato).

In other words, marriage, if it is at all possible to achieve that state, is an integral part of the Catholic faith.  Deliberately shunning marriage is, I presume, tantamount, to turning your back on God’s grace. Although I’m shaky on Protestant doctrine when it comes to marriages, I have the sense that, while Protestantism abandoned the terminology of the “sacraments,” it kept the concept, with marriage being an integral expression of religious faith.

Jews too see marriage as an essential act of faith, putting into effect both (1) God’s direct command that his followers are fruitful and multiply, and (2) God’s intention, expressed when he created Eve as Adam’s companion, that men and women form lasting companionable partnerships.

And as we all know Islam also strongly advocates the marital relationship.

A little research reveals that in Hinduism, too, marriage is a sacred religious covenant.  About.com has a brief summary, which I quote from here at length, since it leads to my next point about religion and marriage:

In Hinduism, man and woman represent the two halves of the divine body. There is no question of superiority or inferiority between them. However, it is a scientific fact that the emotional side is more developed in women. This does not mean that intellectually, women are inferior. Hindu history is witness to the super-women, like Gargi, Maitreyi and Sulabha, whose faculty of reasoning was far superior to that of ordinary mortals. But owing to organic differences in their physical and emotional constitutions, women are temperamentally more emotional than men.

[snip]

The idea behind the institution of marriage in Hinduism is to foster, not self-interest, but love for the entire family. Practice of self-restraint is the ideal of marriage in Hinduism. It is the love and duty cultivated for the entire family that prevents the break-ups.

[snip]

The present-day Hindu husbands fail to recognize the sacrifices and lofty ideals of Hindu wives, and thus compel them to follow the worst of the West. During the nuptial ceremony in a Vedic marriage, both the bride and the bridegroom take oath for the practice of self-restraint, to work together for the welfare of the family and to help each other to attain spiritual peace. This lofty ideal of sanctity is a great gift of Hinduism to the world at large.

As you probably noticed, the above description has all sorts of pragmatic reasons for marriage:  self-restraint, companionship, family and the complimentary nature of male and female emotional lives.  Judaism, too, has a focus on marriage that can be seen as very pragmatic, and untied to things spiritual:  children and companionship.  Indeed, I’m willing to bet that, if you go back in time and study the origin of marriage in each of the world’s religion, you’ll see that it’s tied to some practical goal.

At this point, of course, advocates for changing marriage start to argue that since marriage is a pragmatic means to an end even in the context of religion, religions should be changed to accommodate gay marriage, which is also a means to an end of companionship, family and (through adoption or insemination), children.  This argument is plain wrong, though.

Regardless of the reasons the religions advance for marriage, the fact remains that heterosexual marriage is an integral part of each religion, and is seen as a necessary step for any given religion’s practitioners to take to achieve religious fulfillment or commitment.  A civil society cannot change these fundamental doctrinal facts, no matter how much it is able to rationalize the reasons for the nexus between marriage and faith.  Any given religion’s control over the marriage of its practitioners is sacrosanct and untouchable no matter how much you try to rationalize it away.

The state and marriage:

The modern state encourages marriage.  Why?  Originally, states were inextricably intertwined with religion.  Starting with Constantine, where the ruler went, so went the people.  If religion demanded marriage, well then, dammit, so would the religious state.  That’s not the case anymore, especially in America.  Thanks to the First Amendment, the American government cannot mandate that everyone get married because “X” religion says so, nor can it demand that all who want to get married have to do so under the aegis of “X” religion.

Although there can be no religious element to marriage in American, the state is nevertheless heavily vested in the union of men and women.  This involvement is completely separate from religious unions, although, confusingly, they share the same name:  marriage.  The deal in America is that, if you want to have a solely religious marriage, that’s fine — only you won’t get any of the benefits the state extends to people who simultaneously enter in a civil marriage contract.  What are those benefits?  Here’s a partial list proponents of gay marriage assembled (from an alleged total of 1400 benefits), along with some comments from me, in blue:

  • joint parenting; [This is a biological one:  his sperm, her egg.  However, it can be circumvented by having the non-biological parent adopt the child, something that has happened in step-families for centuries]
  • joint adoption; [My understand of adoption is that both parents have to be vetted.  I assume there's an extra procedural hurdle to issue the adoption papers for John Smith and John Doe, as opposed to Mrs. and Mr. John and Jane Doe.  However, it certainly hasn't stopped numerous gay couples I know from adopting.  Adoption is always a procedural pain in the neck from the stories I've heard.]
  • joint foster care, custody, and visitation (including non-biological parents); [See above.]
  • status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions where one partner is too ill to be competent;  [This can be arranged contractually.]
  • joint insurance policies for home, auto and health;  [This can be arranged contractually.]
  • dissolution and divorce protections such as community property and child support; [This can be arranged contractually.]
  • immigration and residency for partners from other countries;  [I'll agree that this is definitely a difference between people married, versus people merely committed to each other.  Marriage would seem to add some credibility to the claim that the non-resident is involved in a true relationship with the American citizen, rather than a sham for immigration purposes.  Given that both our immigration policies and are marital policies are increasingly sham-like themselves, it's hard to believe that this is an insurmountable hurdle.]
  • inheritance automatically in the absence of a will; [Write a will.  Most married people I know have written wills anyway, because the "one size fits all" of an intestacy statute is a disaster waiting to happen.]
  • joint leases with automatic renewal rights in the event one partner dies or leaves the house or apartment;  [In San Francisco, landlord tenant laws are such that this is not a valid reason to claim marriage as a benefit over non-marriage.  Once you're in an apartment, you've got squatters rights, which is one of the reasons I refused to yield to my husband's importuning that we buy residential properties in SF to rent.  I don't know the law in places that don't protect tenants as much.  Again, though, change the contract.]
  • inheritance of jointly-owned real and personal property through the right of survivorship (which avoids the time and expense and taxes in probate); [Properties can be held in joint tenancy by non-married people.  This is again a contractual matter.  You can set up trusts, re-title property, etc.]
  • benefits such as annuities, pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare; [I have no idea about this, but suspect that it's true that federal government benefits cannot be amended by contract.]
  • spousal exemptions to property tax increases upon the death of one partner who is a co-owner of the home; [I don't know about this -- taxes are a blank slate for me -- but I assume that there are again contractual or commercial steps one can take to circumvent this problem.  I freely concede I may be wrong here.]
  • veterans’ discounts on medical care, education, and home loans; joint filing of tax returns;  [Joint filing of tax returns is no privilege, it's a penalty.  I don't know about veteran's benefits but, given that the military won't recognize homosexual relationships, I'm sure it's true.]
  • joint filing of customs claims when traveling; [BFD.]
  • wrongful death benefits for a surviving partner and children; [If you've adopted the children, I don't believe that they can be deprived of wrongful death benefits.  I don't know about the surviving partner, although I assume that, again, most business and insurance companies have set this up so that a person can be named contractually.]
  • bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or child; [Again, adoption solves the child problem; and I don't know about the partner problem.]
  • decision-making power with respect to whether a deceased partner will be cremated or not and where to bury him or her; [This can be resolved contractually, if the deceased is an adult.]
  • crime victims’ recovery benefits;  [Don't know.]
  • loss of consortium tort benefits; [Probably depends on the state in which the consortium tort benefits are claimed.]
  • domestic violence protection orders;  [Depends on the state, I guess.  Also, anyone who is the victim if violence can, in theory, get a protective order.  The problem is that, whether you're partnered or not, they don't do much good.  Also, if you're not married, you theoretically have an easier time getting out of the domestic violence situation than someone who is married and whose life, as a matter of law, is deeply entwined with that of the violent partner.  In other words, this sounds redundant.]
  • judicial protections and evidentiary immunity [Evidentiary immunity -- no doubt about it.  There is no law saying a gay partner cannot be forced to testify.  I don't know about other judicial protections.]

Clearly, a lot of the automatic benefits — and burdens — bestowed on married couples require some extra work for gay people.  And there are definitely some benefits that won’t go to gay people at all.  None of these details, though, change the fundamental question:  Is it in the state’s interest to make all these benefits automatically available to gay people?  States that have legalized civil unions have said yes, taking away the complaint that the local state government is depriving gays of the same ease of access to government benefits that is granted to straight married couples.  Presumably, the federal government could do the same thing without actually calling it marriage.

But I’ve digressed — again.  Let me restate my question:  Why the heck does a civil state care about marriage to the point where it extends all these benefits?  There are lots of answers.  I’ll start with a few, and leave you to fill in the rest.

One of the primary reasons is convenience, both for the married people and for the state.  Since our culture’s default setting is for heterosexuals to pair up, and since our Judeo-Christian heritage has seen to it that this pairing up falls under the rubric of marriage, it’s infinitely easier if the state treats these pairs as a single entity.  Half the tax returns (even if people are penalized for filing them), half the number of adoption forms, half the this and half the that.  This also allows for huge numbers of presumptions about parenting — who has genetic rights in the children, who can be relied upon to care for the children, who would want his or her estate to go to the children, etc.  The efficiency of treating permanently joined couples as one, and of making certain presumptions about them as a matter of law, is overwhelming.  This benefit — to the state and to married people — would not change if marriage were extended to gay couples.

Intangible societal benefits also flow from marriage, and this is one of those things where the state’s benefit is our benefit too.  As I’ve mentioned in my first post about gay marriage, marriage stabilizes men by focusing their testosterone on the protection of their wives and children and, by extension, on the protection of a stable, coherent society that will provide the maximum benefit to those same wives and children.  Marriage is also beneficial to women since, biologically, they spend a lot of down time being pregnant and caring for children.  A stable marriage ensures that they won’t have to be dependent on themselves, strangers or the state for these basic needs.

Stable married couples also tend to demand stable communities.  To begin with, they want safe, attractive communities for their children.  They also tend to be much, much more sociable.  The moment I had children, I realized I’d joined the largest club in the world.  It was no longer a matter of sporting the right clothes, or walking a dog in the right neighborhood, or having the right hobby in order to find people to talk to.  Everyone who has ever had or wanted a child was an instant acquaintance.  This creates intangible community bonds that are invisible to those who don’t have children.  These bonds, again, encourage a thriving society where everyone, for his or her own benefit, works for the common good.

Frankly, gays with children can join this club too, and would have these interests too, so the state should be encouraging gays to have children.  The question, of course, is whether marriage is a necessary prerequisite to encourage gays to have children.  I don’t have the answer to that.

Do the above factors include “encouraging traditional values?”  I don’t know.  If by “traditional values” we mean having children and raising them to be useful members of society, defending our country, keeping our communities safe and thriving, etc., the factors I’ve set out above are definitely policies aimed at preserving and encouraging traditional values, whether or not civil marriage is extended to gays.  If we think “encouraging traditional values” must include as one of those values “heterosexual marriage,” we come to a standstill.  In that case, the state cannot simultaneously preserve heterosexual marriage while opening marriage to gays.

At the civil side, it all seems to boil down to what one believes should be the state’s ultimate goals.  If one believes that heterosexual marriage is an ultimate goal, or if one believes that the nature of the gay lifestyle is such that, even extending marriage to gays would not bring them into the “stable society” fold, the debate is over.  There is no societal virtue in having the state recognize gay marriage.  If one believes, however, that gay marriage would increase the state’s ability to impose on its citizens all of the traditional virtues (but for heterosexual marriage, of course), while simultaneously increasing convenience for both the state and its citizens, gay marriage becomes a viable option.

Religious freedom in America versus gay marriage

Again, though, that’s not the end of the analysis.  We continue to have problems because of America’s unique nature, which has seen the law develop so that the courts and the government have the power to prevent private individuals and organizations from depriving fellow citizens of rights.  Even if we agree that the state will not be compromised by allowing gay marriage, we still run the risk of creating a Constitutional Frankstein’s monster.

As we’ve seen already from legions of newspaper stories, both at home and abroad, gays are routinely, and successfully, suing religious individuals and organizations (or bringing administrative proceedings) in an effort to force them to fall in line with state norms about homosexuality, even if those norms are antithetical to religious norms.  Individuals and organizations that don’t want to extend benefits to same sex partners, or who don’t want to arrange adoptions for gay couples, or who don’t want to use their venues to host same sex marriages, or whatever else is being asked of them, are being challenged through the courts and through government bureaucracies.  Their religious convictions are being attacked through state vehicles.

These bureaucratic and judicial attacks would seem to run directly counter to the First Amendment’s first clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The government is prohibiting the free exercise of someone’s religion if it forces that person to lose his livelihood or his home or his business if he won’t engage in acts antithetical to what are still fairly mainstream religious beliefs.

In other words, no matter how one tries, as I did, to make a pro and con list of the religious and civil aspects of marriage, one still runs into a single, possibly insurmountable problem:  For the state, in the form of the federal government, to impose gay marriage throughout American means that Congress will, by definition, have enacted a law prohibiting the free exercise of someone’s religion.  That violates the First Amendment.  The only way not to violate it is to enact a Constitutional amendment, something that might state “Congress may pass a law allowing gay marriage and that will be the exception to the prohibition against Congress passing a law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.”  Absent that change, which is an enormous undertaking, I actually don’t see how the feds can allow gay marriage without violating the existing Constitution.

Of course, given the increasing activism of the Courts and government bureaucracies, and their routine willingness to subordinate religious freedom to the intangible goal of equality of outcome, my question, while academically interesting is probably moot.  I can assure you that, in an Obama Supreme Court, the justices will easily find some intangible right to gay marriage that entirely trumps the First Amendment.

I feel I should state some sort of conclusion here, but I don’t rightly now what my conclusion is.  I can summarize my argument, though:  Most religions do not and cannot be forced by the state to recognize gay marriage.  The state’s more pragamatic interests in marriage probably would not be too greatly compromised by gay marriage.  The state’s vision of society might or might not be comprised by gay marriage, depending on what that vision is.  But all of that may be moot because it appears that, if Congress recognizes gay marriage, which is the ultimate gay demand, it will create a fundamental clash with the First Amendment that will be resolved only by the Supreme Court.  And as the tight victory for the Second Amendment reveals, even the currently composed Supreme Court could go either way.  An Obama Supreme Court will toss religious freedom out the window.

As is always the case, the way this should be resolved is through a Constitutional amendment (which is how the abortion matter should also be addressed), but the activists will never go that route when they think they have the Courts in their pockets.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Here are to further points. First, this is an example of what happens in a society when men don’t get the calming influence of marriage and the societal-beneficial investment into a family.

Second, I wanted to point out something I hadn’t made clear in my post, namely the fact that, in America, freedom of worship is not limited to doctrinal practices.  That is, it’s not simply that the government can’t make a law prohibiting church services or banning the reading of the Torah.  In case after case (many involving Jehovah’s witnesses in the 30s through 50s), the Court’s have held that people cannot be forced to engage in day-to-day life practices antithetical to their beliefs.  The most obvious example is the fact that the government has routinely issued conscientious objector status to those who can show that they are true adherents of religions that genuinely have pacificism as a core part of the belief system (such as Quakers).

UPDATE II:  It’s people like this gentleman (and I’m being generous saying, not only “gentleman” but also “people”), who are common fixtures at gay pride parades, who may give some Americans the impression that gays are agitating for marriage for reasons other than merging with societal norms.  That is, perhaps they’re just making a political point:  We want it, not because it leads us to our ultimate goals of societal normalcy, but because we currently don’t have it.

UPDATE III: Scott’s comment and an email from DQ both tell me I need to clarify something. Here goes:

The distinction I have in mind when I make my First Amendment argument is predicated on the differences between “mere” cultural practices and core religious doctrine. Both Scott and DQ are correct that there is nothing to stop the state from issuing civil marriage licenses. No one would contend that, if it did so, though, that law would force religious authorities — rabbis, priests, imams, etc. — to perform gay marriages.  I know that the state would not get involved in church affairs in that way.

The people I’m thinking about are the ordinary citizens whose lives or livelihoods intersect with the marriage business. Examples of this would be the Massachusetts Catholic charity that was put out of business because it felt doctrinally barred from giving children to gay couples. Another example, which happened in England (but could happen here under new laws) is the owner of a fancy reception hall being fined and put out of business because he won’t open his home to gay weddings.

Incidentally, the ban against polygamy (which DQ mentioned in his email to me as an example of the US messing with religious marital principles) was grossly unconstitutional if one believes that, as of the 1860s, Mormonism was, in fact, a true religion. The only way the US gov got away with it was (1) because Mormonism was not an established religion and (2) Utah wanted desperately to move from being a territory to becoming a state.  Islamic polygamy, which is banned under anti-polygamy laws, actually has the same problem, although I don’t know Islam enough to know whether one can argue that polygamy is a cultural practice, not a doctrine.  If the former, it can be banned.  If the latter, it’s questionable whether it can be.

With the major faiths – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. – we take it as given that they’re true religions and not merely convenient fictions for certain behaviors (which is the negative view Americans of the 1860s took of Mormonism). Even when we separate core doctrines, central to the religion itself, from practices rising up around the religion, we see that marriage is a central practice to each religion. Given that marriage is not merely a ritual or habit but is, instead, vital to the religion, the US theoretically should not be able to force religious citizens (as opposed to their priests, rabbis and imams) to participate in gay marriage ceremonies – or, worse, to be punished for refusing to participate.

So, again in theory, not only does not the rabbi not have to perform the ceremony, the Jewish caterer should not be sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for refusing to provide the food. It’s the latter person who concerns me at a Constitutional level (the caterer), not the former (the rabbi), whom I know the government will leave alone.

For once, it really is about the children

(This is the first in what I hope will be a series of very civil essays examining marriage.  Suek got me started with this idea based on a comment she wrote saying that, well, we need to figure out what marriage is all about.  Planned future essays will involve separating the religious aspect of marriage from the civil strand, examining polygamy and polyandry, the effect of feminism on marriage, the Hollywood culture and marriage, and, possibly, the economic benefits that flow from marriage.

I am not writing these posts to oppose gay marriage.  I am writing them because I still want to do what the courts have prevented me from doing:  I want to take a good, analytical look at our social institutions and determine how proposed changes will affect them.  The changes may be good, bad or neutral.

Please do not take this post as an opportunity to engage in attacks against gays or even against gay marriage.  On the other hand, please do use this post as an opportunity to give your views about the core nature of marriage in American society.)

Long-time readers know that I tend to be suspicious of Democratic initiatives that start off with something being “about the children.” Illegal immigration should be allowed because it’s about the children of illegal immigrants. The corollary is that deporting illegal immigrants should be disallowed because it’s about the children of illegal immigrants. Socialized medicine should be created because it’s about the children.

For every Democratic initiative, children are the wedge. If you’re against the Democratic viewpoint, you’re obviously a monster who is against children. This is not reasoned argument. This is emotion-based demonization of the political opposition, and I don’t like.

Some things, however, really are about the children, because children are central to the issue. I’ve been worried — not adamantly opposed to, but worried — about gay marriage because I’m unclear whether its existence, which takes marriage away from its procreative function, will affect the children.

I’m no fool, of course. I know that not all heterosexual marriages result in children. Heck, I don’t even know if half of the heterosexual marriages end in children. However, I’m firmly convinced that the heart of marriage, going back into the dim recesses of pre-recorded time, is about a man’s ability to recognize his own children without a DNA test.

Marriage, regardless of the society or the time in which it was created, either gives the man an assurance that the child from his wife’s body is in fact his, or it forces him to accept that child as his (placing on him the burden to police his wife’s access to or desire for other men). This worldwide, time-long societal construct, which has men either know that a child is actually theirs or be forced to pretend that it is, places on men an overriding obligation to provide for that child, so that the state doesn’t have to.

The socialist state, of course, flips that pattern on its head, by substituting the State for the father. (Just the father, not the mother, because of the direct biological connection of pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.)  We’ve now seen “the socialist state as father” play out three times, and none of the results have been pretty.

In America, the test case for socialized fathering, starting in the 1960s, was the African-American community. Up until social workers with the welfare state actively convinced African-Americans that they’d do better to place their faith in government than in African-American men, the community was making great strides. Despite racism in the North and Jim Crow in the South, black families were nuclear and were seeing solid economic progress. Crime rates were only slightly higher than among white families who were similarly situated economically.

Thus, while life in a very- to semi-racist country was not easy, it was getting better. What changed all that was the Nanny State. Well-intentioned social workers, trained in Marxist doctrines of reallocation of wealth, poured into the black communities, and bullied, cajoled and blackmailed families into applying for welfare. And the deal with welfare was that you got more of this “free” money if (a) there was no bread winner and (b) you kept having children. Being economically reasonable people, the women kicked their men out and kept having babies. And being equally reasonable, the men got free sex and no responsibility. Sounds good.

Except it wasn’t good. It was awful. It turns out that men aren’t useful just to bring in the money. Instead, it’s actually very positive to have them around, serving as a role model of male maturity for both boys and girls. Children need those models. And if they’re absent, they’ll start seeking them wherever there is an alpha male. In the ghettos, sadly, that alpha male was likely to be the corner drug dealer or the gang banger — and the latter could hang around being tough because he didn’t have to work to bring home the bacon for his one wife and his children.

As to that latter point — his children — the situation worsened as the women started having children by multiple fathers. When a mom does that, no one father has an interest in providing for that family, since he knows that, even though he may earmark funds for his child, those same funds will inevitably benefit the other man’s (men’s) children as well. In any event, the Nanny state provides, absolving him of all responsibility.

What happened to African-Americans was not some fluke, unique to America. Precisely the same thing happened in England, as Tom Bethell details in an article that discusses myriad areas in which Britain — which has traveled quite far down the path on which Obama wishes to place America — has collapsed. It’s a long and excellent article, with a lengthy discussion about the effect the welfare state has on families.  I’m going to quote from that section at some length here, since it so precisely parallels what we in America, with our “Great Society,” did to blacks:

The ruling-class embrace of semi-capitalism has brought about the rise in prosperity, but this has been accompanied by mounting social chaos. One of the main indicators is the rise of family breakdown (or non-formation) and out-of-wedlock childbearing. The key enabler of this change has been the transfer of tens of billions of pounds to fatherless households. Only a society wealthy enough to collect and redistribute revenue on this scale can sustain widespread illegitimacy. Without the tolerance of wealth-creation, redistribution on this scale would not have been possible. Traditional families and moral standards were undermined in consequence.

Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail columnist and a refugee from the left (formerly she was with the Guardian newspaper), wrote recently that the “overclass” has “deliberately and wickedly created over the years a legal and welfare engine of mass fatherlessness and child abandonment, resulting in a degraded and dependent underclass and a lengthening toll of human wreckage.”

A couple of sensational crime stories were in the headlines when I was there, illuminating this “welfare engine of mass fatherlessness.” The rot beneath the surface became conspicuous.

One involved a 15-year-old girl named Scarlett whose hippie mother had taken her to the drug infested beaches of Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the coast of India. The mother then headed off to other Indian beaches with her other children, leaving Scarlett behind. A few days later the young girl was raped and murdered on the Goan beach.

The amazing part of the story was that the mother had nine children by five men, lives in two trailers in Devon, and receives government “benefit” (welfare) for each child, adding up to about $50,000 a year. Having saved about $14,000, she was able to take eight of her children on a six-month holiday to India, and return, sadly, with seven of them.

The mother was shocked to find that the Goan police seemed to be protecting the guilty parties, but then (when the tabloids got hold of the story and ran with it) was even more shocked to find that, instead of being regarded sympathetically, a few residual bluenoses and moralists in England viewed her conduct with some opprobrium.

The second case involved a nine-year-old girl called Shannon who was reported missing by her mother and then found, 24 days later, hiding in the house of one of her numerous step relatives. She may have wanted to escape from the chaos at home, but one of her step-relations was charged with kidnapping. Shannon’s mother, it turned out, had seven children by five different men. The shocking detail in her case was that she referred to Shannon and another of her children, born a year earlier, as “twins.” She actually thought that they were twins because they had the same father.

The truth is that decades of intervention by social engineers who either do not understand the importance of fatherhood and family, or, more likely, think they ought to be undermined, is reducing British society to something barely recognizable.

As for Scarlett’s mother, her “whole lifestyle has been one from which the words responsibility or judgment have been excluded,” Melanie Phillips commented. People have been increasingly encouraged to think “they have an absolute right to live exactly as they want without anyone passing judgment on them.” Further, “our deeply irresponsible overclass has put rocket fuel behind the exponential growth [of broken family life] through tax and welfare incentives.”

Now we have an “N” of two, both showing the devastation the Nanny state creates when it makes fathers superfluous, whether in African-American communities or traditional white British communities.  Let’s add a third “N” — this time, the whole of Europe (h/t:  Danny Lemieux):

There is one marital breakdown and one abortion in Europe almost every 30 seconds, a report that claims to chart the collapse of family life said yesterday.

In a survey of life in the 27 European Union countries, the Institute for Family Policy said that pensioners now outnumbered teenagers, and more people were living alone.

The report, The Evolution of the Family in Europe 2008, which was unveiled in the European Parliament in Brussels, described the European birth rate as “critical”.

It said that almost one million fewer babies were born in the 27 EU countries last year than in 1980. There were six million more over65s than under14s in Europe last year, against 36 million more children than pensioners in 1980.

The institute said: “Europe is now an elderly continent.” Almost one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion. The marriage rate fell by 24 per cent between 1980 and 2006. Two out of three households have no children, and nearly 28 per cent of households contain only one person.

The report urges national governments to set up a ministry for the family.

That’s kind of “N” squared, isn’t it?  Family hasn’t just been damaged, it’s been destroyed entirely.  With the government inserting itself as a wedge between man and woman (essentially by emasculating men), and with its ability to infantalize both men and women by making it unnecessary for them ever to grow up and take responsibility either for themselves or for another, Europe has simply disintegrated entirely.  It’s citizens are no longer capable of or interested in fulfilling their primary biological functions.

I want to see marriage restored to preeminence in America, not just because I’m a stubborn reactionary, but because I think it’s an absolutely necessary thing for a high functioning society, with a thriving “next” generation.  If gay marriage will reignite the excitement about marriage for everyone, then I think gay marriage is a good thing.  However, if it devalues marriage, I have a problem.

Fundamentally, I’m a pragmatist, and I don’t think marriage is about true love (which should be available to all), or financial benefits (which should be available to all who wish to partner permanently in a society), or about registration at Williams-Sonoma (which should definitely be available to all).  Marriage should be about children:  having them and raising them in a way that is best for them and best for the larger society.  (Incidentally, as a pragmatist, if gay marriage is a wash, neither helping nor harming a fatally wounded institution, I also think citizens, not courts, should be in favor of it.)

The fall out from legalizing gay marriage *UPDATED*

Gay marriage has a warm, fuzzy feeling. Those who support it ask, who can be hurt by granting to gay couples the same rights we give to straight couples? As you know, while I have no trouble with same sex relationships between consenting adults, and favor granting civil benefits to gay couples, I do think marriage is a unique institution that should not be given away lightly.

As I’ve explained before, I think that the State has an interest in supporting heterosexual marriage. When you think about it, it’s really a guy thing. Heterosexual marriage, by tying a man to a woman, gives him something very special: The presumptive belief that the children she has are his. In order to protect these little fruits of his loins, the average man will embark on a behavior trajectory that makes him a good citizen: He will work hard so that he, not the state or the street, supports the little ones; he will avoid criminal activity; and he will use his testosterone to defend his nation, not commit revolution against it. Homosexual marriage, because it is not an inherently fruitful relationship, despite the fact that gays and lesbians can parent children, advances none of these purposes.

That’s my problem with gay marriage: it doesn’t advance any of societal purposes, but it does serve to devalue the marital currency. And it does this because of the gals. I noted that, in societal terms, heterosexual marriage is beneficial because it serves as a positive rein on guy energy. But guys, no doubt recognizing and resisting that rein, aren’t the ones who push for marriage. It’s the gals who do, with their vision of being princess for a day and of having someone committed to fatherhood with them. When there are two girls and a guy standing next to you queuing for wedding gowns, it saps some of the magic. It cheapens it, if you will. It also sends a very clear message that marriage is not about motherhood, which encourages more single parenting (have the baby, and don’t worry about the toilet seat being left up), and makes men extraneous and useless. (And yes, I know that there are a lot of other factors damaging the institution of marriage. That only makes it more serious that we don’t pile on more anti-marriage hits.)

There’s one other big problem, which is what Dennis Prager noted the moment the California Supreme Court issued its ruling: Once gay marriage is a state right, you’re going to start having discrimination claims that will fan out and affect every area of life. Schools are going to have to have equal numbers of books touting homosexual and heterosexual relationships, and that’s going to be true right down to kindergarten. And people are going to be constrained in what they can do in ways that are antithetical to their fundamental values.

You already know that a Boston Catholic organization (that is, not a state organization) is out of the business of providing homes for children because it felt it was doctrinally wrong to place a child in a homosexual household. Now, in England, an Earl who opened his 600 year old home for weddings has been banned from the wedding business because his Christian faith could not tolerate joining a man and a man in state sanctioned partnership in his home:

An Earl has been banned from holding weddings at his 600-year-old castle after refusing to allow a gay marriage.

The Earl of Devon, Hugh Courtenay, has had the licence to hold civil ceremonies at Powderham Castle near Exeter revoked by Devon County Council.

It is thought to be the first case of its kind in the country since the introduction of civil partnerships last year.

The council acted in response to a complaint from a gay couple from London who tried to book the castle for their own partnership ceremony.

The case was taken up by gay pressure group Stonewall and now the Earl has been told his licence has been revoked because of discrimination.

Devon County Council withdrew the licence because Lord Devon was in breach of the Sexual Orientation regulations of the Equality Act 2007.

[snip]

Mr Courtenay is the 18th Earl of Devon with a title going back to 1553. He says he is a devout Christian and is acting out of faith.

The Earl said: ‘I have to follow my religion in this case. The question has never arisen here before but I suppose I knew it would at some time.

‘Now it has, then this is the way it has to be. I have no option. As a Christian I have to object to this.’

There’s one last little interesting thing about that article and it’s the selfishness permeating the whole thing. The gay couple who got the whole thing started are delighted that, if they can’t have a wedding at the castle, no one can have a wedding at the castle:

The gay couple whose wedding was refused by the Earl say his decision was discrimination and they are delighted at the revocation.

So much of this rights thing has that nasty edge: If I suffer, everyone suffers. I will feel better only if you feel miserable. What a petty group.

UPDATE:  I simply want to urge everyone who glances at this post to read the comments.  They are much more interesting than the post itself.

Marriage is not an individual right

Marriage is not, and never has been, a personal right.  In Western society, it operates at two levels.  First, it functions at a religious level.  This is a deeply personal level, because in every religion, marriage is, or is equivalent to, a sacrament.  In America, you have the Constitutional right to be married in the church of your choice — if the church doctrine allows your type of marriage to be performed.  A further Constitutional right is that the state cannot force a church to change its doctrine to accommodate your desires.

Second, marriage functions at a state level.  The state has an interest in encouraging marriage because a dynamic state needs a growing population, and the best way to assure that is to have men marry women and have babies.  (Even polygamy has that point behind it:  in ancient times and primitive cultures, with excessively high maternal and child mortality rates, you wanted to ensure that as many women as possible are breeding.  Polygamy advances that cause with a vengeance.)  Married men are also a more stable population:  they are more likely to defend, rather than attack, the home front, because they have acknowledged children to protect.  (You see, marriage means that a man knows who his children are.)

To advance the benefit it receives from married couples — increased children, and a stable male population invested in protecting the country — states create marriage incentives.  They embrace religions that advance marriage and they give financial incentives and status recognition.  These perks are not for the individual’s benefit or freedom; they are for the state’s benefit and strength.

The problem arises when people conflate the deeply personal nature of the religious marriage ritual with the highly political nature of the state’s interest in productive heterosexual marriage.  When this happens, they suddenly start babbling about personal rights in and from the state where none existed before.

The state can, of course, determine that its interest is served by any marriage and that encouraging gay couples to settle down will advance some state interest.  But when I say “the state can,” I really mean that, in a democratic society, “the voters of the state can” determine that it is in their collective interest to extend to all comers the right to a state sanctioned marriage.  The one thing that should never happen is that judges, to advance their own personal biases, create a personal right where none has ever existed before.

Two further points regarding this issue.  First, read Stuart Taylor’s excellent explanation of why the California Supreme Court decision was a strikingly dishonest piece of judicial activism.

Second, if this judicial activism offends you, vote for John McCain.  And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, because only liberal justices are old enough to leave the Court, Obama won’t be able to harm the Supreme Court if he’s elected for four, or even eight years.  Bad things happen.  It is entirely possible, although God forbid it should be so, that right in the middle of the Obama presidency, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas could all drop dead from freak accidents or illnesses.  Even if that happens to only one of them (again, God forbid), Obama will have the ability to change the Court in ways that will certainly affect the Court into your grandchildren’s lifetimes, and possibly change the separation of powers forever.

A weird little potential backlash from the Calif. Sup. Ct. ruling

Dennis Prager has a good column discussing what will be, in his view, the ramifications of the California Supreme Court decision creating a new right out of thin air.  One of the points he makes is that, in the future, to avoid charges of discrimination, homosexual relationships will have to be promoted equally with heterosexual relationships.  Schools that once had books about boys and girls meeting and starting a family, will now have to have an equal number of books for little kids showing same sex couples meeting and starting families.  That thinking will have to permeate every reference to marriage and relationships, and this trend will appear in every aspect of life.

While Prager doesn’t say it in his article, on his show yesterday, he mentioned that this inevitable trend (which will be legally mandated on discrimination grounds) will create a rather unexpected fall-out, one that I’d already figured out on my own:  parents who have previously encouraged their children not to be discriminatory against gays will, when faced with a society that is required to promote homosexuality equally with hetereosexuality, begin preaching against homosexual behavior in the home.

Many of these parents will be like me:  They will recognize that a small percentage of people are homosexual out of the box.  However, they will also know that, as in ancient Greece where popular culture encouraged homosexual relationships for pleasure and heterosexual relationships solely for procreation, people in the great middle can have their sexuality manipulated.

Lastly, these parents will know that, while there are gays and lesbians live the same stolid (and solid) middle class life that I do (which is what I want for my children), a large number — especially men — enjoy the promiscuity that comes from (a) no worries about pregnancy and (b) dealing with sexual partners who match them testosterone for testosterone.  Sadly, the evidence shows that, with this type of promiscuity, you also get rampant diseases and statistically increased substance abuse and domestic violence.

I actually don’t need studies to know about these problems.  I grew up in the SF Bay Area and, until I switched from urban life to suburban domesticity, had many gay friends — and these were people whom I valued greatly and whose friendships I cherished.  Nevertheless, even then I saw them going down a life trajectory antithetical to what I hoped for myself — one of unbridled, although often classy and beautiful, hedonism.  And so many of them died of AIDS.  It wasn’t AIDS they got at the dentist or from a blood transfusion or from one unlucky coupling.  It was AIDS they got at the orgies they used to boast about attending.  Only two men I know who were monogamous got AIDS and, in both cases, it was because their partners were incredibly promiscuous — something my friends knew about and tolerated.

Without passing any judgment on homosexuality itself, this is not the lifestyle I want for my children.  Therefore, if the state is promoting homosexuality because it is required to do so, it’s my responsibility as a parent to push back, not because I don’t like gays, but because I fear the consequences of a lifestyle that has too many negative consequences for my children.

Links to good discussions of the Calif Supreme Court decision

Cliff Thier talks about the far-reaching implications of the Court’s (and the government’s) “fundamental rights” language.

The WSJ’s editors take on the election ramifications of the decision — a bit of unexpected, and undeserved, good luck for Republicans in a terribly managed campaign season.

As was to be expected, National Review quickly put together a whole catalog of articles about the ruling, with thoughts from the editors themselves, William Duncan, Maggie Gallagher, and Ed Whelan.

All of the above articles on the subject make clear that the case is a bit of judicial legerdemain, creating entirely new rights where none existed before, so as to bypass the troglodytes who troop regularly to the voting booths.  Marvin Baxter, a dissenting associate justice, sums up in a nutshell everything that is wrong with the Court’s opinion (and this holds true whether or not one agrees with the Court’s outcome):

“Nothing in our Constitution, express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old understanding of marriage — an understanding recently confirmed by an initiative law — is no longer valid. California statutes already recognize same-sex unions and grant them all the substantive legal rights this state can bestow. If there is to be a further sea change in the social and legal understanding of marriage itself, that evolution should occur by similar democratic means.” (Emphasis mine.)

Hate John McCain as much as you like — and he’s doing his dangerous maverick thing again which deserves condemnation — but if you want to try to keep more activist judges from getting on the US Supreme Court, gamble on him. I can guarantee you that, no matter how “mavericky” McCain gets, a President Obama, working with a Democratic Senate, will put on the Supreme Court justices who will make your head spin.

Gay marriage is legal in California *UPDATED*

California joins Massachusetts.

I’ll be interested to read the decision when I get the chance.

As for me, let me reiterate my usual point. I am not categorically opposed to gay marriage. However, I think we’re rushing too fast to change human relationships that have been fixed across all human cultures for thousands of years: marriage is between a man and a woman. Even polygamy doesn’t mess with that basic (and biological) principle. I prefer more thought before getting pushed politically into such changes.

UPDATE:  I just wanted to say, friends, that you are a remarkable group of people.  In a series of 56 comments, despite differences of opinion, all of you have consistently been intelligent, respectful, thoughtful and open-minded.  Thank you so much.

One plus one equals 32

There’s fact, and there’s speculation. From the fact that he found some documents indicating that medieval men would enter into a formal contract to share bed, board and income, a “scholar” has extrapolated this into supporting the conclusion that the medieval world supported gay relationships:

For example, he found legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term “affrèrement,” roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

In the contract, the “brothers” pledged to live together sharing “un pain, un vin, et une bourse,” (that’s French for one bread, one wine and one purse). The “one purse” referred to the idea that all of the couple’s goods became joint property. Like marriage contracts, the “brotherments” had to be sworn before a notary and witnesses, Tulchin explained.

The same type of legal contract of the time also could provide the foundation for a variety of non-nuclear households, including arrangements in which two or more biological brothers inherited the family home from their parents and would continue to live together, Tulchin said.

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.” (Emphasis mine.)

That last seems to me to be something of a leap, considering that, in the medieval world, sodomy, the physical manifestation of gay love, was a crime, punishable by death.

To me, this type of “scholarship,” falls into the same shabby, wishful thinking area as the recent argument that Abraham Lincoln was gay. He could have been, but the narrow facts on which the “historian” Larry Kramer drew are as likely to prove that Lincoln, rather than being gay, was simply a product of more innocent times.

As it is, there were definitely homosexuals in the medieval world, some more famous than others. I’m sure, too, that there were homosexual couples who took advantage of legal procedures to try to benefit themselves economically, but I’m willing to bet that nobody ever, ever acknowledged that this legal relationship supported a sexual or loving one. In any event, this historic line of argument is a ridiculous jumping off point for trying to promote gay marriage today by arguing that the Western family construction, which is premised on a man and a woman, is just a modern concept:

“Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize,” Tulchin writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. “And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

People have always had varied living arrangements, but you can’t hide from the historic fact that, in the Western world, going back to the pre-Christian times of Greeks and Romans, and definitely including the Jews, the core family unit has been a man and a woman. If Tulchin wants to go all medieval, he’d better be careful, because that road is as likely to lead to death and castration for gays as it is to marriage. And if Tulchin doubts this, just have him look at a country that still subscribes to these medieval mores (say, Iran), and ask whether they benefit or hurt gays.

I’m all in favor of a debate about, as opposed to a rush into, gay marriage or gay civil unions. I am not in favor of a debate skewed by intellectual dishonesty — which is what this recent work of scholarship smells like.

Fissures in the Leftist ranks?

There’s been a lot of news lately about how the Left embraces radical Islam, on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (or, at least, my useful tool). You can see this sordid embrace at work in Daniel Pipe’s debate with London Mayor Ken Livingston, and you can see it deconstructed in this Paul Weston article.

What I’m seeing lately, though, is special interest groups on the Left having a harder and harder time coming to terms with radical Islam. The first crack in the harmony between the Left and Islam is, I think, going to be amongst gays, because Islam reacts with such ferocity to homosexual displays. Periodically the SF Chronicle, which has a large and interested gay audience, runs stories about gay rights in the Middle East and these stories, of neccesity, always come down strongly on Israel’s side — as does this most recent report:

A 21-year-old university student with serious professional ambitions, Nawal wouldn’t dream of performing in his hometown, where homosexuality, as in the rest of the Palestinian territories, is strictly taboo, sometimes violently so. Last year, a group of gay Palestinians visiting East Jerusalem from the United States were threatened and one of them badly beaten after they announced plans to join an Israeli gay pride rally. The Web site of ASWAT, an organization of Palestinian gay women, says Palestinian society “has no mercy for sexual diversity and/or any expression of ‘otherness’ away from the societal norms and the assigned roles that were formed for women. … The Palestinian woman has no right to choose an identity other than the one enforced on her by the male figures in her family and surroundings.”

So for Nawal and his friends, the only place where they can pursue a full social life is across the border in Israel.

***

In Israel, the status of gays and lesbians is more comparable with Western Europe.

As the British gay magazine Attitude approvingly reported in December: “Workplace discrimination against gay people is outlawed; the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has many openly gay members; in schools, teenagers learn about the difficulties of being gay and the importance of treating all sexualities equally. The country’s army, the Israel Defense Force, has many dozens of openly gay high-ranking officers who, like all gay soldiers in its ranks, are treated equally by order of the government. The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples are eligible for spousal and widower benefits.

“Nearly all mainstream television dramas in Israel regularly feature gay storylines. When transsexual Dana International won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest as Israel’s representative, 80 percent of polled Israelis called her ‘an appropriate representative of Israel.’ ”

***

But compared to gay Palestinians who don’t make it to Israel, Freddy and Nawal are among the lucky ones, said Haneen Maikey, coordinator of the Palestinian Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual Project at a Jerusalem gay center.

“It’s actually becoming more difficult for gay Palestinians,” said Maikey, 28, whose center organizes a Pride rally every year. “It’s a collective and closed community in which some parts are very religious with a small village atmosphere. Every step toward coming out will get you another step back to the closet.”

Many gays and lesbians who happily appear at rallies draped in their PC kufiyahs, are going to have to do some serious self-examination as they decide whether they want the freedom loving West, capitalist warts and all, or if they are so hostile to the West that they’d rather embrace a culture that would happily and enthusiastically see them dead.

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On marriage

I think traditional marriage, which often includes children, is the glue that holds a stable society together. Married couples, especially those with or planning to have children, have an enormous incentive to hold jobs, save money, create safe communities, look to the future politically, and to crave non-revolutionary continuity when it comes to social and political issues. They’re the antidote to anarchy. That’s why I’ve been so opposed to gay marriage. It’s not because I think gays should be punished. I’ve long said that I support extending certain legal benefits (and concomitant burdens) to committed gay couples. My opposition comes about because I’ve seen gay marriage as a slippery slope, a wedge issue, aimed at doing away with traditional marriage entirely, with all that this radical change implies.

Stanley Kurtz now writes a lengthy article that essentially says my instincts are right. While many gays just want to “get married,” the intellectuals behind the gay marriage movement have much larger plans that really go to destroying marriage all together. And because I think traditional marriage is one of the single most important aspects of a healthy society, I’m baulking completely at heading down the gay marriage path. I’m not homophobic; I’m traditional marriage-philic!

As an aside, I’ve realized that this issue, too, fits into my handy-dandy Leftist morality matrix. On the feelings side of the morality discussion, Leftists let us know that, even though some in our culture have embraced a non-traditional lifestyle, it hurts their feelings that we exclude them from the marriage tradition. It’s just soooo not fair. I agree that it may be hurtful, but I don’t agree that these feelings justify a radical change to a social, moral and religious institution. There may be other reasons to change the institution, but hurt feelings don’t qualify in the argument.

On the hierarchy side, of course, gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc., are downtrodden — they’re small in number, they’re the victim of more crimes, they have higher levels of partner abuse and substance abuse, and they may have a higher suicide rate. Therefore, Leftist morality ordains them on the side of “right,” and they deserve to prevail. I, however, say that while these statistics are grim, and I’d like to see them change, but (a) I doubt free-for-all-marriage will force the change and (b) this underdog status is still not a valid argument for changing traditional marriage as we know it.

UPDATE:  Perhaps in response to this post, a friend sent me a link to an adulatory LA Times story about two men and their journey to have a baby:

It was their fifth attempt in 15 months to create a pregnancy through a gestational surrogacy arrangement. To get to this point, they had gone through two egg retrievals, 58 eggs, 43 embryos, two embryo freezes, three frozen embryo thaws, four failed embryo transfers, two surrogates and more than $100,000.

My friend was less enchanted than the LA Times writer.  His comment?  “One word for it: SELFISH!  Though other words come to mind…”

I’m all for having babies, and Chad and David sound like fiscally sound people who desperately want a child.  In many ways, they’re ideal.  Nevertheless, this whole brave new world, with scientists drifting in and out of women’s bodies to create a baby for two men is unnerving, to say the least.