An insight into Progressive beliefs about how voters’ minds work

John Hinderaker caught a very funny statement from Jen Psaki, who is one of the president’s official spokesmen. She was responding to a reporter’s question regarding the fact that PBS asked the Democrats to take down an add using Big Bird (emphasis mine):

We have received that request [from PBS]. We’re reviewing it. I will say it doesn’t change the fact that there’s only one candidate in this race who is going to continue to fight for Big Bird and Elmo, and he is riding on this plane.

You can just see the great minds of the Democrat party meeting to put together a checklist of ordinary voter concerns that they should be addressing.

Meeting Chairman:  Okay, folks.  It’s time to get to work.  With the president having tanked in his first debate, and the very real risk that Joe will implode in his only debate, we’ve got to get the president ready to talk about things that really matter to the American people.  I’m going to open the floor to suggestions:

Twenty-something young man:  Uh, what about young people’s concern about the deficit that they’ll have to pay for?

Chairman:  Not going to happen, We know they’re not thinking about that.  They just want sex, booze, and subsidies.  We’ve already tapped Hollywood to remind the demographic that the President is cool, and that he’s got their backs.

Thirty-something young woman:  The President needs to tell womyn that he’ll make sure that they get free birth control and abortions, as well as unrestricted access to tampons (which should be free too).

Chairman:  Again, not going to happen, Sandra.  Our internal polling shows that the Independents aren’t buying that argument.  Anyway, women know that Obama has got their back, and we’ve had Hollywood double down on its “Republicans will legalize rape” claims.

Black woman:  Should we talk about the fact that blacks are disproportionately affected by unemployment?

Chairman:  Our campaign funds and air time are too limited to do messaging on the way the President’s policies are good for African Americans.  American blacks know that Obama’s got their backs,  He’ll make sure that the government always supports them.

Jewish Guy:  Isn’t it time that the President made a strong statement about Israel?

Chairman:  We’ve polled that one, Shlmo, and it’s going nowhere in this election.  Let’s let sleeping dogs lie.

Palestinian Guy:  The president must talk about the continued slaughter and rape of the Palestinian people.

Chairman:  Calm down, Achmed.  We don’t need to do a strong message on this, because our base knows that the President has the Palestinian people’s backs.

Sex-changed gay transvestite:  I have two words:  Gay Marriage.

Chairman:  The president’s still evolving on that one until after the election, Pat.  Don’t worry.  You guys, gals and indeterminates know that the president has your backs.

Lone WASP guy:  What about the murdered ambassador in Libya, the head of security killed in Yemen yesterday, and all the other signs that al Qaeda is coming back?

Chairman:  Come on, Charlie.  The president has already explained that these are just highly critical movie reviews that got out of hand.  The public doesn’t need to hear more.  Al Qaeda knows that the President’s got its back.  Uh, misspoke there, Dude.  I meant that the American people and the American military know that the President’s got their backs.

Five year old attending meeting because she’s got a cold and her mom is still breast-feeding her:  Mommy, Mommy! I want my Tickle Me Elmo doll!!!

Chairman:  That’s it. Elmo!  Big Bird!  Protecting those icons from Republican attacks is the one thing we need to do in order galvanize those Independent voters.  It’s Mom, Apple Pie, Elmo and Big Bird.  Okay, folks!  Here’s the official line:  President Obama, Defender of Sesame Street!

 

Found on Facebook

I thought I’d share with you some of the things my friends have posted on Facebook.  First, a cartoon that’s obviously meant to support the Progressive open border policy, but that just as obviously proves the opposite:


I understand that you’re supposed to read the cartoon to mean that, without the Native American’s open border policies, we white people would still be floating around the Atlantic.  Therefore, open borders are good.  I have this strong urge to explain to the Progressives reading the cartoon that, if one looks at what happened to the Native Americans, they would have been wiser to adopt the policies that Republicans now advocate.

The next thing I found on Facebook was this anti-Romney poster:

I get it.  Romney is an incredible hypocrite because his ancestors weren’t monogamous. He therefore has no basis for asserting that marriage is between one man and one woman. My response?

Dear Progressive, yes, some cultures are polygamous, but they’ve still involved a man on one side of the bed and a woman on the other. You see, historically, marriage has always been about two things: procreation and a wealth transfer system that allowed the man (who historically created wealth) to be assured that his own progeny, whether from one woman or from several, received his wealth. It’s kind of atavistic.

I’m not saying that atavistic human behavior is a good reason to keep the marriage status quo. As you know, I think the state should get out of the marriage business and get into the civil unions business, with an eye to promoting whatever conjoinings of people are best for the state. However, it’s foolish to pretend that relationships that never have natural procreative abilities are the same as the heterosexual marriages that have been normative throughout history. And no, please don’t hurl the words “adoption” or “artificial insemination” at me, and don’t mention that the English aristocracy so embraced cuckolding that the wife’s marital duty was limited to an heir and a spare. The fact remains that our lizard brains have always focused on getting a man to impregnate a woman, safe in the knowledge that she wasn’t cheating and that it would be his genetic offspring that got the benefit of his labor.

And lastly, a video that several of my friends posted.  I don’t know about Prop. 37 and I may discover after researching it that I support it.  Nevertheless, watching these vapid, alcoholic, misogynistic Hollywood types promote Prop. 37 (in insulting and condescending tones) inspires in me a visceral dislike for the proposition, and a strong desire to vote against it:

Does this mean all the conservative appreciation for Chick-fil-A was wasted?

Remember when the Susan B. Komen foundation pulled out funding for Planned Parenthood, because PP provides almost no services relevant to breast cancer?  And remember how conservatives defended the decision because PP provides almost no services relevant to breast cancer?  And then remember how the Komen foundation ignored conservative approbation and caved on PP funding?

I hope you do remember that saga, because we seem to be seeing a repeat?  Remember how Chick-fil-A made a stand for traditional marriage?  Remember how conservatives all across America supported Chick-fil-A in overwhelming numbers — and with the numbers that count, namely product purchases?

Well, now you can remember how Chick-fil-A has ignored conservative approbation and caved on its alleged principles:

The Chicago alderman whose opposition to Chick-fil-A over the restaurant owner’s  santi-gay marriage stance made national headlines last month, has announced the company has agreed to stop funding those organizations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A press release posted on a Chicago-based civil rights advocacy group web site quotes a letter said to have been sent to the alderman from Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate”

“The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.” Winshape, a non-profit funded by Chick-fil-a, has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including some classified as hate groups, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage. In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations.

An internal memo declaring the company will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender” and that their “intent is not to engage in political or social debates,” was also said to have been distributed and included in an official company document called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.”

Even when conservatives go against type and become squeaky wheels, they don’t get the grease; they just get the shaft.

A clever statement by a Leftist reveals that the Left views the Constitution as a content-free document

MoveOn.org has created an online poster that has been getting a fair amount of play on Facebook.  The page is entitled “The #1 Reminder Every GOP Lawmaker Needs To See.”  It then quotes “American Hero” Jamie Raskin, a law professor, before successfully running for Maryland’s State Senate himself, testified before the Maryland State Senate in 2006.  Back then, he had this to say:

Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution.  You didn’t place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

That sounds very clever, doesn’t it?  Nice parallelism, and a definite superficial truth:  American politicians don’t swear to uphold the Bible.  Of course, that cute little parallelism ignores a deeper truth, which is the fact that the Constitution includes this nifty little Amendment called the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The classic religions (as opposed to recently created New-Age spiritualism) all define marriage, and they all define it as a union between a man, on the one hand, and a woman, on the other hand.  Freely exercising ones religion means that, constitutionally speaking (and lawmakers are charged with upholding the Constitution), the government doesn’t get to redefine marriage to include other sexual variations.

In 2008, during the Prop. 8 debate (when California voters were asked to, and did, pass a Proposition defining marriage as being between a man and a woman), I spoke with a very smart, very liberal friend who couldn’t understand why the Catholic Church was taking a stand against Prop. 8.  I suggested to him that the Church was concerned that there would come a time when it would be sued for refusing to perform a gay marriage and that it might lose that suit if gay marriage is deemed a civil right.  He scoffed:  “The Church is opposed to abortion, but no one sues it for that.”  What he couldn’t grasp is that the Catholic Church doesn’t perform abortions, but it does perform marriages.

The HHS fight over funding contraceptives and abortifacients proves that the concern I raised in 2008 is precisely correctly.  Suddenly, through the purse, a Leftist government was trying to get the church to perform abortions.

When Leftist government passes laws that conflict with a religion’s doctrinal points, it has no problem ignoring the First Amendment and using the power of the state and the purse to force the religious organization and its practitioners to abandon their doctrinal concerns.  In other words, Leftist government is happy to enact and enforce policies that essentially prohibit the free exercise of a religion.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  the government should get out of the “marriage” business.  The government’s control of “marriage” is residue of a time when church and state were inextricably intertwined, rather than Constitutionally separate.  Let’s leave “marriage” to the religious organizations, and let them define it as they will.  The state, which has a huge interest in promoting stable unions that result in healthy, happy children, should then bend itself to the task of figuring out how best to promote those unions.  Promoting them, of course, boils down to money.  The state needs to figure out how to entice people (hint:  tax breaks) into joining together and having stable nuclear families.  Civil unions, folks.  In this day and age, it’s the only way to keep the state’s hands off the church.

Looping back to law professor and ignoramus (oh, and American Hero) Jamie Raskin, someone needs to give him a constitutional refresher course:  When the lawmakers place their hands on the Bible and swear to protect the Constitution, they are also swearing to protect people’s rights to practice their Biblically based, life-affirming beliefs without state interference.

Enthusiastic support for gay rights

I mentioned in an earlier post the interesting fact that, on my Facebook page, it is my straight friends, not my gay friends, who are the most enthusiastic supporters of gay marriage.  This is not to say that my gay friends are slacking in their support.  They just lack the enthusiasm.  For every one pro-gay marriage Facebook post from a gay friend, there seem to be two from a straight friend.  As I said, I find this enthusiasm a little surprising.  Usually, when people don’t have a dog in the fight, while they may be passively interested in the outcome, they don’t normally become actively engaged in promoting the fight.

While I was mulling this curiosity over in my mind, one of my Facebook friends (a straight one, of course) posted this image:

 

That sentiment is true, of course, but it also obscures the difference between supporting gay rights and animals rights.  Animals can’t speak for themselves.  If we don’t act as their spokesmen, no one will speak on their behalf.  The same is not true for members of the LGBT community.

Help me out here, please.  I am not seeking comments about the validity of the various causes within the gay rights movement.  Instead, I’m just wondering (a) why members of the LGBT movement are now being analogized to mute animals and (b) why the fever is higher in the audience (so to speak) than amongst the players themselves.

Are we surprised that the 9th Circuit support the federal district court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage?

I’m not commenting on the merits of the decision, which I haven’t read, or on the merits of Prop. 8, which we’ve already hashed over at this blog.  I am commenting, however, on my utter lack of surprise with this ruling from the 9th Circuit, affirming the district court decision finding Prop. 8 unconstitutional.  Of course, the 9th Circuit is the most overruled appellate court in America, so advocates of gay marriage might want to hold off on getting too excited.

One other thing:  I have a lot of gay friends on Facebook, since I grew up and lived in the Bay Area.  Intriguingly, though, the ones who are most aggressive in their support for gay marriage are my straight friends.  What’s up with that?  Is this the “straight guilt” equivalent of the “white guilt” that transformed the Civil Rights movement from a Constitutional equality issue into a racism industry?

Gay activists’ alleged attack on prayer, even if not true, highlights the Left’s profound animus to traditional Judeo-Christian religion

Cassie Jay is a young woman who makes unabashedly Leftist films.  Back, in 2010, she made a documentary called “Daddy I Do” that attacked abstinence-only education.  Even in liberal Marin, this movie caused a bit of a kerfuffle, as the local art cinema first agreed to show it, then backed off from that agreement, and then, when the liberal fit hit the media shan, finally agreed to show the movie.  The debate garnered headlines, and undoubtedly drew more people to the movie than would otherwise have attended.  My bet is that, at the end, a lot of people paid for tickets, not because they actually wanted to see her movie, but because they wanted to show solidarity.

Ms. Jay now contends that she’s stumbled into cultural clash, and she didn’t see this one coming at all.  On its face, Jay’s newest movie ought not to have ruffled any feathers on the Left.  It’s a straight down-the-line Progressive encomium for the virtues of gay marriage.  The Marin Independent Journal assures readers that her latest, “The Right to Love: An American Family,” is “a compelling case for legalizing gay marriage.”  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  I haven’t seen it yet — indeed, few have — so I’m not qualified to comment.

(Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto)

Jay claims, however, that there are those in the gay community who have seen it and they are very unhappy with the movie.  You see, in addition to promoting gay marriage, which is a good thing, the gay activists watching the preview discerned a Christian subtext, which is a very bad thing indeed:

“The Right to Love,” which premieres Monday at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, focuses on the Leffew family of Santa Rosa, a legally married gay couple and their two adopted children. When the trailer was released this past fall, it included a scene of the family saying a Christian prayer at their breakfast table.

The reaction it unleashed from a segment of the gay community was angry and venomous, and caught Jaye off guard.

“It just erupted online,” she recalled. “It totally caught me by surprise. I was shocked by the backlash. All these LGBT (lesbian-gay-bixexual-transgender) people were attacking the Leffew family for being religious, saying, ‘How can you be a part of an institution that doesn’t see us as equals and thinks we’re an abomination? How can you be a member of that club?’ I never intended to include that prayer as a controversial issue, but there was a lot of hatred toward them being Christian.”

Here’s the incendiary trailer (the prayer shows up 38 seconds in):

As for me, I think this is a publicity stunt.  I scrolled through the 280 comments at the trailer and found a few comments to the effect that “religions should let us marry and they’re bad ’cause they don’t” stuff, but I don’t see any evidence of the firestorm Jay claims erupted over her film — more specifically, that she claims erupted because of that two second prayer scene in the trailer.  Unless Jay deleted all the hardcore anti-Christian comments as spam, they’re just not there.  I also did a couple of Google searches for the name of the film along with the words “Christian” and “religion” but, aside from several dozen sites singing rapturous praises about a pro-gay marriage movie, found only a few newspaper articles quoting Jay about the claimed firestorm.

I’m willing to acknowledge that my research skills may be abysmal, and that I’ve managed to miss the dozens of comments and posts in which activist gays threaten to burn crosses on the lawns of those gay families who are stupid enough to cling to Christianity.  I may also have a different idea of Jay as to what constitutes a truly controversial issue.  She may think one crackpot makes a controversy.  I don’t.

What’s rather amazing, though, is that Jay is promoting her film by pointing to a subject that has nothing to do with the film itself.  The film is about gay marriage.  There is a built-in audience for this movie.  Gays will see it.  Elites who want to prove their moral superiority on the issue will see it.  But Jay is promoting it, not by pointing to its substantive issues, but by talking up the fact that (according to her) many in the GLBT (or LGBT or whatever other order the letters should appear) community are no longer asking for religion to change.  Instead, they’re attacking religion at the root.  For her, this is a selling point.

Jay’s right, too, in her assessment that, in Obama-world, attacking religion is a selling point for any movie that one markets to the Left.  The Obama administration’s direct, frontal attack on the Catholic church (and other religious institutions) demonstrates as nothing else could that the Left, now that it holds two out of the three seats of power in American government, intends not to amend religion, or carve out secular exceptions, but to destroy it entirely.  Under the new ObamaCare mandate, the churches are left with only three choices all of which range from damaging to destructive:  they can deny their principles and provide insurance, which destroys them morally; they can refuse to provide the insurance, which will trigger penalties or lose them so many employees they’ll be destroyed financially; or they can simply shut down their outreach, which destroys their place in their community and the missions that are an intrinsic part of their doctrine.

Destruction of Damascus Christian Quarter, 1860

My guess is that Jay is astutely tuning into a strong cultural subtext roiling the Left in order to market her film.  Even if there is no fight between gay activists and religion, there ought to be, and she’s going to use that paradigm to broaden her audience beyond the Prop. 8 crowd.  She can expect to see attendance increase as those on the Left attend the film, either to show their solidarity with religion (Christ’s gospel is good, even if the church has perverted it) or to protest the fact that anyone in the LGBT (or GLBT) community would dare to ally itself with a hate-filled, archaic institution that should be destroyed, rather than reformed.

I think the saying is that, in show business, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

What do you think?

ObamaCare, the Catholic Church, and mandatory abortion payments

In the halcyon pre-Obama days, when Prop. 8 meant that gay marriage was a hot blogging issue, I argued that religion organizations, not the state, should be allowed to define what constitutes a “marriage,” with states confined to authorizing “civil unions.”  In that context, I commented upon the religious implications of the government mandating that a church engage in something that touches upon a core doctrinal belief:

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.  (Emphasis added.)

I was prescient.  Mandating that the Catholic Church provide abortions is precisely what the Obama administration is doing.  Institutions such as the Catholic Church, which considers the right to life one of its core beliefs, must nevertheless fund abortions by providing insurance that makes abortion drugs available to all women on demand.  Funding an act is tantamount to committing that act yourself.

Whether you support a woman’s right to have an abortion or not, surely anyone who is intellectually honest must see that it is morally wrong to make a religious institution fund it.  To use an extreme analogy, this is the beginning of a continuum that ends with Jews being forced to dig their own mass burial pits before being lined upon along the edge of those pit and shot.

I assume that those who are celebrating this mandate will contend that, throughout the Bush years, they were forced to see their tax dollars go to fund a war they did not support, one that saw thousands of people die.  Likewise, those who oppose the death penalty must nevertheless pay taxes that fund the judicial and prison system.  That argument is a red herring.  The Constitution explicitly authorizes both war and capital punishment, which are legitimate government powers.  Those who don’t like that reality are welcome to try a Constitutional amendment to wipe out the government’s war powers and do away with capital punishment.  I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

There is nothing in the Constitution, however, that authorizes the Federal government (and, by extension through the 14th Amendment, any state government) to mandate that a religious institution be complicit in an act it believes constitutes murder.  More to the point, the Constitutional grant of religious freedom, by which the government agrees to stay out of managing a religious institutions affairs, either practical or doctrinal, should prohibit such conduct entirely.  This is one more example, as if we needed it, of the Obama administration’s fundamental lawlessness.

 

Legislating religion to death

During the gay marriage debate, I mentioned to a lawyer friend of mine that gay marriage would inevitably set up a church versus state conflict if a church refused to marry a gay couple — especially the Catholic Church, which counts marriage amongst its sacraments.  My lawyer friend came back with what he thought was a brilliant riposte:  “Well, abortion hasn’t created a church versus state conflict.”  I reminded him, gently, that the church doesn’t perform abortions, it just advocates against them, but that it does in fact perform marriages.  He looked perplexed.  I didn’t press the point, believing that it was more useful for his thought process to marinate in the idea.

Will you be surprised to learn that the Anchoress has taken my narrow, shallowly expressed thought and delved into it much more deeply?  No?  I wasn’t surprised either.  Please read what the Anchoress has to say on constant Progressive legislation that undermines religion’s reach in America and, if you feel so inclined, come back here and talk about it with me.

Is it hate?

The Indiana legislature is working on a bill to ban gay marriage.  On my “real me” facebook, several of my friends characterized this as an act motivated by hate:  “Stop the hate!”  “Boy, they really hate us.”  “Could they be more hateful?”  I found this formulation interesting, perhaps because semantics has been such a big issue lately, what with the liberals  trying to redefine Reagan so that they can redefine Obama.  (For two excellent articles on the politics of semantics, check out this and this.)

Saying that people are motivated by hate is a very powerful and demeaning argument.  Most everyone at whom such an argument is aimed reacts instinctively to deny that he or she is hate-filled.  Often, to prove that there is no hate, the person will back of from the allegedly hate-filled position.

I’m wondering, though, if there is any merit to the “hate” argument when it comes to gay marriage.  I don’t like gay marriage because I’ve increasingly come to believe (here come the semantics again) that it would be better if “marriage” was kept to religious institutions, with civil unions belonging to the state.  The state can then decide how best to advance the goal of stable two parent families, which are the backbone of every growing, healthy society.

To allow state gay marriages as a civil right raises the horrible specter looms of a gay couple being denied a Catholic marriage, only to sue, alleging that the couple is being discriminated against under the Constitution.  The Church, of course, reasonably responds that, under the same Constitution, the government has to stay out of its doctrinal practices, and where are you then?  In other words, I don’t hate gays; I just hate the idea of gay marriage.

Those who oppose gay marriage for other reasons also don’t seem motivated by “hatred” for gays.  They may believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman; they may believe gay marriage is a slippery slope to polygamy; they may believe these matters should be put to the popular vote, not the courts or even the legislatures; they may believe that their religion prohibits gay marriage; or they may believe something else entirely.  But what one hasn’t heard from the majority in the gay marriage debate is personal animus towards gays.  Ignoring the fringes, one hasn’t heard “hate.”

Or am I misdefining hate?  Is it hatred if you place obstacles in the path of a specific group, without explicitly demeaning, deriding, insulting or attacking that group?  What if you justify those obstacles on grounds unrelated, or reasonably unrelated to the group?

I actually don’t have answers, just questions.  Nor am I seeking to open a debate about gay marriage.  I’m simply wondering about politics, semantics, and identity groups.

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.

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.

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.

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.

American Jews

Contentions blog has a short post about the Jewish vote for Obama.  I wrote a comment to that post, and share it with you here:

American Jews aren’t really Jewish anymore.  With regard to Prop. 8′s success in California (preserving male/female marriage), I told a disappointed Jewish acquaintance, who was blaming “fanatic” Christians, that most religions had male/female marriage as a fundamental tenet of the religion.  “Not my religion,” he said.  Who knew that Moses came down from the Mountain with a commandment mandating gay marriage?

In the same vein, another liberal Jew of my acquaintance, when I expressed concern that gay marriage could be used as a wedge for polygamy, assured me that this was no problem because “we always had polygamy until it became illegal.”  He was taken aback when I pointed out that the last legal polygamy in Judeo-Christian culture was at the time of the Biblical Patriarchs.

As I said, whatever American Jews are, they’re not really Jewish.

Last gasp of the old media *UPDATED*

Do you think it’s coincidence that the Sunday before Prop. 8 formally goes before California voters, the SF Chron runs an article about a lesbian couple’s wedding that would be perfectly suitable for a saccharine Barbara Cartland romance?  I probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared about this little subliminal push for its readers to vote with the liberal agenda if I hadn’t read this on the same day I learned that the Chron suppressed information about Obama’s boast that he was going to bankrupt the American coal industry.

I’m glad those two women found happiness together, and I have no problem with giving them civil recognition as a couple, with all the legal benefits and burdens that entails.  However, let’s just not pretend that this civil recognition is marriage, a pretense that will have two horrible side effects:  (a) it will insert the government into religion, which is precisely what the Founders most feared and (b) it is a slippery slope that inevitably (no brakes) opens the door for Muslim polygamy, not to mention some less savory practices such as polyandry and bestiality (or, if you’re in Japan, marriage to cartoon characters).

UPDATE:  Thanks to Rockdalian for bringing to my attention the story that the Chronicle isn’t telling in the days leading up to a vote on Prop. 8:  namely, the fact that the California school system is sitting on its hands in the face of a teacher who gave kindergartners a form to fill out supporting Gay and Lesbian rights.

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.)