Posts Tagged ‘Gay Marriage’

Why people distrust Hillary Clinton

April 25, 2016

Senator Hillary Clinton said the following about gay marriage in 2004.

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.  I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage.  So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.

Presidential candidate Clinton said the following in January of this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality represents America at its best: just, fair and moving toward equality.  Now we have more work to do.  I’ll fight to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have full equality under the law, and to end discrimination in employment, housing, schools, and other aspects of our society.

Source: Hillary Clinton gay marriage – Google Search

There are three possible ways to interpret these two statements.

  1. Hillary Clinton sincerely opposed gay marriage in 2004, but changed her mind and sincerely supports gay marriage in 2016.
  2. Hillary Clinton favored gay marriage in 2004, but for tactical reasons, pretended to oppose it in order to effectively oppose a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
  3. Hillary Clinton has no strong convictions on gay marriage one way or the other, but takes whatever position is most politically expedient.

I don’t criticize anybody for changing their minds.  I see a lot of things, including gay marriage,  differently from how I saw them 12 years ago, and very differently then from how I saw them 12 years before that.

The problem with Hillary Clinton is that there are so many things about which you have to ask the same kinds of questions.

Did she vote in favor of giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq because she sincerely believed that was the right thing to do, or for tactical political reasons?  How about her statements during his husband’s administration in favor of putting more people in prison and cutting people off from welfare?

Her supporters tell me that she “had to” do and say these things.  How, then, can they tell the difference between what she really stands for and what she “had to” pretend to stand for?

Right, wrong and the “wrong” side of history

August 5, 2015

When Leon Trotsky was in exile the Soviet Union after losing his power struggle with Joseph Stalin, he still led a tiny splinter group.  He expelled dissidents from the group, saying he had consigned them “to the dust bin of history.”

Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky

There are certain unstated assumptions in that remark, and in any statement about the right or wrong side of history.   The assumptions are that (1) the course of history is predictable, (2) the outcome of history is just and (3) being on the winning side proves you were right.

I disagree with all these assumptions.  I don’t think the course of history is predictable. I don’t think the outcome of history is necessarily just and I don’t think being a winner proves you are right.

Just to be clear, I agree that gay couples ought to enjoy the same rights as straight married couples.  I think this is a question of right and wrong, not of the right or wrong side of history.  However, I don’t think that people who were slower to see this than I was should be fired from their jobs or driven out of business merely because of their personal opinions.

But gay marriage is not the topic of this post.  The topic is why philosophies of history are bad guides to moral and ethical philosophy.

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Thoughts on marriage and gay marriage

July 5, 2015
The last statement presumably was on June 24, 2015

The last statement was on June  24, 2015 (not August)

Hat tip to Tiffany’s Non-Blog.

There are lessons in this chart for people who advocate social change, and that is to never think that electing a particular politician is enough, and especially to never settle for the lesser of two evils.

I respect the gay rights movement for pressing relentlessly for social change and especially for withholding support for politicians who do not support their agenda.

The labor movement can learn from this.  Of course the gay rights movement had an easier task because its goals do not threaten any powerful monied interests.

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Gay marriage and religious liberty

March 31, 2015

Marriage is both a legal contract and a religious sacrament.   The dual nature of marriage makes it a more complicated question than, say, voting rights.

same sex weddingNobody should be denied access to the benefits of the marriage contract based on race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation.  Gay married couples should have the same rights as any other couples in regard to pensions, insurance, credit, hospital visitation or anything else.

Neither should anybody be required to support or participate in a religious ritual they don’t believe in, for the same reason that nobody should be required to recite the Lord’s Prayer in a public ceremony if they don’t believe in it.

For example, an independent photographer who believes on religious grounds that marriage is only between a man and a woman should not be required to take photographs as a gay wedding.

I think that religious institutions should be free to set their own internal rules of moral conduct, including sexual conduct.

On the other hand, I do not believe that owners of a business corporation have the right to impose their private moral beliefs on employees, or to use religion as an excuse for depriving employees of their legal rights, as was done by the Hobby Lobby corporation.

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A case study in ‘political correctness’

February 7, 2015
marriage

Source: XKCD (Randall Munroe)

One good example of political correctness in action is how the right to gay marriage in the United States has become an unquestioned orthodoxy.

I have no quarrel with the right gay marriage.  It makes our nation more inclusive.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.   I’m glad that gays are no longer a persecuted minority, essentially outside the protection of the law.

I do have a problem with unquestioned orthodoxies that shut down debate.  A case in point was the firing of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla Firefox last year.

Eich was a co-founder of the company and the inventor of the JavaScript programming language.  By all accounts, treated employees, including gay employees, decently.

But somebody dug up the fact that, in 2008, he had contributed $1,000 to Proposition 8, the California referendum to ban gay marriage.  A few days after being named CEO, he was ousted.

Now he’s a rich and talented person who should be able to do all right for himself, so I don’t think this is the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.   As Kathleen Geier pointed out, people in more precarious positions than Eich are fired every day for much more arbitrary reasons, including wearing a necktie the employer didn’t like.

My interest in the case is in the arguments given to justify his firing.  His views were offensive to most people in Silicon Valley.  Does that mean it would be okay for a company headquartered in, say, Utah to fire a CEO for supporting gay marriage?

Gay employees would feel uncomfortable working for a CEO who opposed their right to marry.  This is the flip side of the argument most commonly used against gay rights.

The right of openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military was opposed on the grounds that straight troops would feel uncomfortable.  And this, arguably, would be a more important consideration on the battlefield than in an office in California.

In an earlier era, this was a common argument against hiring African-Americans.   Business owners told me that they had no objection to hiring qualified black people, but their customers wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.

Brendan Eich has a right to express his opinion, but he does not have a right to be free from the consequences of expressing his opinion.   Would you apply this reasoning to, say, Hollywood screenwriters who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era?

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How times change

November 30, 2014

marriagevia xkcd

I grew up in Williamsport, Md., a little town on the Potomac River, in the 1940s and 1950s, and was taught by my parents, teachers and Sunday school teachers to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

It was not so far south that expressing this opinion would have caused anybody to be run out of town, but I do remember many arguments in which the supposed clincher was, “Be honest, Phil.  Would you want one of them to marry your sister?”

My answer was, “Well, if I had a sister, which I don’t, I wouldn’t want her to suffer all the grief she would have to go through if she married a Negro.  But, if she really loved him, I guess I would still love her and respect her decision, as unwise as it probably would be.”

In truth, I thought the question was a red herring.  I didn’t think interracial marriage would ever be common.  I thought it was just a talking point to justify the denial of equal rights.

In the 1960s, in Hagerstown, Md., in the same county, I attended the marriage of my friend Jim Yeatts, who was white, to Georgianna Bell, who was black.  A detective from the city police department sat in a police cruiser outside the church when the ceremony was performed.

That night the chief of police phoned the newspaper publisher, who was my employer, and informed him that I was among the guests.  The phone call didn’t have any consequences.  I mention it as an example of something that happened then that would be unthinkable now.

What was unthinkable then was same-sex marriage.  If somebody had asked me a question about this back in the 1960s, I wouldn’t have known that they were talking about.

Free speech and fast food chicken

July 27, 2012

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought of those we hate.
    ==Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago said he will try to prevent the Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant chain from expanding in their cities because they disapprove of the opinions of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, a Southern Baptist who is strongly opposed to gay marriage.

A Chicago alderman, Joe Moreno, said he will try to prevent a Chick-fil-A restaurant from opening in his ward, and Mayor Emanuel said Moreno has his support.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said Chick-fil-A is not welcome in Boston.

Nobody has accused Chick-fil-A of breaking any laws.  Nobody has accused Chick-fil-A of discriminatory hiring practices.  Nobody has accused Chick-fil-A of refusing service to customers.  But Mayor Emanuel thinks he has the right to use the power of government to punish a business because its CEO expressed an opinion he doesn’t agree with.

People who favor gay marriage are not going to change anybody’s minds by trying to repress people with whom they disagree.  Mayor Emanuel’s action serve only to harden battle lines and lock people into their previous positions.  Opponents of gay marriage, including Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, have rallied to Dan Cathy’s support.  Very likely Chick-fil-A, whose business is concentrated in the South, will have a net gain in business as a result of the uproar.

Now I don’t agree with Dan Cathy myself.   I don’t think his opinions should go un-contradicted.  And anybody who is offended by his views is free to patronize some other restaurant.   That’s different from government persecution.

If you really believe in free speech, you believe in it for everyone.  If you make exceptions based on your emotions, why should anybody take you seriously?  If some mayor somewhere tries to close a business because its owner is for gay marriage, Rahm Emanuel gives him an excuse to accuse his opponents of being hypocrites.

Somebody pointed out that, until a few months ago, Barack Obama took the same position as Dan Cathy—that the marriage relationship only pertained to a man and a woman.  Would President Obama have been unwelcome in Chicago and Boston?

Click on Rahm Emanuel’s dangerous free speech attack for a good post by Glenn Greenwald, a civil liberties lawyer who is gay himself.

Click on In Defense of Chick-Fil-A for a good post by Adam Serwer of Mother Jones.  He quoted John Knight, director of the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgendered) rights project at the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, as saying, “We think there’s a constitutional problem with discriminating against someone based on the content of their speech.”

Click on Don’t Fil-A the First Amendment for the view of Scott Limieux of The American Prospect.

Click on My evolving position on gay marriage if you’re interested in my personal opinion on this subject.

My evolving position on gay rights

May 15, 2012

When I was younger, I didn’t know any gay people, or, to put it more accurately, I wasn’t aware of knowing any gay people.  So in those days, I had no reality check to correct my prejudices.  I thought of gay people as unfortunates who had something wrong with them for which they shouldn’t be blamed, any more than you would blame somebody for being diabetic or colorblind.  I didn’t care for what I read about the flamboyant, promiscuous gay male culture, but I thought that people had a right to live the way they wish so long as they kept away from me.  In truth, I hardly ever thought about such things at all.

If I had thought about it, I probably would have said that although homosexuals should not be persecuted for something they couldn’t help, they should not be Scoutmasters, grade school teachers or anything else in which they would be role models for the young.

All of this could come under the heading of an honest mistake in thinking.  What I am deeply ashamed of to this day are the times I joined in making bigoted jokes and snide remarks about gay people.  This probably was partly because I have never been tough or macho and I subconsciously wanted to differential myself from a group of people that were outside the pale.  But it was worse than that.  I was generating a false sense of self-esteem by expressing contempt for a group of people outside my group–the same motive that leads people to tell racist jokes.  This was pure malice.

I think the worst thing you can do is to try to build yourself up by downgrading somebody else.  And I was guilty of it myself.

My thinking changed as a result of (1) being a Unitarian Universalist and (2) living in Rochester. N.Y.   The UUA and the Rochester community were not always liberal about such matters, or anything else.  They changed in the same way that American society as a whole is changing, but a little bit ahead of the curve.   The city of Rochester elected one of the first, maybe the first, openly gay city councilman.  He was Tim Mains, a high school guidance counselor.   I met him once and found he had the same values I did.   We had a nice conversation about how kids these days aren’t like we were when we were young.

Some time in the 1990s I reconnected with a former girl friend, then living in Santa Fe, N.M.   I went down to visit her, and she showed me the city.   At the end she told me that she had been reviewing her life, and decided that she was a lesbian.   A few years later I flew down to Santa Fe to attend her commitment ceremony with her partner.   I never saw two human beings look at each other with such love as these two middle-aged, outwardly ungainly women.

What reason other than prejudice could have caused me to question the value of a loving relationship between two adults?  Gay men are condemned for supposedly being more promiscuous on average than than men in relationships with women.   If that is true, then it would be a good thing, not a bad thing, for gay men to be recognized by society when they enter into committed relationships.

It still doesn’t sit well with me to use the same word “marriage,” the relationship between my mother and father, to the commitment of two men to live together.  But that is prejudice, not reason.  I do in fact know male couples and female couples who love each other as deeply as my mother and father did.   I know a couple of gay men with an adopted daughter who are as good parents as anybody could be.

There are a lot of people in the United States who think as I used to think.  If I could change, so can they–or their children.

Rush Limbaugh defends traditional marriage

May 14, 2012

Hat tip for the link to Rod Dreher, a thoughtful Christian conservative who does not believe in gay marriage, but is embarrassed by Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich setting themselves up as defenders of family values and traditional morality.

Gay marriage, money power and state’s rights

May 10, 2012

President Barack Obama said he believes that same-sex couples have a right to be married.  There are two things to remember about this.

  • His statement comes after gay rights organizations throttled back on contributions to Democratic candidates.  Donations in the 2010 mid-term elections fell by 50 percent from the 2006 mid-term elections.  Evidently the Democratic leaders got the message.  The military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed in the 2010 lame-duck session of Congress.  In 2011, the Obama administration stopped defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a1996  law that forbid any federal government recognition of gay marriage.  And now, with the 2012 Presidential elections coming up, the President endorses gay marriage.
  • President Obama did not propose to support any federal law or Constitutional amendment in support of gay marriage.  He would leave the issue to state governments, which is how things were before he issued his statement.   I happen to think that is the correct position.  I don’t believe in federalizing laws of marriage and divorce either.   But it makes Obama’s statement a mere expression of personal opinion.  It doesn’t change anything.

Mitt Romney for his part has signed a pledge to the National Organization for Marriage to support a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and said he would defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  While Barack Obama has done little to advance gay rights, he isn’t trying to turn the clock back.

Click on Don’t Ask, Don’t Give and Gay Rights Political Donations Plummet for the story of the gay fund-raising boycott.  Hat tip for the links to Making Light.

Click on Obama and Gay Marriage for Radley Balko’s comment on The Agitator.

Click on Obama’s historic affirmation of same-sex marriage for Glenn Greenwald’s comment in The Guardian newspaper.  [Added 5/11/12]

Click on Mitt Romney reiterates opposition to gay marriage for Huffington Post’s comparison of Obama’s and Romney’s positions.

Click on Christian marriage and civil unions for my argument as to why government should not have the authority to say who’s married and who isn’t.

[Afterthought 5/11/12]   Barack Obama’s statement on gay marriage is historically significant, because no previous President has declared himself so clearly.  So maybe my comment above was a little mean-spirited.   It is not consistent to criticize somebody for being equivocal, and then belittle him when he takes a clear stand.  As Glenn Greenwald wrote, we can’t know people’s motives, all we can judge is their actions, good or bad.

Now you may disagree as to whether his statement was the right thing.  That is a different matter.

[Another afterthought 5/12/12]   As my friend Josh said, this shifts the focus of the Presidential election campaign toward the question of gay marriage (even through President Obama has declared it an issue for the states to decide) and away from the bipartisan consensus on creeping totalitarianism – detention without trial, torture, assassinations, universal surveillance, undeclared wars and governmental impunity.