Friday, May 16, 2008

We Are Family!

The California Supreme Court, as you all know by now, has spoken:

The designation of marriage to a union "between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Woo-hoo! So, sometime next month, Amy and I will be getting married. Again. And that marriage may or may not be permanent, since there will be a ballot initiative in November to amendment the California constitution -- the only thing that supersedes a Supreme Court decision -- which would define marriage as between "one man and one woman," if it wins.

It goes without say that we're opposed to the ballot initiative, and that in fact we will be spending a lot of time between now and then pounding the pavement trying to get people to NOT vote for it. I'm hoping that anyone reading this who lives in California will be doing the same, if you can, and I'm also hoping that all of you donate as much as you can to organizations like Equality California and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry who are fighting this amendment.

I spent a few hours yesterday reading the comments on various websites about the Supreme Court decision, and the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage seem to have three main arguments:

1. The Religious Argument: the Bible says it's wrong.
2. The Democracy Argument: the voters already voted against this (in 2000).
3. The Slippery Slope Argument: next they'll be saying you can marry your sister, or your dog.

Since you will undoubtedly encounter one or more of these arguments, should you decide to discuss this issue with a Californian, I thought I'd take some time to expound, in the hopes of providing my vast readership (all 6 of you!) with some ammunition.

1. The Religious Argument

It's hard to argue with someone's religion. However, that's not really necessary in this case. The only argument to have with someone who believes that the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong or that marriage between men and women is sacred (or whatever) is that we all have the right to our own beliefs.

I don't really care if your church refuses to marry same-sex couples. My church celebrates same-sex marriages, and my faith is just as good as yours. This country was founded on the principle of Freedom of Religion, and so its laws should not promote one particular religious belief over another.

Besides which, there is a tremendous amount of disagreement among religious scholars about how to interpret the various faiths' teachings on this issue. There is also a tremendous amount of support for same-sex marriage among faith-based organizations, institutions and clergy. One of the Friend of the Court briefs in the Supreme Court case came from faith-based groups who support same-sex marriage. It was signed by many hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques, religious organizations and clergy members, representing many faiths -- Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Native American.

2. The Democracy Argument

In June 2000, California voters approved a ballot initiative (Proposition 22) which added language to the Family Code stating that marriage could be only between a man and a woman. It was that part of the Family Code which was overturned by the Supreme Court decision. Hence, while it's true that the Supreme Court decision rescinds the "will of the voters," there are a number of reasons why it just not accurate to claim that this is somehow undemocratic.

First, our Constitution (both the U.S. and the California ones) designates a system of checks and balances. The Legislature makes the law, and the courts determine if it is constitutional. In California, voters can also make the law through the ballot initiative process. Whether a law is created by the voters directly (by ballot initiative) or indirectly (by the Legislators the voters elect) it is still subject to judicial review. Laws are overturned by the courts all the time. That's the system. Have a revolution and write a new constitution if you don't like it.

Besides which, the voters will get to vote again this fall, this time to actually amend the Constitution itself, not just the Family Code. So, we'll see if the "will of the voters" is the same as it was 8 years ago.

Oh, and about that "will of the voters" thing. Fewer than 5 million people voted for Proposition 22 -- about 10% of the population. It was a low significance, June primary election with very low voter turnout. It was still perfectly legal -- I'm not disputing that -- but whether it is a good indicator of the will of the voters remains to be seen.

3. The Slippery Slope Argument

Well, last time I checked my dog didn't want to marry me, nor does my cat, my guinea pig, my sheep or my cow. You know why? BECAUSE THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT MARRIAGE IS! Therefore, they can't consent to it! CONSENT, you people, CONSENT. I'm sorry to yell, but really, that is such a stupid argument. We're talking about marriage between TWO CONSENTING ADULTS here. Not children, not animals.

As for allowing you to marry your sister, or marry more than one person, when someone comes along and advocates for that, we should argue that on its merits. I just don't see why one whole class of people should be denied their civil rights just so as not to set a possible legal precedent for another class of people who may or may not in the future ask for the same right.

Besides which, all you people who say that the Bible prohibits homosexuality, doesn't the Bible ALLOW polygamy? How come you're not petitioning the court to legalize it?

There are other arguments people put forth against same-sex marriage, but I'll let you all figure out how to respond to them, since I'm starting to froth at the mouth. Just remember, it will take ALL OF US to defeat this ballot initiative.


Michael Ejercito said...

My arguments against same-sex marriage are simple.

Nature/evolution/God designed children to be raised in a two-parent household, each parent of the opposite sex. It is known that this is the best foundation for a family. while grandparents, aunts, and uncles can play a role, two parents of the opposite sex are a must.

Homosexual relationships do not measure up to opposite-sex relationship. They can not form the nucleus of the family. Therefore, I must object to social and legal sanction of same-sex unions.

IrreverendAmy said...

Don't forget the "Eww, Yuck" Argument. The "Eww, Yuck" Argument says "I think homosexuality is icky." When they receive the obvious response, which is "If you don't want to marry someone of your sex, don't," the proponents of the "Eww, Yuck" Argument move on to a particularly vapid variation of the Slippery Slope Argument. Usually it involves some spluttering about "moral relativism" (the term unintelligent people use when they discover that not everyone shares their ethical views) and then emerges as "Would you say that about robbery? Rape? CHILD ABUSE?! Just 'if you're against it, don't do it'?!!"

So you need a counterargument there, too, even though it feels like talking to a seven-year-old: "Those things are illegal not because you (and I) find them icky, but because they hurt other people. This is called a compelling interest on the part of the state, and the opinion spends many pages explaining why the state does NOT have a compelling interest in telling any two consenting adults whom they may marry. Hint: the purpose of the government is NOT to protect you from knowing about things you find distasteful, but in fact to protect all of us from being unnecessarily controlled by our neighbors.

"It's called freedom. Welcome to America--you might like it here."

HereBeDragons said...

This is an excellent post. I'm already gearing up to help fight the ballot initiative in November. Thanks for adding to my arsenal of arguments. As a heterosexual, my own personal favorite is that I feel that disallowing gay marriage devalues ALL marriage - including my own in the future, should I choose at some point to marry (a man) again. Knowing that I am given rights that others are denied really makes me angry. (So there, to anyone who wants to throw "devaluation of marriage" out as an argument. As if there is any "sanctity" to marriage, in general, in our society anyway. Only individuals who love one another give any meaning to that word).

Also, just when I think Mookie couldn't be more adorable . . . SHE IS!!!! (OMG that is an awesome, awesome photo. That smile!!!!!)

(Reply to this)(Thread

HereBeDragons said...

@michael ejercito

You wrote: Nature/evolution/God designed children to be raised in a two-parent household, each parent of the opposite sex. It is known that this is the best foundation for a family.

By whom, exactly, is this "known?" I respectfully suggest that you are arguing from a very narrow viewpoint. Just because one small segment of modern U.S. culture is trying to dictate this for all people does not mean that it is true. It is certainly not the only foundation for a family unit which has been considered the "norm" throughout human history.

In fact, throughout most of human history, children have not been raised in two-parent households. Our idea of the "nuclear family" with one mother, one father and some children, is very recent (and believed by most to be a byproduct of the societal changes brought about by industrialization). Up until fairly recently, even in the U.S. a household with multiple generations living together to raise the children was the norm. At various times in history children have been commonly "fostered:" sent to live with people to whom they weren't even related by blood. In some matrilineal societies, it is common for the identities of fathers to not even be known, and instead the children look to other family members for guidance. These are just a few examples of successful strategies for families which do not involve "two parents of the opposite sex are a must."

The real point here is that there is no one definition for the "best" family unit, or for the way a family "must" be structured. Plus, to be honest, IMO our current nuclear family model isn't working all that well for a lot of children, with the rise of divorce and single-parent homes. Ultimately, what matters most is that children have good, loving role models to give them guidance and recognition throughout their development. Two women, or two men, can provide this foundation just as well as a heterosexual couple can.

We are living in an era where societal changes are happening at a rapid pace. It is a mistake to remain tethered to dogmatic beliefs which hurt good people who are living their lives in ways that benefit, rather than harm, others. That's what you're doing when you speak out against same-sex unions. Having acceptance for others - even when they are living their lives differently from the way we live our own - is a beautiful, liberating thing.

Here is a link which might be of interest; while there are better sources, I chose this one because it is not behind a paywall:

IrreverendAmy said...

Mr. Ejercito, it's nice to see someone post politely on this topic.

I see several flaws in your argument.

Nature/evolution/God designed children to be raised in a two-parent household

I see little evidence that whatever designed humans (be it an intelligent designer or the workings of evolution) did this. We are mammals, and most mammals are not raised in this way at all. A much more typical scenario is that the male impregnates as many females as possible and has as little to do with raising the offspring to maturity as possible. While I'm not advocating that we follow the example of other mammals (see below), I'm not willing to accept your confident pronouncement of what nature intended. One thing is clear: nature created many humans (and other animals) to prefer mates of the same sex.

It is known that this is the best foundation for a family. Known by whom? Can you support this with evidence? No cherrypicking of studies, please. A review of the scientific literature will show you that children with two parents of the same sex are just as happy, intelligent, well-adjusted, etc., as children with two parents of different sexes.

two parents of the opposite sex are a must.

A must? This would surprise the millions of people who grew up with only one parent, or were raised by grandparents, or, of course, had two parents of the same sex. While a parent of each sex is certainly an excellent arrangement, and studies indicate that having more than one loving adult as a parent is easier (not surprisingly) than having only one, simply saying "it's a must" doesn't make it so. Provide evidence, please.

Homosexual relationships do not measure up to opposite-sex relationship.

Now you're just being insulting. "Measure up" in what way? In depth of love? In commitment to each other? In ability to raise children? By what measure of quality is the relationship between two women who love and respect each other, and commit to making a marriage work over the long haul, inferior to the relationship between a man and a woman who do the same? (Or don't do this much, since of course many heterosexual relationships are simply horrible. You don't say, but you do imply, that the worst of them are nevertheless better than the best same-sex relationships.) Again, you need to do more than just say "I don't think they're as good."

They can not form the nucleus of the family.

Here the evidence against you is staring you in the face. My and AnotherOtherMother's daughter is pictured on this page. Parents legally responsible for child for life + child = family. Perhaps not the family you choose, but it's ours. Are you arguing that people who are in same-sex relationships shouldn't be allowed to conceive children? to adopt children? And that people who already have children shouldn't be allowed to enter into same-sex relationships? Because those are three of the ways people end up with families like ours. None of them are dealt with by the question of whether AnotherOtherMother and I have the right to marry each other. I think you're getting off track.

Therefore, I must object to social and legal sanction of same-sex unions.

To be precise, the court is not recommending sanction or approval or any of those things. It is saying, if it is a fundamental right to enter into civil marriage with the person we choose, then the state can't go picking and choosing which citizens are allowed to exercise that right. It can only create restrictions where it has a compelling interest, such as the need to guarantee that both parties consent (because the state has a compelling interest in protecting its citizens from being coerced into a marriage or any other contract)--hence the age requirements every state has. What is the compelling interest that would lead the state to tell two women or two men that they may not enter into this relationship?

We are talking about the rule of law here, not your opinions. Can you please provide some details to your arguments that might make them convincing to those of us who value the principle of equal protection under the California constitution?

Joy said...

@michael ejercito

I conceed that nature seems to have designed things so that conception of a child requires both men and women, but I don't get how that translates to "it is known" that children need to be raised by one man and one woman. Known by who? This sounds like your opinion, not fact.

All the studies I've seen seem to indicate that children do quite well in all sorts of families -- they do the best when they have 2 or more parents/caretakers, rather than only 1, although is largely because one parent families tend to be poorer.