Thursday, May 17, 2012

Some Thoughts on Our First "Gay" President

I know that some time back I stated that I would not engage in the so called "Gay Marriage" debate as I think that this is a discussion that has lost any semblance of rational thought about and that it has instead become an emotional cause celeb within our culture.  However, recently, Newsweek annointed our President as the First Gay President.  I simply had to offer my thoughts one last? time.

A friend of mine provided a link to a site entitled "10 Reasons to Ban Gay Marriage".  This led to a discussion about what it means to be married in America today.  Below are some of my thoughts on the matter.....
An Open Letter To my Well Meaning Supporters of Gay Marriage,

Thank you for your humorous post that intends to shame us into seeing the bigotry of our position. 
I get it. You want to re-define marriage. Ok. I accept your proposal to redefine marriage. So.... What should the new definition be? Why that definition? What is the intended purpose for codifying that definition into state law? Just asking. 

If you are seeking my support for your new definition I need to understand the purpose and why the state should extend rights and benefits to same sex couples and deny rights to other forms of relationships. Again, what should the new definition be?

Let's Take Out the Religious Argument for A Moment

Let's begin by taking out for a moment the religious aspects to marriage, and simply focus on why the state is involved in marriage at all.  Looking at over nearly a century and a half of marriage and family law, you see a clear pattern that squarely places the foundation of the laws associated with marriage and family on a fundamental principle of protecting women and children.  That is why we had marriage and family law in the first place or at all as a state sponsored/regulated institution.  

Until 1850, there were no State Laws Governing Marriage

There were no state laws covering marriage or children at all in the US until New York enacted legislation, primarily designed to protect women in the 1850s. Over the years the notion of what constitutes marriage and family law has evolved and spread to all other states.

In a watershed moment in the late 60s/early 70s California began the latest round of marriage and family law shifts with its introduction of the no-fault divorce.

The primary purpose of all of the laws that have been enacted up to and including the no-fault divorce laws were primarily designed to protect women and children in those relationships. So we have nearly a century and a half of marriage and family law whose primary purpose was to protect families especially women and children.
Today We Are Being Asked to Consider Something Very Different

Now we are being asked to expand and extend the definition of marriage to include a group of people for whom it was never the intention to cover in the original purpose of the laws governing marriage. I am not arguing that the state should not alter or expand the rights and privileges of citizens, I am simply pointing out that to accomodate this change, we must consider the foundational principles we are using to support the change.

So, you see, it is a redefinition.  Especially as you consider it from a legal perspective. Also what you are proposing is based upon introducing an altered/expanded purpose for these laws.

If your argument rests upon the idea that you are eliminating discrimination, I suggest that this is not, in fact, the case.  What you are proposing continues discrimination. Why?  It continues discrimination in excluding marriages within families (think brother/sister, father/daughter) and it continues to exclude marriages between other forms of domestic partnerships such as polygamist relationships.

So it is clearly seen that the argument, that we are doing this in order to eliminate discrimination is, in fact, not true. So, my question remains what should be the definition of marriage? Further, and of more relevance, what should be, from a state perspective, the purpose of marriage (or at least the laws that support marriage)?

Now you may conclude from this writing that I am anti-gay. I disagree. My question is more a fundamental policy question. What I am looking to understand is that if we are going to expand the rights of a particular group of people then what is the purpose of that expansion of those rights?  Why should we provide those rights to those people and not others.

A Radical Suggestion

I have a radically different view on the whole situation. I believe that the state should get out of the marriage business completely. That all relationships, from the perspective of the state, should be defined in a form of civil contract. No (state) marriages at all.

Marriage and marriage ceremonies would revert to the auspices of religious institutions. So anyone could be "married" as long as the religious institution would confer that title but it would have no legal standing. The legal standing for the relationship would be defined by civil contract, a "civil union" for all.  Marriage (as commonly understood by religious institutions) and Civil Unions (the underpinning legal set of rights for people, would, in-fact, be two separate things.

This point of view would allow for the preservation of traditional marriage for those Americans that value that while at the same time allowing for the rights and responsibilities to be conferred upon any reasonable relationship. we could look at it not from an emotional perspective but really from a policy perspective.

Final Thoughts, Resigned to the Inevitable

My final thoughts are that for some time I have felt that technology powerfully impacts society and the values we share.  In many respects, the introduction of the birth control pill has led to a fundamental shift of sex from one whose primary purpose is to have children to one whose primary purpose is to have pleasure.  Certainly both have always been present, but there has been a fundamental shift in what is primary.  Add to this an overpopulated world in which technology performs so much of our labor and children become an economic burden instead of a benefit.  The perceived value of families, in general and children in particular goes down.   Finally, through technology and social mores, it is no longer a necessity to have a man and woman "lay together" in order to conceive children and you have a perfect storm in which new "definitions" of family are not just possible, they are almost inevitable. 

So, I return to the stand I took months ago when I stated I would not engage in this debate any more as I think it is not worth fighting and other more fundamental issues are before us.  The "gay" marriage train has left the station and I think that it is invitable.  If given an opportunity to vote against it, I will, because I do not agree that this is the best solution for our society.  We have been well served with marriages in which there is one man and one woman.  I value children and their well being.  The evidence remains overwhelming that children are best served in a loving, stable, comitted relationship in which a father and a mother are married to each other.  I believe that the state should continue to respect and protect families and children.  I will continue to argue for these ideals of family.  I simply think that because of technology, my position is one that is not shared by an ever increasing wave of a generation who operates in a self-focused world of pleasure that no longer sees the value in old fashioned concepts such as husband/wife, father/mother, children of values.

So I am resigned to the inevitable.  Have your new definition.  Just remember, there are long term consequences to these decisions that you may not have completely thought through.

Your thoughts my friend?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Response to The Secret Republican Guide to Talking About Gay Marriage

Recently Business Week published an article entitled The Secret Republican Guide to Talking About Gay Marriage. 

Several readers posted comments regarding the article that were wide ranging.  Many of them criticized Republicans for things that had nothing to do with the article or the issue.  Following was my response....

I am sorry that all of you are attacking Republicans/Conservatives with your ill-informed opinions when the facts speak otherwise. Free-enterprise has done more to lift up the poor and down-trodden than any government program has. A review of history shows that those countries that embrace economic freedom most have the best conditions on the poor. Those countries that control and limit free enterprise the most have greatest % of the poor. You want evidence consider China and Venezuela. The former has moved more and more to a freer enterprise economic model while Venezuela has done the opposite. China has lifted the greatest number of people out of poverty while as a % of the population, Venzuela has been most destructive to the middle class with enormous shifts of people into poverty.

Republicans/Conservatives tend to be the most generous donors to private charity. According to an article published in the New York Times, "Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals."
So while liberalism in general and Democrats in particular talk a good game, the facts support that Republicans/Conservatives values actually do the most to lift the poor and less fortunate out of their circumstances.

Finally, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, Conservatives, in general, seem to be at least as committed as liberals to tolerance. They simply are seeking ways of achieving a positive impact on society through most private means (as opposed to government solutions and mandates).

To be clear, I believe that society functions best in a world where traditional views of marriage are uplifted and protected. However, I recognize that the people have the right to define marriage in other ways, even if I may not agree. If the people create new statutes, I will respect the will of the people. To me, focusing on same-sex marriage and birth control pills is a side-show and that the greatest threat to our country and our way of life is the shift in our society from one of individual responsibilty to one of entitlement. Providing an ever increasing segment of our society with benefits with no or little demand for earning that, eats at our core values and leads to a selfish and dark society in which the only way to get ahead is through luck and government connections. If you are like me, you believe that there is dignity in earning what you have and that any indvidual who earns what they posess is worthy of respect. For me, Republicans and Conservatives seem to embrace these values better than Democrats and liberals.