Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

Gay Marriage as a campaign issue

We've all heard the argument for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Usually it goes something like "We have to protect our way of life, and our traditions, and our family values from this unhealthy lifestyle". Sounds inoccuous enough. Except that it's a symptom of a political culture, mostly on (but not exclusive to) the right wing of our political culture. What follows is a letter to the editor, re-published over at LloydLetta:
Dan H.
2/10 1:45 PM It is time for citizens to stand up for our family values. By accepting this unhealthy lifestyle, our communities will be changed. I want a constitutional amendment so judges can’t override our elected officials. I do not want my children to learn that being gay is a positive alternative lifestyle and that they should explore it. Remember, true love is willing to say no to those who may think they are right but are really hurting themselves in the process. The average age of death for homosexuals is 43 years old. Tolerance should be for that which is positive and healthy for all. My feeling is that any legislator who does not encourage or promote healthy and positive lifestyles should be removed form office. Some of the metro legislators and those of liberal world views are trying to change our world, and I will show my support for my country’s true values at the polls this fall. I hope others will join me!
This argument sums up everything that is wrong with the argument against gay marriage, and indeed, with the modern conservative movement within the Republican Party. Let's go point by point:

--"stand up for our family values" - By "family values", this person can only mean "our right not to think about men having sex with other men or women having sex with other women because we don't want our children to become gay." Stop me when I go off course.

--"unhealthy lifestyle"...."average age of death for homosexuals is 43" - who says? Rush Limbaugh? For one thing, for someone so opposed to equal rights for homosexuals this person seems to know a lot about their lifecycle. More likely than that, they've been given propaganda to parrot back at the media by their friends in the statehouse and MCCL, propaganda which has no basis in fact.

-- "Tolerance should be for that which is positive and healthy for all..." - Forget about asking Dan to define "positive for all", this simply isn't true. The Constitution was written to protect not the rights and customs of the majority, but rather to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority - exactly the situation we are in today. Go ahead, read the Federalist Papers and get back to me in a few weeks. The Founding Fathers were deathly afraid that in an elective form of government, the rights of smaller factions, whether political, cultural, or religious, would be quashed by the fears and conceits of a ruling majority.

--"liberal lawmakers are trying to change the world...[para]" - Not true. The world (and by that, I mean our culture, economy, and society) changes on its own, and the course of American history has been a steady path of expanding rights, not shrinking (see: non-landowner's suffrage, women's suffrage, Emancipation, Brown vs. Board of Education, the Civil Rights movement, the right to vote at 18 instead of 21, Roe vs. Wade, Miranda v. Arizona for a more eclectic example). Liberal lawmakers are, by definition, those who embrace cultural change and are confident enough in their own values not to fear change, which is inevitable. The only activism on the part of lawmakers in this fight is coming from radical conservatives who are scared of gays living next door. See: Michele Bachmann.

--"I want a constitutional amendment so judges can't overrule legislators..." - Woah now. When was the last time Dan H. took a Civics course? I am personally opposed to the very idea of electing judges, which is sadly legal now in Minnesota. However, the very purpose of an independent judiciary is to check the power of the executive AND the legislature. The Constitution of Minnesota (and indeed, that of the United States) is a document which defines the way the government operates in relation to the populace. It does NOT define who can and cannot marry. The primary and only reason why right-wing gay marriage activists want a constitutional amendment is because they know that a law proscribing gay marriage will be struck down by any judge worth her salt when she gets to the Tenth Amendment.

--"true love is saying no to those who may think they are right..." - Ahh, the balance point of this particular fulcrum. Dan H. thinks of homosexuals as children who need to be told what's right and wrong for their own good - this mindset is both unconstitutional and ethically wrong. Dan H. may tell his own children what's right and wrong, but quite frankly, has absolutely no right as a straight person, a family man, a community member, a Minnesotan, or an American to tell another person that they can or cannot live a certain way when that way of living does not affect Dan's family.

And God's honest truth is that whether you consider homosexuality a lifestyle or a choice or a genetic predisposition, whatever. It is not for me or anyone else to tell my neighbor that what they do in their bedroom is wrong. It is not or me or the government or anyone else to say that two people cannot declare their love for one another and receive the same legal and civil rights in partnerhood that the rest of us receive.

What is required at this juncture is a way for those of us with political conscience to demonstrate to people like Dan H. what it would be like if he were in the minority of rights - that is, if a large group in his community were trying to keep him from attaining what is truly a civil right...perhaps, hypothetically, a large constituency in his community wanted to ban all letters to the editor, suppressing his right to free speech and access to the media. Until conservatives like Dan H. learn to accept homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals as Americans and human beings, equal in their right to live as they see fit to Dan himself, no progress can be made.

Until then, the work unfortunately needs to be done on the Democratic/DFL side. We Democrats are no different from Republicans when we are uneasy with our homosexual friends; the difference is that we have the ability to, and must, get past our uneasiness and truly be the party of the People - ALL the people, gay, straight, or other. We cannot allow the Republican Party to get away with using denial of civil rights as a political wedge issue to drive thinking, breathing Americans apart.

There are candidates running for office here in Minnesota and across the country who are confident in their faith, their values, and their ethics, and thus know in their hearts that to defend the rights of gays and lesbians is to defend the rights of all. I hope you'll support these candidates. Sadly, few are Republicans. The days of Dwight Eisenhower's enlightened conservatism are gone forever.

I must now admit that in researching some material for this post, I came across some interesting facts. The quote "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" was misattributed to Voltaire. Voltaire's true quote in his Essay on Tolerance was "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too." The sentiment is the same - I don't agree with Dan H's views or words, but I will never once deny him the chance to say it, and I hope he's comfortable enough in his views and in the United States Constitution to hear my opposing views, and consider them critically as I have his. In a larger-than-Dan sense, however, I now paraphrase Voltaire for situational use: I am not gay, but I will defend to the death the right of others to be what they choose to be and remain equal in their rights as community members, as Minnesotans, and as Americans. And I hope you will too.

So ends your weekend sermonette. Thoughts, anyone?

Comments:
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Blogger lloydletta said:
Good fisking of Dan H's post. The death at 43 (usually 41) claim comes from discredited psychologist Paul Cameron. This claim was arrived at by studying obituaries in gay papers in the 80s. This isn't very representative of the gay community as a whole. Older gay men were less likely to have obituaries published in the gay press at that time.
 
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Blogger Tony Muehlbauer said:
Within the Senate DFL Caucus there is more opposition to the hate amendment than there was last session. Rural DFLers must weigh the costs and benefits of voting against the amendendment versus having an ultra motivated fundamentalist voting block. In the end many have decided it will be better to kill the bill now than to face it in November (and blow any chance of electing a DFL Governor).
 
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Blogger Trinhmaster said:
The Intelligence Report had a good article about this subject this quarter:
Fabulist
 
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