Tuesday, March 16, 2010

To Republican Culture Warriors, Truth Remains Irrelevant

In Arizona, Sen. John McCain has drawn a primary challenge from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Apparently Hayworth views Sen. McCain as far too liberal to represent the citizens of Arizona. Among the issues that Hayworth has raised is the issue of same-sex marriage and the need for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage (and ban same-sex marriage). To that end, here is what Hayworth said during a radio interview on Sunday (audio only; transcript below):


You see, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, when it started this move toward same-sex marriage, actually defined marriage — now get this — it defined marriage as simply, “the establishment of intimacy”. Now how dangerous is that? I mean, I don't mean to be absurd about it, but I guess I can make the point of absurdity with an absurd point. I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse. It’s just the wrong way to go and the only way to protect the institution of marriage is with that federal marriage amendment that I support.

Now the purpose of this post isn’t to address the pros or cons of the marriage amendment or same-sex marriage. I’ve certainly made my viewpoint on that clear in the past (hint: I support same-sex marriage). Nor is this post intended to discuss the idiocy of Hayworth’s slippery slope argument that same-sex marriage could lead to bestiality (or incest or polygamy or pedophilia or whatever phrase would describe sex or marriage to an inanimate object, all of which are used as a part of the slippery slope argument against same-sex marriage). Instead, I want to look at the way people frame arguments and respond to challenges.

So go back and look at the principal claim made by Hayworth, that the “Massachusetts Supreme Court … defined marriage as simply, ‘the establishment of intimacy’.” That is a statement that Hayworth presents as fact. He encloses the statement in verbal quotation marks.

Last night, Rachel Maddow had Hayworth on her show to discuss his claims and allegations. Watch this excerpt:

To paraphrase a quote that has been oft-repeated of late, people are entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. Note how Hayworth just smiles when Maddow notes that the phrase “establishment of intimacy” is not found in the opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. He then tells Maddow that he “appreciates that they have a disagreement” on whether the language is or is not in the opinion. In other words, though he has been proven wrong on something that he presented as a fact, he simply doesn’t care.

For the record, the opinion can easily be found online. Go ahead take a look at the opinion. I did. I searched for the phrase “establishment of intimacy” in the opinion. Guess what? That phrase is not used. So next I searched for the use of the word “intimacy” and found the following uses:

  • There, the [United States Supreme Court] affirmed that the core concept of common human dignity protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes government intrusion into the deeply personal realms of consensual adult expressions of intimacy and one's choice of an intimate partner.
  • Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.
  • Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family — these are among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights.
  • Our laws of civil marriage do not privilege procreative heterosexual intercourse between married people above every other form of adult intimacy and every other means of creating a family.
  • Similarly, the Supreme Court has called for increased due process protection when individual privacy and intimacy are threatened by unnecessary government imposition.
  • (characterizing "whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family" as "among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights")

I suppose that Hayworth could have been referring to one of these other phrases in which the word “intimacy” occurs; after all, people can make mistakes. But this rationalization fails for several reasons. First, Hayworth enclosed his statement in verbal quotation marks when he used it, thus implying that it was more than just a rough idea conjured up by the opinion or a paraphrasing of the Court’s statement. Moreover, Hayworth used the same precise phrase in both interviews, so he doesn’t appear to have been merely paraphrasing. Furthermore, the premise of his initial remarks followed from the “danger” of the false definition that he quoted. Finally, it would have been easy for him to say to Maddow, “Gee, I was paraphrasing” or “You’re right, and I meant to refer to that other phrase you mentioned” or even “Those words may not be there, but that is the gist of what the Court meant.” But he said none of those things. Instead, he stuck to his bogus phrase and “appreciated” that there was a disagreement as to whether something easily checked did or did not exist. And he smiled all the while, as if to say, “Who cares if I made it  up; facts are meaningless!” Hayworth’s “disagreement” is no more genuine than disagreement about whether the sun rises in the east or the west … or whether the health care bill had “death panels”.

And that’s what’s really dangerous. What does it say for our society and our democracy when politicians are so willing to gleefully say “fuck facts” and base their “principles” on lies? We’ve seen it with death panels and the reconciliation “nuclear option” and a whole host of other issues. But when it becomes so brazen that, even when confronted by very simple, easily fact-checked evidence, the response is to simply smile and “appreciate” the disagreement, as if objective reality were no longer objective, then how can we trust much of anything anymore? And what does it say for our society and our democracy when so many people are willing to simply taking smiling politicians or pundits at their word without any effort to think fact-check pronouncements, let alone think independently?

We should make decisions on important issues on the basis of facts. And if a fact offered by one side is proven to be demonstrably untrue, then the point should be surrendered or another rationale to support the argument should be put forth. But simply relying upon lies … well, there be madness.

Finally, is it just me, or does Hayworth remind anyone else of a bobblehead doll?

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Friday, March 12, 2010

IN Touch: A Threat to Our Rights (update)

Back in January, I posted my most recent entry for The Indianapolis Star's IN Touch blog. In the weeks following the publication of that post on the IN Touch blog, an interesting and heated discussion followed in the comments section of the IN Touch site. I don't know how long The Indianapolis Star keeps those comments, so I decided to copy them here for posterity (note that I deleted a mistakenly duplicated post and corrected a few odd formatting errors that made some text hard to read). Unfortunately, real life and work intervened and I wasn’t able to fully participate in the discussion as it kept going. Nevertheless, the discussion is interesting, especially the chance to see how someone vehemently opposed to gay marriage (or perhaps gay rights in general or even the very concept of “gay rights”) frames the issues and arguments.

First, go back and read my original post. Then check out these comments.

IrishKevin (January 27, 2010)

Michael, I agree wholeheartedly with your post.

No one, to my knowledge, has EVER truly explained how same-sex marriage would destroy traditional marriages, affect their own families or end civilization as we know it.

The proponents (supporters) of SJR-13, I am sure, would NOT agree to amendments such as banning divorce, requiring pre-marital counseling, or other amendments which would "protect" their traditional marriages. They jump up and down about protecting marriage and family while they themselves have been divorced and remarried. It seems to me divorce is a MUCH bigger threat to marriages and families than same-sex marriages are. And after all, these fundamentalist legislators should remember that Jesus did say what God has brought together let NO MAN put asunder. But hey, they only follow the parts of Jesus teachings that are "convenient" for them, yet they call themselves devout Christians. What a laugh.

However, I think we all know that the usually cast of characters are really out just trying to score political points with their fundamentalist base, so they can keep getting re-elected. If they spent as much effort trying to solve the REAL problems facing Indiana and stop worrying about same-sex marriages, maybe they MIGHT actually accomplish something of value, instead of wasting their time on stuff like SJR-13 while they are in session.

But hey, these "family value" legislators just want to bring up this issue every session so they can keep getting elected and keep coming to Indianapolis on the taxpayer's dime, stay in hotels, dine out and waste MORE time accomplishing NOTHING for the citizens of Indiana.

Mick Lee (February 1, 2010)

As usual, supporters gay marriage claim that "No one... has EVER truly explained how same-sex marriage would destroy traditional marriages". And, as usual, the key words are "has ever truly explained". What this means is that they get to decide what is "truly". It would doubt few that our writers don't believe such explanations could exist in the first place.

Well, the truth is such explanations are out there easy to be found. Anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant or dishonest. Our writers may not like them. They may say they don't meet their approval or their logic. But they are there. Just surf the web.

IrishKevin (February 1, 2010)

So tell us Mike [ed: I believe that IrishKevin meant Mick, not Mike; see below], how does same-sex marriage affect YOUR marriage, YOUR family, YOUR well-being?

Come on Mike, tell us, and be specific. I don't want some generic answer from the groups who go down to the Satehouse but never really say anything relevant. They are the ones who NEVER explain HOW same-sex marriage will affect them, their familes or their well-being.

So, since you take issue with that, I want to know how it directly affects YOU. Come on, tell us.....(if you can).

Michael Wallack (February 1, 2010)


Thanks for reinforcing my point. You tell me that explanations are "out there easy to be found". Yet, like the proponents of the proposed constitutional amendment who testified to the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee, you don't tell us what those reasons are, either. A legislator being asked to amend our constitution shouldn't have to surf the web for a rationale; proponents of the amendment should put their rationale up for scrutiny and debate. In this case, that was not done.

Michael Wallack (February 1, 2010)


Are you asking me or did you mean to ask Mick? For my part, same-sex marriage will have absolutely no effect on me, my marriage, or my well-being.

Mick Lee (February 2, 2010)

What has escaped Michael and Kevin is that I had accused the other writers of dishonesty and bad faith. You never "truly" heard how same-sex marriage would destroy traditional marriages? It's because you don't want to. It is easily done with a few clicks on the web and the fact that our industrious writers have little interest in doing so demonstrates they have little curiosity into why anyone would think differently than they do. Our writers really don’t want to debate “gay marriage” at all. In other words, the subject isn't really the subject. Something else is afoot. Our writers' real goal is to leave the door open for some court to decide the whole issue for everyone else. Given the Hoosier electorate, that is the only way "gay marriage" will become legal in Indiana.

IrishKevin (February 2, 2010)

Re: Mike Lee. Mike, you wrote "You never "truly" heard how same-sex marriage would destroy traditional marriages? It's because you don't want to."

Then you say it is out on the web. I am not asking that. I am asking YOU. How does same-sex marriage affect YOU, YOUR marriage and YOUR family. You seem concerned that "some court to decide the whole issue for everyone else"...So tell us how it will affect YOU.

So I would like YOU, and the others who scream that same-sex marriage will DESTROY our state and our Nation, to tell me HOW it will destroy your marriage... How will it destroy our state, our nation, our families and civilization as we know it? Those opposed to same-sex marriage make those claims but they NEVER say how their own marriages or lives will be affected. And by the way, they DON'T say that on the WEB either.. they just make the same stupid rants that they have to protect traditional marriage and family values, yet they TRULY NEVER say how same-sex marriage will "destroy" traditional marriage... so please TELL US....

Michael Wallack (February 2, 2010)


Actually, I think that you're missing the point. Look at the last paragraph of my original post. You will see that the issue is NOT whether Indiana should allow gay marriage; the issue is whether we should amend our Constitution. Perhaps the issue of same-sex marriage should be open to the courts (just as a lot of civil rights rulings were left to the courts) or to a future legislature. But amending the Constitution would prohibit a future legislature from dealing with same-sex marriage or civil unions.

The other point that you miss is that I said that at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, none of the proponents of SJR 13 endeavored to identify the perceived threat. I'm happy to debate the merits of those perceived threats, but it is the obligation of those proposing a constitutional amendment to come forward with the arguments; it isn't the obligation of the opponents to both "find" the arguments and then defeat them.

Jeff Lint (February 2, 2010)


I think it is you who doesn't want to debate this issue. You say the arguments are out there defining how "same-sex marriage would destroy traditional marriages" yet you can't cite a single argument. I have heard and read a lot on this issue and like Irish Kevin I have never heard anyone explain how same-sex marriage harms much less destroys traditional marriage, "truly" or otherwise. If this issue is as clear as you seem to think it is why can't you present any evidence? If you're arguing that some of your fellow Hoosiers should be denied rights belonging to others you need a better argument than no argument at all.

IrishKevin (February 2, 2010)

Michael, I met to ask Mick, (and I inadvertently wrote Mike). In fact, I responded again to him and again wrote Mike instead of Mick.

Based on what you wrote in your original posting, I assumed that you were not affected in any way by same-sex marriage, just like NO ONE ELSE'S marriage, family or well-being would be affected by same-sex marriage, despite what Advance America and the other organizations claim.

Mick Lee (February 2, 2010)

Our writer is certainly right to say that same-sex marriage is already prohibited by state law. The citizens of Indiana have already spoken. So why fool around with the state constitution? Precisely because some court will all by itself constitutionalize the issue and place it beyond public discourse in rendering its own decision. That is, with the right case before it, the judicial branch of government can and will amend the Indiana constitution all by itself.

Many if not most within gay activist community are putting their hopes for these circumstances to transpire. The apprehension of their opponents is that gay activists will attempt an “end run” around the Indiana voters and legislature by appealing to a receptive court.

Michael makes a curious statement when he writes: “do we really want to start amending our bill of rights with provisions that serve to restrict, rather than enhance, those rights?” It the first place, Michael serves up a planted axiom that what is referred as “gay rights” actually exist. This is in the very least debatable and far from a settled consensus. In the second place, Michael misses an important function of the bill of rights.

Rights, as we possess them, protect us from the naked strength government. They serve to protect the Hoosier populace from the coercive power of those who think society should be remade according to their lights. Such “reforms” are always presented as benevolent changes. But the means is tyrannical.

Contrary to assertion of some, marriage is not a vehicle to collect benefits. The sentiment of Hoosiers along with millions over the globe is that marriage is one man and one woman for the nourishment and protection of children. Yes, there are different other kinds of families. But all these possible “family” constellations are not the same nor do they possess the same strengths and weaknesses. Quite frankly, most are maladapted to the needs and demands placed on them--especially in the modern age. It is the accumulated experience and wisdom over the centuries that has shown us what works and what doesn’t. We do not wish to subject ourselves to court imposed social experimentation just to resort to reinventing the wheel. This could only be done by state imposed coercion against the liberty of Hoosiers. The marriage amendment is an assertion of the populace that they are a free and self-governing people rather than witless subjects of a handful of men in black robes.

Yes, social dyads called gay marriages will always exist among us. But the question before the larger society is which family constellation will we recognize and to which will we extend our assistance. Gay pairings will always exist; but the larger society has decided that it is not its job nor is it in their interest to aid in preserving them.

Jeff Lint (February 3, 2010)


Please explain how "same-sex marriage would destroy traditional marriages". If you can't explain how this happens I don't see how you can justify denying the same civil rights to your fellow citizens that you enjoy.

Mick Lee (February 3, 2010)

A few years ago, before his "sudden" parting of ways with the Star, RiShawn Biddle and I had a lengthy exchange over several letters on just the subject of how gay marriage would damage (note, I did not say destroy) traditional marriage. I introduced the concept of "social ecology" and Mr. Biddle kept true to his libertarian views and refused to believe that what was going on around him could crack into his life. I view human being very much social beings for whom their culture is very much the air they breathe. Mr. Biddle believes in a radical individualism by which the person is critically separate from society.

On these grounds, Mr. Biddle and I kept going around in circles. I ended my side of the exchange citing empirical evidence from Holland and the Scandinavian countries where gay marriage was established in law.

The evidence revealed that fewer marriages were formed over time and fewer with each passing year. Cohabitation became the norm. Such arrangements are inherently unstable in that they were less likely to culminate in marriage and were prone to dissolve in a matter of a few months to a few years.

For the children, the failure of families to form or to be laid waste often leads to a number of crippling pathologies-often throughout their lives. In theory, these alleged "self contained individuals" should have remained detached from the trash around them. As life is really lived, this just isn't so.

Mr. Biddle granted there may be certain "pychic effects" (a term I rejected) in broadening what is considered as marriage but these were irrelevant to the principle of personal liberty.

My counter is that the Lord gave us our liberties so that we may carry out our duties. Liberty must be "for" something. Liberty doesn't live for itself nor is it an unqualified license to harm others while enjoying one's liberty. It was Abraham Lincoln who championed this concept of liberty and it was for these same reasons he objected to the institution of slavery. Lincoln reasoned that a man who is a slave is a man who is unable to honor is mother and father and thus unable to keep the Commandments.

A sin is often times not a malicous act of evil. Instead, it is often the illicit use of something intended for good. Gay activists often point to all the good things that come out of gay marriages. I this I have no doubt. It of no surprise that good things come out of the wrongful application of marriage — an institution meant for good. What would truly be surprising would be if nothing good came out of it. Yes, marriage is meant of the mutual love and companionship of two individuals. But marriage is also for the issue, nourishment and protection of children. Yes, many gay partners are raising children and do so well. Yes, some heterosexual couples never have children and have no intention of doing so; but they enjoy an intense passion with each other. But these are distinct minorities within the norm. The childless couples are in a marriage because each has bound their generative sexuality to their partner so that it will not be shared with another. Parents for a child are necessary but are not sufficient. Parents are not gender interchangeable. A child needs both and male father and female mother. That family constellation provides the optimum condition for children to grow — especially if both the mother and father are the biological parents. That so many heterosexual marriages are bad does not lend legitimacy to gay couples claiming marriagehood. Most homosexual couples do not have children in the first place. Those gay couples that do raise children lack the complimentary aspects of male and female caregivers.

I well understand the agony and isolation homosexuals continue to suffer in our society. The pain many heterosexuals inflict on gays for the sake of fun and enjoyment of hurting them is a sin against God. But conforming marriage to one's circumstances is not necessary to be a member and conversationalist of the moral community.

I say all these things with my beloved gay son in my heart. I will never reject him and only wish him well. He and his lover will always have a welcome place at our table. Nevertheless, things are as they are.

IrishKevin (February 3, 2010)

Mick, I see you have responded to Michael, but not to me, which is okay, as I really did not think you would answer my question as to how same-sex marriage directly affects YOU, YOUR marriage and/or YOUR family. I still stand behind my original assertion the no one who opposes same-sex marriage TRULY indicates HOW same-sex marriage will "destroy" their OWN marriage, the institution of marriage, or how it affect their families or bring an end to civilization and the human race.

So I guess you will continue to pontificate and avoid direct answers. That is fine, I am done as well as you clearly don't have an answer.

I also could pontificate as to WHY this country is a REPRESENTATIVE REPUBLIC, as opposed to a TRUE Democracy, and WHY Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the Founding Fathers did that to protect the minority from the TYRANNY of the majority. But I guess you don't know or understand any of that. Maybe you and the rest of the supports of SJR 13 should go read Madison's writing on why he feared the tyranny of the majority, and why we ELECT representatives, and have courts to PROTECT minorities from the majority voting away their rights. Maybe you need to go study a little more U.S. History, Civics and Political Science.

I would bet it would have taken a LOT longer for southern states to get rid of the "Jim Crow" laws if the citizens of those states were allowed to vote on them. The State legislatures and courts took the actions necessary to protect the minorities because the "majority" would have voted to maintain the status quo.

Allowing fellow citizens to VOTE on taking away OTHER citizens rights is VERY DANGEROUS and the VERY REASON we have elected officials and courts. This is NOT a true democracy. And as much as YOU and others would like to vote away rights of fellow Hoosiers, I am glad that there are SOME legislators in Indiana who understand the implications of that.

Mick Lee (February 4, 2010)

How shall “gay marriage” impact my marriage? Well, Kevin, I am an old man — married for over fifty years. And I am probably not long for this world. At least in my case, the question is misapplied. I assure you that a certain hardening of the “concrete” that forms the bonds between my wife and myself took place some time ago — long before the notion of “gay marriage” made its first appearance. (Yes, there was a time when even gay activists thought “gay marriage” was an outrageous idea — nothing more than a “red herring” and a fantasy floated by their opponents to divert attention from the real issues of discrimination in housing, employment and peaceable public protection.) . However, I have more than a casual interest in the kind of world I will leave behind and in what happens to my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all who come after me.

I am sure you are quite proud of your civics lesson; but, given the maturity of your writing flair, it is my guess that I had written much more multi-layered manuscripts on the Federalist Papers and the Constitution before your father dripped from your grandfather’s seed. But we need not go down those roads. The fact is your discourse begs the question.

You and your compatriots insist on the protection of your right to marriage. You also insist that no majority has the authority to take away your right. The problem, however, does such a right even exist? When the Federalist Papers were written and the Constitution ratified, the rights of Afro-Americans and the franchise for the Jews were subject to active debate — however imperfectly. In other words these questions have a long pedigree going back to the Founding. But at no time until these recent days has the “right” of homosexuals to marriage ever been advanced or argued in any forum. As I alluded to before, for most of the history of gay activism, leaders within the movement regarded the subject of “gay marriage” a phony issue invented by religious zealots to scare off the public. Even they thought the notion of “gay marriage” a contradiction in terms and hardly enviable in pursuit of their rights as homosexuals. It has been only recently that a “right to marry” has been put forward. In addition, many within the homosexual media insist that such a marriage should not be expected to conform to “heterosexist” norms.

You cannot manufacture a “right” nor is it safe to make the attempt. Neither can a majority take away what you never had to begin with. You certainly are right that we heterosexuals have allowed ourselves a lot of crap in our sexual adventures and marriages since the Second World War. But is precisely the point. When the radical liberalization of divorce, it was also argued that why should it make any difference to you and your marriage if the Smith’s down the street separate and divorce? The answer is that divorce was not kept at a small 10-15% as predicted — instead it reached slightly over 50%. This is a matter of indifference to many but it was a crippling disaster for a least one third of the children (many put the figure higher) resulting in a number of pathologies our society has yet to grapple with.

I have made my case plainly. The empirical evidence points out that broadening the legal definition to include gay marriage spikes in fewer marriages taking place and the increases failure of the formation stable families. Many will reply that that is their problem — not mine. I suggest that attitude is short sighted. One way or another it will become your problem.

You may well have gay marriage established in law sooner or later. I would bet on sooner. But we will not be the better for it.

IrishKevin (February 5, 2010)

Mick, it is not MY right to marry that I am concerned about, as I happened to have been married for over 30 years to my wonderful wife, but it the RIGHT of my gay son I am fighting for. He is entitled to the same "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" as I and my wife have had.

The problem with SJR-13 is not that it is trying to "protect" marriage, as its supporters claim, but the wording, if you read it, is also intended to PREVENT civil unions as well. So those who say they are supporting SJR-13 to "Protect" the "sacred" institution of marriage are disingenuous, (as in hypocrites and bigots) since they are also against CIVIL UNIONS, and allowing gay couples who want to commit their lives to each, from enjoying the same CIVIL benefits, such as tax breaks, the right of Social Security benefits, and the over 1500 other state and federal benefits that married couples have that gay couples can NOT have. And please don't use that tired argument that those benefits can be achieved by creating contacts, because most of them cannot.

My gay son did NOT CHOOSE to be gay, he was born that way. So why should he not have the same chance at love, commitment and family as my straight sons and daughter have? Because some people think it is okay for the majority to VOTE away his right to have the committed relationship my straight kids can have? Well I don't happen to think so, even though you don't seem to like my "writing flair". (THAT'S TOUGH, by the way, I don't care.)

The majority CANNOT be allowed to vote on the rights and privileges of the minority. And they SHOULD NOT be allowed to vote DISCRIMINATION INTO the Indiana Constitution.

The Indiana constitution says "The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens."

So you can pontificate all you want. You can criticize my writing style or "writing flair", all you want, but allowing citizens to vote rights AWAY from a group and puting into the constitution WRONG and DANGEROUS. Maybe we should allow the citizens to vote away the rights of those who belong to the Muslim religion as well, since the majority seem to think they are all terrorists anyway.

So I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree, because I don't care if you agree or not, Gays are entitled to have the same long-term commitments, the same loving relationships and receive the SAME benefits from entering into a commitment MARRIED relationship as straight couples do, and NO ONE has the right to simply VOTE that away.

Gay married will NOT destroy traditional marriage, will NOT destroy traditional families will NOT destroy society, not matter what you and others opposed to it claim. And I happen to think this is EXACTLY the kind of tyranny of the majority that Madison warned about, whether you think so not.

SO I will continue to speak out against the phony Christians, who hide behind Bible verses to support their position, and the bigots who simply don't like gays, and the mass of uninformed citizens who won't take the time to educate themselves, but who rely on the bigots, hypocrites and phony Christians to form their opinions on the topic. Your time has passed, as the MAJORITY of those UNDER 30 support the right of a gay couple to get married. So it may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen, and those opposed will see they are on the WRONG side of this issue.

Mick Lee (February 19, 2010)

Mr. IrishKevin

1.) I have pointed to empirical evidence that those nations which have recognized "gay marriage" suffered a numerical decline in the formation of marriages and increases in failure in the formation stable families. This seems to be a matter of indifference to you. One can only assume that the original guest ion of "how would gay marriage effect your own marriage?" is really a matter of indifference to you. Come hell or high water, you are for gay marriage. Period. This qualifies as being a hypocrite.

2.) Marriage is what is known as a "pre-existing" institution. It existed long before any state and will exist long after the disappearance of any nation. No government has the authority to "redefine" marriage and it is an attack on liberty to do so.

3.) You totally fail to account how a "right" that no one--including gays--advocated anytime and anywhere before just recently, suddenly becomes something you merely assert exists as if it were self-evident.

4.) It is well documented that as individuals age they become more conservative. The first such phase occurs upon marriage. It is further compounded with the arrival of children. It is an inescapable phenomenon that people do change their political and social views as they pass through the milestones of life. Don't assume those under 30 will not change their minds on this issue.

4.) You assume the worst about your opponents. You more than clearly indicate that you believe who hold different views on this issue than you do are evil. This is not a mark of the pluralistic society we are supposed to cherish.

5.) Your writings display a serious seething of hatred and bile. You are dangerous. On this basis alone, most people will not listen to you. You should reflect on this. It is only hurting you.

IrishKevin (February 21, 2010)

I have to laugh at your "emperical evidence". You claim that marriages in Holland and the Scandanavian countries are down and that more couples are co-habitating ONLY because of gay marriage. So heterosexual couples are co-habitating because of gay marriage. WHAT A LAUGH! Your "evidence" falls apart Mr. Lee. Divorce is UP and couples are co-habitating here in the U.S. as well, and we don't have gay marriage as law. So the "emperical study doesn't hold water, as they say. The researchers would have had to eliminate EVERY OTHER reason for co-habitation to blame it only on gay marriage.

SO sorry, that research is, as they say, B.S.

While YOU have failed STILL failed to show how gay marriage affects YOU, your family OR society. (As I said, your study is bogus). The fact that more couples are co-habitating in Holland and that Holland allows gay marriage do NOT relate.

So yes I AM angry, when my son gets treated as a second class citizen by people like YOU, Mr. Lee. I have to come to the conclusion that maybe taxes in this country are "unfair", as all those Tea Party loonies keep shouting. So I will join their shouts... No equality, NO TAXES. Maybe the gay community should stop paying taxes until they receive same equal treatment, rights and privledges of ALL citizens. You don't want gay marriage? Then maybe you should pay the taxes of those whose RIGHTS you are denying.

Mick Lee (February 23, 2010)

Mr. IrishKevin

It is typical for pro-gay marriage folk to disparage the Holland studies. What is interesting is in their own way they admit the findings of the study. The error they make is that they assert marriage and co-habitation as equivalent associations. They are not. Cohabitation is inherently instable. Couples who cohabitate are two to three times more likely to break apart. The built in component in cohabitation is the avoidance of commitment. Marriage, in contrast, is a pledge of commit to one another and to provide nourishment and protection to the children they will have.

The pro-gay marriage folk have long worked to decouple child raising from marriage in the public mind. To a large degree, they have succeeded. This denaturing of marriage of one of its central purposes has made marriage simply one of several arrangements two people can make use. An option if you will. Those areas in Holland and Scandinavia which are the most receptive to same-sex marriage also have astonishing rates of out of wedlock births: 60to 80 percent. The simple fact is sociologists in both Europe and North America recognize being born out of wedlock carries a number of social pathologies which we have yet to begin to deal with.

Many such you snort in contempt at such studies. It is simply axiomatic to you that it just can�t be that gay marriage is responsible for any effects on heterosexual marriages. You point to all the other forces in our social sphere the just must be the cause of the destruction of marriage. Yet you produce no studies which refute the Dutch findings. The correlation is there that points to the increased acceptance of gay marriage and the decline in the formation of heterosexual marriages. You casually assert that the correlation is meaningless.

You fail to account just where this so called right to same-sex came from. Gay activists during the 1960’s through the 1980’s ridiculed the whole idea of gay marriage. They said that gay marriage was a scare tactic invented by religious zealots to drive people away from the real issues. Gay activists told us they were interested in nothing of the sort. Were the religious zealots right all along?

You are unhappy that I have not stated how the adoption of gay marriage would effect me. The flaw in your challenge is that you want a “micro” answer to a “macro” question. Dramatic social changes effect masses of people and it is only in observing large numbers of people one can assess how changes have impacted the population. Some families will be the epitome of the “new world”. For other families, change will bypass them for one reason or another. What we do know is the liberalization of the divorce laws and the introduction of effective contraceptives were supposed to be business of individuals. Yet in a very short time, these two things became everyone’s business. Marriage became less binding. Contraception made recreational sex outside marriage possible —  making sex and marriage less exclusive to each other. You may regard these as good changes; but you cannot deny what was once individual became everyone’s task to deal with.

As I wrote before, your hatred is palpable. I distrust you and can only be suspicious of what more you will want if you get what you want this time. What exactly would you do to us if you could?

As far as withholding taxes, I say go knock yourself out. You will have some interesting conversations with the I.R.S.

IrishKevin (February 24, 2010)

Mick Lee wrote: "As I wrote before, your hatred is palpable. I distrust you and can only be suspicious of what more you will want if you get what you want this time. What exactly would you do to us if you could?"

Do to US? So it is YOU against the world? I think your paranoia is showing.

Actually, the only people I "hate" are hypocrites, bigots and racists. I don't hate those who are "mentally challenged" (i.e. stupid), since they cannot help the fact that they can't grasp reality and basic truths or that they can be influenced so easily by those who have agendas.

However, I am not to fond of liars either actually.

So if you think I hate you, then you can decide which category you fall into. Based on your rants, you should be able to figure it out.

Interesting stuff, no? So what do you think?

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hate and Fear of Homosexuals in Iowa

In April 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex marriages were permissible in Iowa. Apparently this ruling has caused several Iowa legislators to lash out in their hate and fear (not to mention idiocy, but more on that in a minute).

Iowa has a Safe Schools Law to protect students in Iowa schools from harassment and bullying. At present, Iowa’s law apparently provides that it is illegal to harass or bully another student because of that student’s “age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical attributes, physical or mental ability or disability, ancestry, political party preference, political belief, socioeconomic status, or familial status”. (Note that I have not read the entire statute, but I do wonder why it might be acceptable to bully or harass another student because of the student’s favorite football team, musical preference, style of dress, or any of the host of other non-protected class reasons for which kids are bullied.) However, Iowa Republican state representatives Jason Schultz and Matt Windschitl apparently thinks that harassing or bullying gay students is a good thing. So, they’ve introduced a bill (HF 2291) that would delete the words “sexual orientation, gender identity” from the statute.In other words, it would apparently be OK to harass or bully a student as long as you did so because the student was gay. And just so that you don’t think I’m being creative in my description of the bill’s effects, here is how the bill’s sponsors describe the purpose of the draft legislation (emphasis added):

This bill strikes sexual orientation and gender identity from the definition of the term "trait or characteristic of the student" used for purposes of protecting students in public and nonpublic schools from harassment and bullying.

What a lovely lesson to be taught in our schools: Go ahead and harass and bully those gay kids!

But in case that wasn’t enough, Rep. Schultz has also introduced another bill (HF 2313), that appears designed to prevent Iowa courts from ever issuing another ruling like that which permitted same-sex marriage:

602.1100 Judicial authority.

1. A judicial officer shall not use judicial precedent, case law, penumbras, or international law as a basis for rulings. A judicial officer shall only use the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and the Code of Iowa as the basis for any ruling issued by such judicial officer. The only source material that may be used for interpreting the Constitution of the United States by a judicial officer in this state shall be the Federalist papers and other writings of the founding fathers to describe the intent of the founding fathers, and if such source material is used, the full context of the source material must be used by the judicial officer.

2. This section is not reviewable by the court.

3. A violation of this section by a judicial officer shall be considered malfeasance in office and subjects the judicial officer to impeachment under chapter 68.

Unfortunately, it is probably difficult to explain how incredibly stupid this bill really is, but I’ll try.

To begin to illustrate the problem, let me relate a story. Shortly after beginning my career as a lawyer, I was downtown with my girlfriend (now wife) and several other friends. For reasons that I don’t remember, one wanted to see where I worked. So we walked over to the building where our office was and rode the elevator up to take a look. For some reason, this girl was fascinated by the firm’s law library (which was actually rather small…). She asked me why we needed so many books. My first few attempts to explain how the “law” works fell on deaf ears (or, perhaps more precisely, went in one ear, flew through the vacuous emptiness, and exited the other ear). So I tried a different route. I pulled out a volume of the Indiana Code and looked up the statute dealing with murder and showed it to her (the key language was “knowingly or intentionally kills another human being”). Then I asked her whether it was a murder if a police officer shot a criminal who was holding a gun to a victim’s head? What if the criminal wasn’t holding a gun to a victim’s head, but rather, was running away from the police officer? What about a doctor, I asked, who had to make an emergency decision of whether to save the life of a near-term fetus or the mother following an terrible traffic accident? What about two kids playing with their father’s gun when it accidentally goes off? What if one of the kids had been pointing it at the other, thinking it wasn’t loaded? What if the person who pulls the trigger was drunk or under the influence of drugs or medication? What if the person who pulls the trigger was acting in self-defense? What if the person who pulls the trigger thought he was acting in self-defense, but no real danger existed?

Now most lawyers can easily see through and address these examples, but they served their purpose with my friend. I explained to her that statutes could only handle so many issues. The legislature could try to think of events that might occur and decide whether they should be crimes or what the law should say about them, but it is impossible to imagine every single possibility. That, I explained, was what case law (common law) was for. Of course murder probably wasn’t a very good example to use, but for someone with no experience with the law it worked very well.

But I think that this story illustrates the point of the importance of common law as a supplement to statutes and constitutions: There is only so much that the legislature can address in advance. Filling in the gaps and applying the law to particular situations is the job of judges and, under our system, has been for hundreds of years (predating the founding of the United States). People complain about lawsuits, but most of the issues that make it to the Courts of Appeals or Supreme Court deal not with issues that are clearly set forth in statutes (or constitutions), but rather with the trickier issues that aren’t subject to such readily obvious answers. That is one of the main reasons that we have an independent judiciary.

But think what else this proposed Iowa bill would do. First, how well do either the US Constitution or the Iowa Constitution address the advances in modern society or the changes in public attitudes. For example, what does either Constitution say about the right to privacy on Facebook? What does either Constitution say about ownership of a frozen embryo following a divorce? Does either specifically address whether the police need a search warrant to train heat detecting equipment on a house to see if the house might have heat lamps commonly found in marijuana operations or whether the police can track a GPS unit in a cellphone? With this proposed bill, Iowa courts and the law of Iowa could never adapt and grow. The law would always be stuck in 1789 (and whatever year the Iowa Constitution was adopted) plus whatever statutes the legislature adopted. And just think of the inconsistencies that could cause. One Iowa court might say that Iowa’s Constitution allowed something while another court might disagree. Without resort to case law and precedent, there would be no way for anybody, courts or citizens, to anticipate what the law would be. This law might actually lead to more litigation; after all, if there is no case law to look to for guidance, each and every issue not clearly set forth in statute will need to be relitigated over and over and over. If judge’s are bound by precedent (as they are now), then we have a pretty good idea of what the law should say about any given subject, though with the understanding that as society and our world change, the law can change and grow with it.

One other thing about this bill is worth noting: Why the reliance upon the Federalist papers and other documents about the intent of the Founding Fathers? (And who, precisely, are the founding fathers?) Why do we need to look to their intent if the Constitution is supposed to be able to stand up on its own? We don’t look outside of a contract unless there is an ambiguity (of course that rule is from common law…), so is the Iowa legislator suggesting that the Constitution is ambiguous? But if it is ambiguous, isn’t it then appropriate to look to common law? And how, I wonder, do we decide which documents of the Founding Fathers may be used? Is Jefferson’s letter setting forth his opinion that the First Amendment erected a wall of separation between church and state one of those documents? I suspect advocates of prayer in school would disagree; after all, they’ve contended for years that what Jefferson may have said in a private letter has nothing to do with the Constitution.

I could probably go on at length (as if this hasn’t been long enough already…). In the end, these two bills simply provide ample evidence of the fear (and hatred) of some on the right toward gays and toward the possibility that court’s might view gays as being a protected class subject to equal rights, just as African-Americans were in the Civil Rights era. Plus, the second bill demonstrates just how profoundly stupid some legislators really are and how little they understand about how American jurisprudence really works.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How Do You Compare to the Wingnut … er … Republican Population?

Research 2000, a “nonpartisan full service research firm” just finished a poll on behalf of Daily Kos. The poll was conducted in late January 2010 and asked just over 2,000 self-identified Republicans a series of questions. The results are … well … staggering. But before diving into the results, let’s play a little game. Below, I’ll reprint the most interesting questions. Take out a piece of paper and write down both your answer and the percentage of those polled who you think answered the same way that you did. Let’s see if you’re a wingnut or sane.

  • Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?
  • Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?
  • Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?
  • Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?
  • Do you believe ACORN stole the 2008 election?
  • Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?
  • Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people?
  • Do you believe your state should secede from the United States?
  • Should openly gay men and women be allowed to serve in the military?
  • Should same sex couples be allowed to marry?
  • Should gay couples receive any state or federal benefits?
  • Should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools?
  • Should contraceptive use be outlawed?
  • Do you believe the birth control pill is abortion?
  • Do you consider abortion to be murder?
  • Do you support the death penalty?
  • Should public school students be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world?
  • Do you believe that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is though Jesus Christ, or can one make it to heaven through another faith?

Well, how would you classify yourself after answering those questions? Do you think that your answers are similar to the majority of self-identified Republicans or do you think that you found yourself in the “minority”?

Let’s take a look at the results (for full crosstabs [results], take a look at the detailed information at Daily Kos):

  • Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?

Before telling you the percentage of self-identified Republicans who answered this question in the affirmative, it is worth remembering what the Constitution says about impeachment: “The President … shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. (Article II Section 4.) Just out of curiosity, what treason, bribery, or other high crime or misdemeanor has President Obama committed, other than trying to push forward the agenda upon which he campaign and for which he was elected by a majority of Americans?

Anyway, 39% of self-identified Republicans believe that President Obama should be impeached and another 29% of self-identified Republicans aren’t sure! Only 32% of self-identified Republicans do not believe that President Obama should be impeached. Too bad the survey didn’t also ask respondents to identify the grounds for impeachment. But think of what those numbers mean and then tell me how in the world bipartisanship is supposed to work. How is an elected Republican expected to work with President Obama or Congressional Democrats when this is what the Republican base believes (and maybe the elected Republican agrees…)? Also, think about the fact that President Clinton was impeached for lying about a blowjob and Republicans want President Obama impeached for … um … something. But President Bush got a free pass for torture, imprisoning people without right to counsel, warrantless wiretaps, going to war on the basis of a lie, ignoring intelligence that warned of an impending attack against the US, perhaps using aircraft, and the list goes on and on. What does it say about people who (I presume) did not want to impeach President Bush but do want to impeach President Obama?

  • Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?

Now don’t forget that, despite everything you may have read, President Obama did release his birth certificate and it was fact-checked by the non-partisan Factcheck.org. Nevertheless, 36% of self-identified Republicans do not believe that President Obama was born in the United States and another 22% aren’t sure. Add to this the fact that much of the “birther” community argues that President Obama is not a natural born citizen on the basis of his father’s British (Kenyan) citizenship, not that President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii (though a segment continues to argue that he was born in Kenya [and has offered several obviously fake birth certificates to “prove it”] or even Indonesia [on the basis of nothing more than sheer idiocy…]). The point is that if President Obama was not a natural born citizen then he would be ineligible to be President. If only 42% of self-identified Republicans do believe that President Obama is the legitimate President, then what does that say about his ability to govern or the ability of Congressional Republicans to work with him.

It is worth comparing the “birther” conspiracy to the 2000 Bush v. Gore election. Despite ample evidence that President Obama is a natural born citizen, Republicans don’t believe it. In 2000, despite evidence of electoral shenanigans and a hotly disputed court case, once President Bush took office, Democrats didn’t refuse to work with President Bush on the grounds of “illegitimacy”. How many military officers did we see refuse to serve because they didn’t believe President Bush was the lawful Command-in-Chief? So what is it that gives the “birther” conspiracy the strength to endure even after it has been repeatedly debunked? To me, the fact that so many people are so willing to believe the “birther” theories in the face of contrary evidence says much more about the “birthers'” themselves than anything else. “We don’t need no stinkin’ facts; we know the truth, goshdarnit!”

  • Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?

I still wonder how many Republicans (or Democrats for that matter) really understand what it means to be a socialist or really understand what policies are socialist. Anyway, 63% of self-identified Republicans believe that President Obama is a socialist and another 16% aren’t sure. Only 21% don’t think that he’s a socialist (though I wonder if a percentage of those answered “no” because they think that he’s either a fascist or a Marxist). Of those who believe that President Obama is a socialist, what percent do you suppose would be willing to forego Social Security, Medicare, public education, interstate highways, NASA, and a whole host of other government programs?

  • Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?

Before I tell you the results of this question, go back and read it again. And again. Think about what you’d have to believe to answer this question in the affirmative. Well 24% of self-identified Republicans do think that President Obama wants the terrorists to win and another 33% aren’t sure. Less than half of Republicans believe that President Obama does not want the terrorists to win. Query why so many Republicans think that President Obama wants terrorists to win. Is it because he doesn’t want to torture them? It is because he wants to close Guantanamo and have trials? Is it because his middle name is “Hussein”? It can’t really have anything to do with Afghanistan or Pakistan given that President Obama has increased troop levels in Afghanistan and increased the number of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan. But next time you hear a Republican complain about trials for suspected terrorists or the refusal to torture those in custody, think about those complaints in the context with the fact that it appears that those policy differences mean that President Obama “wants the terrorists to win”.

  • Do you believe ACORN stole the 2008 election?

21% of self-identified Republicans believe that ACORN stole the 2008 election and another 55% aren’t sure. Think about that, three-quarters of Republicans either believe that ACORN “stole” the 2008 election or aren’t sure. Again, one has to wonder what the basis for this belief (or inability to decide) could be. Could it be the thousands of prosecutions in formerly red states against ACORN for procuring fraudulent votes? Um, wait. There haven’t been prosecutions for procuring fraudulent votes. The only thing that really makes sense here is the sense that ACORN = BLACK and African-Americans turned out to vote in 2008 and helped elect President Obama. And of course President Obama’s election must have nothing to do with the financial meltdown, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sen. McCain’s policies, President Bush’s unpopularity, or Sarah Palin. Nope, none of that could have been a factor. It must have been ACORN. But it is interesting to note the extent to which, among Republicans, a largely African-American community organizing group has become the bogeyman for what they perceive as the ills of America.

  • Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?

I’m going to answer this one in the reverse first: Only 14% of self-identified Republicans believe that Barack Obama is more qualified to be President than Sarah Palin. 14%. Please go back and read my previous essays American Idol Candidate and A Victory for Thought. I don’t really have much more to say about this issue; between those essays and other things that I wrote during the campaign, I think that I’ve pretty well exhausted the subject. But for those who didn’t read my previous posts, let me just say this: I believe that being educated at some of the finest schools in the country, including law school, lecturing at one of the finest schools in the country, acting as a highly successful community organizer, and serving (even if briefly) as a state legislator and in the United States Senate makes Barack Obama far more qualified than Sarah Palin who served as mayor of a town with a population of just over 5,000 and governor (until she quit) of a state with the 47th largest population. Then again, we do have to give Palin credit for discovering those non-existent “death panels” and publicizing them on Facebook, don’t we?

  • Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people?

Don’t forget that President Obama was raised by his white mother and white grandparents. Well, 31% of self-identified Republicans still think that he is a racist who hates white people and another 33% aren’t sure. Barely one-third of self-identified Republicans don’t think that President Obama is a racist who hates white people. I wonder what percentage of that 31% are themselves racists? Just for fun, go back and take a look at my posts about some of the tea parties from last year (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) and think about the issue of racism and who (President Obama or the Republicans who think that he’s a racist) might better be characterized as the racist. And for those who do think that President Obama is a racist who hates white people … um … why?

  • Do you believe your state should secede from the United States?

Before I tell you the results of this question, query how many of those who answered “yes” would also identify themselves as patriots. Anyway, 23% of self-identified Republicans think that their state should secede from the United States and another 19% aren’t sure. While it is true that 58% percent don’t think that their states should secede, that still leaves an awful lot of “patriots” who favor secession or who haven’t ruled it out. Can you imagine the outcry from Republicans if a single Democrat were to favor secession or even discuss the issue of secession? Anne Coulter would write a a book; Glenn Beck would cry; Rush Limbaugh would give himself a coronary; and Sean Hannity would … what the hell is it that Hannity does anyway? But the Republican Governor of Texas openly talks about secession as a legitimate option. How very patriotic.

Let me quote Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, about the responses to this particular question:

42 percent of Republicans aren't really patriotic. They pretend to love America only when they approve of the president. These traitors don't believe in democracy, in our nation's founding ideals, or in our flag. To them, those colors run. They are cowards.

Note, secession sentiment is MUCH stronger in the South than elsewhere -- 33 percent want out, compared to just 52 percent who want to stay. In the Northeast, "just" 10 percent want out, in the Midwest, its 18 percent, and in the West, it's 16 percent. Can we cram them all into the Texas Panhandle, create the state of Dumbfuckistan, and build a wall around them to keep them from coming into America illegally?

I guess I should feel good that “only” 18% of Midwestern Republicans want to secede.

  • Should openly gay men and women be allowed to serve in the military?

Republicans still favor a “big tent” philosophy, right? Um, not so much. 55% of self-identified Republicans don’t think openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military and 19% aren’t sure. I wonder how many Republicans will change their mind now that Admiral Mullen has come out in favor of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell”? After all, in their proposed purity test, Republicans wanted to follow the advice of military commanders (“We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges”). Nevertheless, I recognize that repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the issue of gays in the military is hotly debated, not just among Republicans, so let’s look at Republican views on other “gay” issues.

  • Should same sex couples be allowed to marry?

While the general outcome of this question probably won’t come as a surprise, the “margin of victory” as it were was somewhat surprising. Only 7% of self-identified Republicans believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. 77% do not believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry! It is worth noting (though I’m not sure what it means) that 80% of men oppose same sex-marriages, but only 74% of women oppose same-sex marriages. It is also worth noting that while only 5% of self-identified Republicans aged 60 or over favor same-sex marriage, 11% of Republicans aged 18-29 favor same-sex marriage. There appears to be a direct correlation between age and support for same-sex marriage. That, in part, explains Republican efforts to amend state constitutions. They see that the demographic tide is shifting in favor of gay marriage, even among Republicans (though by a much smaller majority); thus, they want to amend constitutions now so that more socially open generations that follow can’t easily have their state laws adapt. I still wish that I understood what these people are really afraid of…

  • Should gay couples receive any state or federal benefits?

Well maybe Republicans who oppose same-sex marriage would be more comfortable with something “less” than marriage. Or not. 68% of self-identified Republicans oppose state or federal benefits for gay couples. So much for civil unions, I guess.

  • Should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools?

Ooh. Scary. A homosexual teaching kids. Well, it apparently is scary to self-identified Republicans: 73% are opposed to openly gay men and women being allowed to teach in public schools.

Just to recap, no gays in the military, no gay marriage, no state or federal benefits for gay couples, and no gay teachers. Do you suppose that it would be fair to say that Republicans are opposed to gay rights? Or, said another way, given that some Republicans would argue with the phrase “gay rights”, is it safe to say that Republicans are opposed to gays? It seems to me that the Log Cabin Republicans really need to think about who they’re associating with and why.

  • Should contraceptive use be outlawed?

Before diving into this question, remember that it is Republicans who talk about keeping government out of our lives, who were scared of “death panels”, and are usually opposed to “on demand” abortion. So you’d think that Republicans would support the use of contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies and would be opposed to laws restricting what people can do, right? Um, not so much. 31% of self-identified Republicans believe that contraceptive use should be outlawed and another 13% aren’t sure. Remember, the question isn’t whether Republicans think that they shouldn’t use contraceptives, but rather, whether the use of contraceptives by others should be outlawed.

  • Do you believe the birth control pill is abortion?

Now that we know that nearly one-third of Republicans want to outlaw the use of contraceptives, can you begin to guess why? Yep. 34% of self-identified Republicans believe that the birth control pill is abortion and another 18% aren’t sure. In other words, less than half of self-identified Republicans disagree with the statement that the birth control pill is abortion. Given that, how in the world is any pro-choice or family planning advocate supposed to find any kind of common ground with Republicans? But it gets better…

  • Do you consider abortion to be murder?

Only 8% of self-identified Republicans answered “no” to this question. Less than 1 in 10! 76% of self-identified Republicans do believe that abortion is murder and another 16% aren’t sure. No wonder people like Dr. George Tiller are killed (well, that and people like Bill O’Reilly egging on those pre-disposed to anti-abortion violence). I do wish that the survey had asked a few deeper follow-up questions to gauge whether this opinion moderated in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the health of the mother.

  • Do you support the death penalty?

Well, at least we know that the vast majority of Republicans recognize the sanctity of life. Except that 91% of self-identified Republicans support the death penalty (with another 5% not sure). I don’t think that I’ve really addressed my views on the death penalty in this blog previously and I don’t really want to get into a long discussion of that now. Broadly speaking, I support the death penalty in a limited number of truly heinous crimes when we really, really, really know that the defendant is guilty; but I temper that support with the belief that as new technologies become available we need to make every effort to utilize the technology to confirm guilt before putting someone to death. I’d much rather have guilty people rotting away in jail than innocent people being killed. I don’t know if Republican support for the death penalty has any sort of nuance, but if I had to guess, I’d wager that Republicans would probably say, “hey, if they’re guilty, fry ’em”. Of course, I suspect that those same Republicans would also be willing to eliminate Miranda warnings, right to counsel, and a whole host of other protections afforded to criminal defendants.

  • Should public school students be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world?

Think about this question for a moment and what a response really tells us about someone. First, if you answer in the affirmative, doesn’t that mean that you perceive your religion as right and all others as wrong? After all, we would only be teaching the “truth” to our kids and another religious tradition that disagreed with that truth must, by implication, be wrong. Second, think about what an affirmative answer to this question says about your view of science. If Genesis explains how God created the world, then doesn’t that mean that not only evolution but also anthropology and astronomy are wrong? Note that this question isn’t even asking if Republicans think that “intelligent design” should be taught instead of or alongside evolution; it is asking if the Bible should be the source material for certain aspects of the science and history curriculum. Third, those answering in the affirmative need to address which creation story from Genesis should be taught in schools to explain the creation of the world. Read Genesis 1:25-27 and Genesis 2:18-19 and then tell me whether God created man or animals first. Then read Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:18-22 and tell me whether man and woman were created at the same time or if woman was created after man. I continue to marvel at the ease with which people will assume that the Bible is the inerrant truth and ignore obvious problems that interfere with that belief.

Anyway, with all of that out of the way, let’s look at the results. Drum roll please… 77% of self-identified Republicans believe that public school students should be taught that the book of Genesis explains how God created the world. Another 8% aren’t sure. Thus only 15% of self-identified Republicans do not think that we should be using the Bible as the basis for certain history and scientific curricula in public schools. The obvious antipathy toward science evidenced by the desire to teach the Bible instead of science is worth remembering next time you hear a Republican talking about the lack of “evidence” for climate change or evolution.

Which, of course, brings us to the real heart of the matter, the question that helps to explain so many of these previous answers:

  • Do you believe that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is though Jesus Christ, or can one make it to heaven through another faith?

67% of self-identified Republicans believe that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is through Jesus. 18% aren’t sure. I wonder what portion of the 15% who answered negatively aren’t Christians? I’d certainly presume that any Republicans who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or any faith other than Christian would have answered “no”. But what this response really tells us is how Republicans view everyone who isn’t a Christian. At least 67% of Republicans, if not substantially more, think that I’m going to hell. Wow. Moreover, it is worth remembering the response to this question when you next hear a Republican demonizing a political opponent; after all, why bother to humanize or cooperate with someone who you believe is going to hell anyway. And perhaps this answer helps explain why Jews identify so strongly with the Democratic party.

Whew. I know that there’s a lot to digest here. There were several other questions in the poll that, frankly, didn’t interest me that much or for which the responses weren’t particularly revealing or meaningful.

It seems to me that asking Republican candidates some of these questions in upcoming elections might be a good strategy; their responses might shore up support with their base, but might also further alienate them from the moderate center of the American electorate.

The main thing that I take away from the results of this poll is that a large percentage of self-identified Republicans really are bigoted wingnuts.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

IN Touch: A Threat to Our Rights

My thirteenth post on The Indianapolis Star's IN Touch blog is now online. As I've said previously, I'm going to keep re-posting those entries here (at least until someone from the Star asks me to stop). Go ahead and visit the post on the IN Touch site, anyway.
On Jan. 20, the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee considered SJR 13, which would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage and prohibit the General Assembly from legislating civil unions in the future.

Proponents of SJR 13 talked about the need to "protect" marriage and spoke about "threats" to traditional marriage. Yet neither the sponsor of SJR 13 nor any of its proponents identified those threats from which marriage must be protected. Not one of them even tried to explain how failure to amend the Constitution would have a negative impact on their marriages or families. Not one of them explained how failure to amend the Constitution would solve crises faced by Indiana, such as taxes, budget shortfalls, education, decaying infrastructure, crime and poverty. Yet they were all so concerned by this phantom threat that they want to amend not just the Constitution but the Bill of Rights.

Take a few minutes and read the Indiana Constitution (while most of us are familiar with the U.S. Constitution, how many can honestly say they are familiar with Indiana's Constitution?), in particular Article I (the Bill of Rights). Our constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) largely focuses on either the structure of government or the rights granted to Hoosiers. Do we really want to start amending our Bill of Rights with provisions that serve to restrict, rather than enhance, those rights? Do we really want to amend our constitution now in order to make it harder for future generations of Hoosiers to enact laws that extend rights?

The current issue is not whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in Indiana; it is already prohibited by state law. The question is whether we, as a people, are so threatened by the possibility of same-sex marriage that we are willing to amend our constitution to address that perceived yet unidentified threat, and whether we want our Bill of Rights to restrict rather than grant rights.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Testimony in Opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 13 (Proposed Amendment to the Indiana Constitution to Define Marriage and Prohibit Civil Unions)

On January 20, 2009, I testified before the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee was considering Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR 13) which would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage and to prohibit civil unions. Here is the full text of the proposed amendment which would, if adopted, be added to Indiana’s Bill of Rights:

Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

I usually endeavor to keep separate my personal thoughts and opinions from those that I espouse on behalf of organizations with which I am affiliated (in particular the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council for which I currently serve as president). My testimony before the Judiciary Committee was on behalf of the JCRC and in my capacity as president of that organization. Nevertheless, given the importance of the issue (it is, after all, a proposed amendment to Indiana’s Constitution) and the fact that my testimony is not only public record but was also aired on the Senate’s live web feed (and will apparently be available on the Senate’s archived feed at some point in the future), I have decided to reprint my prepared testimony here. I want to take a moment and give due credit to Mark Sniderman, a friend and colleague on the JCRC Board, who testified against SJR 7 (the predecessor to SJR 13) back in 2008. My testimony was based, in part, on his prepared remarks; I deleted some and added some, but he deserves credit for preparing a well thought out and articulated presentation that I was able to use as a framework for my remarks.

I’m sure that my actual words were not identical to my prepared testimony. Furthermore, in order to meet the five minute time limit that I was asked to observe, I selectively edited my prepared testimony as I went; I’ve endeavored to indicate the provisions that I omitted in red. In addition, I contemporaneously added to my testimony to address some of the arguments (or lack thereof) that had been offered by proponents of SJR 13. I’ve also endeavored to provide at least an idea of what that portion of my testimony consisted of in green.

Finally, I want to note that the JRCR has not taken a position on same-sex marriage and I was not testifying in favor of same-sex marriage (though I personally support it). Rather, JCRC’s position, as I tried to articulate in my testimony, is that we oppose efforts to amend the Constitution to restrict, rather than enhance, rights.

Thank you Mr. Chair, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee. My name is Michael Wallack. I am an attorney in private practice and I am privileged to rise on behalf of and in my capacity as the President of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 13. The JCRC is comprised of representatives from every synagogue and Jewish membership organization in greater Indianapolis.

Our Jewish community supports the rule of law to assure equal rights, and we oppose constitutional amendments that restrict, rather than enhance, the rights of Hoosiers. Thus, we accordingly oppose SJR 13.

I believe that it is important to understand that we did not arrive at our position without due consideration; in fact, our community engaged in a process of learning, debate, and discussion, that lasted for nearly a year before we adopted our position. Several supporters of SJR 13 (and its predecessor) participated in that process in an open forum that we hosted on the subject. But eventually our community did adopt a position in opposition to the effort to amend our State’s Constitution.

We unconditionally support the core values of religious liberty, the separation of church and state; the safeguarding and advancement of civil rights; and the principle of equal protection under the law.

Jewish tradition teaches that each individual life is sacred and of infinite value. We are commanded to assist the less fortunate; to speak for those who cannot be heard; to stand by those who are unjustly treated; to be animated by the spirit of tikkun olam — the repair and mending of the world.

We Jews have known discrimination merely for being, or appearing to be, different; from the politest snub to unspeakably worse. Discrimination against any group of people is an insult to Jewish values. We are committed to a society that is just, compassionate, and fully democratic. Moreover, we strongly value the notion of a pluralistic, democratic society that, while recognizing the will of the majority, protects the rights of the minority.

What, then, do we owe one another as citizens? At the very least, we cannot decide that some people should be forever barred from possessing the rights and benefits of others, if the voters, through their elected representatives, want benefits and rights to be shared. Federal and state laws now grant over 1,100 rights and benefits to married couples and their families but deny them to unmarried couples. However long they live together, however deep their commitment to one another, by law unmarried couples may not possess the right to joint ownership and transfer of property; the right to participate in pension and social security benefits, health insurance programs, health care decisions, and hospital visitation, among others.

These rights are bedrock. But the proposed amendment would forever deny them to unmarried couples because — and only because — some declare their love to be objectionable.

Current and future legislators, the people’s representatives, would be powerless to assist, however urgent the need, however appropriate the assistance. The Constitution itself would have to be amended, yet again.

Charity, compassion, benevolence, a commitment to equal respect and dignity help determine the quality of life in a country. But the animating principle of the United States is that the rights of the citizens cannot be dependent merely on charity or good will.

Our state, like every other, needs to become more just, not less. Enshrining discrimination into our State’s Constitution runs contrary to that goal.

The JCRC is also dedicated to the separation of church and state. We affirm the right of faith communities to prescribe their own standards for recognizing religious marriage, for it is religious ceremony, not civil law, that sanctifies marriage. Our Jewish community, like most faith communities, will not surrender to the government the power to determine what merits sanctification in our own tradition.

But SJR 13 would nullify a right that religious communities have held since the founding of this country. It would dictate to religious faiths what they can and cannot sanctify in their houses of worship. It would establish a precedent for the state to narrow the realm of religious liberty when it wishes – that is to say, whenever it is popular to do so. What if it become popular to prohibit those of differing faiths to marry, much as it was once popular to prevent those of different skin color to marry? Are those popular values that should be enshrined in a Constitution?

SJR 13 would embed the religious doctrine of some into our state Constitution, to the exclusion of others. It would undermine the principle of separation of church and state – the very principle that ensures religious liberty for people of all faiths and beliefs.

And, let there be no mistake, religious liberty is the principle to which we are committed. The JCRC deeply respects the sincere convictions of religious groups that believe that same-sex marriage is prohibited by passages found in their authoritative religious texts. We do not, however, believe that some religious groups have the right to use the government to impose their religious beliefs upon others. The Indiana Constitution includes numerous provisions that describe the relationship between the church and state, and Article I, Section 4 states it clearly:

No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship... .

Ind. Const., Article I, § 4 (Freedom of Religion). The Equal Privileges and Immunities clause trumpets the same principle:

The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Ind. Const., Article I, § 23. These constitutional provisions are bold and manifest: our legal rights shall not be dictated by religious beliefs; nor should civil laws restrict the free exercise of religion; and when our government provides benefits, it must do so to all on equal footing

We affirm the rule of law. For laws to work, they must be clear. Their working must be predictable. Their consequences must be measured. But the rhetoric surrounding this Amendment is feverish. Perhaps worse, it is cloudy and obscure. Not one legislator has offered a clear definition of “status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage”. The mere existence of so much contention over the meaning and effect of this Amendment is reason enough to stop. Let us all agree to this rule of civil society: before we amend our Constitution, we should understand, broadly and generally, the effects of our actions.

As a result of our commitment to our core values, the Indianapolis JCRC:

1) opposes any constitutional amendment that constricts rather than enhances rights; and we therefore oppose SJR 13; and

2) opposes any effort that would diminish the authority of clergy to practice their own religious requirements regarding marriage.

To those of you who will vote against this proposed amendment, I offer our gratitude.

To those who have no doubts about the merits of the amendment, I say to you: you have a duty to question the wisdom of amending the Constitution itself to impose the religious views of some who seek to restrict the civil rights of others. Laws can be passed, then repealed. Amendments to the Constitution can hardly ever be reversed, and never quickly.

To those who may have doubts and concerns about this amendment, I ask only this: be generous in spirit, defend the principle of religious liberty, and lead us where we know -- in our very best moments -- we ought to go.

[I noted that proponents of SJR 13 not only failed, but actually made no attempt at all, to explain what the “threat” to marriage was. I explained that none of the proponents had explained how their marriages or families would be harmed by same-sex marriage and I posited that they did not even attempt to explain this threat because they recognized that the perception of a threat was patently false.]

It is also worth noting that this Amendment will not create any new jobs in Indiana; it will not solve our State’s deficit; it will not be a cure to tax woes; it will not improve our schools or our roads; it will not reduce crime or find more homes for orphaned children. Given all of these issues, is an amendment to the Constitution solely for the purpose of restricting rights really the best thing for this General Assembly to focus upon?

I have come before you on behalf of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. But I am not less an American for being a Jew. I ask you, I urge you: do not make government the agent of one religious doctrine. Many serve G-d. It is not for the State to decide that Protestant prevails over Catholic; that Christian prevails over Jew; that Jew prevails over Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other faith.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

None of the senators asked me any questions. It is worth noting that several senators, in particular Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Madison County), asked numerous questions, both of proponents and opponents of SJR 13; moreover, it is also worth noting, as Sen. Taylor did in explaining his vote, that the Republican senators asked very few (if any) questions during the entire hearing.

The Democratic senators each gave brief speeches to explain their votes against SJR 13. The Republican senators simply voted “yes”. In the end, SJR 13 was approved by the committee by a vote of 6-4. All four Democrats voted against SJR 13; six of the seven Republicans voted in favor (one was not in the chambers when the vote was taken).

Finally, as long as I’m on the subject, I want to take a few moments to address (briefly; I plan to come back and address some of these points in much more detail at another time) some of the arguments made by proponents of SJR 13:

  • James Bopp, Jr., claimed that courts have “seized control” of the issue of gay marriage. While courts have certainly been involved in the issue, to suggest that they’ve “seized control” (his phrase) is misleading, at best. If we are to accept his suggestion, then it must also be true that courts “seized control” of issues like segregation and civil rights (remember Brown v. Board of Education) or, more recently, gun control (Heller and the Chicago gun control cases).
  • Bopp also suggested that courts shouldn’t have a role in determining the legality of gay marriage because the “people will have spoken”. Of course that argument completely misses the point of the role of the courts in our system that recognizes a separation of powers. The people can do a lot of things through their legislators or referenda, but that doesn’t make those things right or legal. I suspect that a majority of people could be convinced to outlaw Islam or require schoolchildren to pray to Jesus; it would be up to the courts to recognize that doing so violates the Constitution. When people like Bopp make this argument, what they’re really saying is that we don’t want to give the courts the chance to tell us that legislation that we’ve proposed does not conform to the rights and privileges granted by the Constitution (or, more correctly stated, retained by the people). It is critical to remember that in our constitutional system, the will of the majority cannot trump the rights of the minority. That is precisely why we have a Bill of Rights in the first place.
  • Bopp also argued that the possibility of litigation over Indiana’s current prohibition on same-sex marriage is reason enough to amend the Constitution. By that logic, however, any statute passed by the General Assembly that was, in any way, controversial, should I suppose be in the form of an constitutional amendment because virtually all legislation draws litigation of one form or another. But that is not the purpose of a Constitution.
  • The best (funniest?) moment (at least to me) of Bopp’s testimony came in response to a question (from either Sen. Lanane or Sen. Taylor). Bopp said that the amendment was necessary to protect marriage from the General Assembly and the Courts; he said that was the role of the Constitution: to protect rights from the General Assembly and the Courts (oddly enough, Tim Tracy, speaking on behalf of the Indiana Family Institute, said almost the exact same thing in response to a question about the separation of powers). I don’t think that Bopp (or Tracy) quite recognized what he really said, though he was precisely right. The Constitution does protect the rights of Hoosiers. Defining marriage in a way that restricts rights is, in actuality, the exact inverse of the what the Bill of Rights does.
  • Curt Smith (speaking on behalf of the Indiana Family Institute) argued that the limited definition of marriage should be added to the Constitution because “marriage is a unique, social good”. But if marriage is, indeed, a social good, shouldn’t it be encouraged in various forms, including same-sex marriage? Why is one marriage a social good while another marriage is a “threat”? And how does that impact civil unions? Wouldn’t they be a social good, too?
  • A Hispanic pastor (I didn’t hear his name) argued that the Constitution should be amended because the “Bible is the infallible word of G-d”, because “G-d discriminates against right and wrong”, and that homosexuality was a behavior (a choice) that was wrong (thus discrimination against gays is acceptable, a position that none of the other proponents adopted…). He also said that referring to same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue was “offensive” and “disgusting”. I don’t think that I really need to respond to his arguments beyond saying that I found much of his testimony to be both offensive and disgusting. (Thankfully his testimony was offset by the testimony of Rev. Linda McRae of Central Christian Church who talked about what the Bible really says about marriage.)
  • Micah Clark (I think) claimed that “if marriage can mean anything, it ultimately means nothing.” I’m not really sure what this means; I suspect that it is his attempt to make the slippery slope argument (oooh, if we allow gays to marry, what will be next? Polygamy? Incest? Pedophilia? Bestiality?). Of course, these same arguments were used to support anti-miscegenation (laws against interracial marriage).
  • Glenn Tebbe, Executive Director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, argued that marriage should be protected in the Constitution (again, what is the threat?) because marriage is a “faithful lifelong partnership”. Of course, by that reasoning, divorce should probably be prohibited in the Constitution, too.
  • Finally, Eric Miller (of Advance America) claimed that protecting marriage (again, from what?) was “in the best interests of families and children”. Of course, he didn’t get around to explaining how “protecting” marriage was in the best interests of families and children. After all, wouldn’t a married same-sex couple be a “family”? Wouldn’t children be better off in a committed, loving, two-parent relationship than in a single-parent family, let alone in foster care or an orphanage?

Those are the sorts of arguments being advanced by the opponents of same-sex marriage and the proponents of the constitutional amendment. One other point worth making: Not a single one of the people who testified in favor of SJR 13 offered any reason whatsoever as to why civil unions were bad, let alone why the General Assembly should be prohibited from adopting civil union legislation in the future should that be the will of voters expressed at the polls.

Please call your senator (and representative, for that matter) and tell them to oppose SJR 13. You don’t have to support same-sex marriage; but please tell our legislators not to amend Indiana’s Constitutions to restrict, rather than enhance, the rights of Hoosiers.

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