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Posts Tagged ‘Marriage Equality’

That Other Marriage Debate

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Marriage equality is often at the top of the LGBT rights check-list.

But what about the inequality inherent in the super-privileged status we accord marriage in the first place? This week’s 365gay column explores that very question.

Podcast of The Dave Scott Show

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

I did most of the speaking on this radio show, for a full hour — mostly on marriage equality issues, but also on other stuff, including (to my surprise) today’s decision on the Westboro Baptist Church decision by the Supreme Court. I’m glad I’d at least read the summary beforehand!

All-Hit Radio(?)

March 1st, 2011 No comments

Tomorrow, I’m to be the guest for the first full hour of the Dave Scott Show. It’s available, live at 1 pm EST and via podcast thereafter, at this web address: http://thedavescottshow.wordpress.com/

I’ll be talking about marriage equality, with an emphasis on the recent development in the Defense of Marriage Act cases, and probably lots more of interest to everyone, whether in the LGBT community or not: DADT repeal; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, state and federal responses to bullying, and who knows what else.

Swimming to Maryland

February 10th, 2011 No comments

…narratively speaking, that’s what today’s 365gay column does. I connect a flap over a Letter to the Editor of SWIMMER Magazine to the push for religious exemptions to the marriage equality bill being considered in Maryland.

How? Read the thing.

Maggie Responds! And I Can’t Leave it Alone

December 9th, 2010 2 comments

As readers of this site might not know, Maggie Gallagher directly responded to my post from last week’s 365gay.column. In a (mostly) respectful tone, she clarified — seemingly for the first time — her views on civil unions. In principle, she favors them but worries they’ll lead to full marriage equality. And opposing that outcome is her professional raison d’etre.

In this week’s column, I use her post as a springboard to discuss the oral argument in the Prop 8 case, and to agree with Maggie — civil unions do and will lead to full marriage equality. But we differ, of course, on whether that is a good or bad thing.

More, Please

November 18th, 2010 No comments

In this week’s 365gay column, I make the point that many of the anti-equality forces do us a favor every time they try to defend their indefensible positions.

So let them keep talking, even though it can be painful to sit through such bigotry.

My Law and Public Health Book

November 1st, 2010 2 comments
Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates

Just about an hour ago, I received my ten advance copies of the book I’ve edited and contributed to, entitled:

Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates: A Public Health Perspective (Cambridge University Press 2011). If you click on the link, you’ll be e-whisked away to the on-line catalogue page, which describes the book and lets you click on an excerpt, which is the Introduction (which I wrote).

I’ll have more to say about this when officially published (although you can order it now; just saying….), but here’s the description:

This book offers fresh approaches to a variety of social and political issues that have become highly polarized and resistant to compromise by examining them through a population-based public health perspective. The topics included are some of the most contentious: abortion and reproductive rights; end-of-life issues, including the right to die and the treatment of pain; the connection between racism and poor health outcomes for African-Americans; the right of same-sex couples to marry; the toll of gun violence and how to reduce it; domestic violence and how the criminal justice model fails to deal with it effectively; and how tort compensation and punitive damages can further public health goals. People at every point along the political spectrum will find the book enlightening and informative.

Written by ten authors, all of whom have cross-disciplinary expertise, this book shifts the focus away from the point of view of rights, politics, or morality and examines the effect of laws and policies from the perspective of public health and welfare.

As you might guess, I wrote the chapter on marriage equality.

This is my first book (well, sort of mine), and I’m very excited. (To buy at a discount, enter code: F10CULHANE; the discount is available for a limited time.) As I said, I’ll write more when the book is officially published.

The Union-Leader’s Same-Sex Marriage Avoidance Policy and its Connection to Other Anti-Gay Actions

October 25th, 2010 2 comments

The Manchester Union-Leader has long positioned itself on the far right of American journalism. Nonetheless, I was startled to read this statement from the paper’s publisher, Joseph W. McQuaid:

This newspaper has never published wedding or engagement announcements from homosexual couples. It would be hypocritical of us to do so, given our belief that marriage is and needs to remain a social and civil structure between men and women, and our opposition to the recent state law legalizing gay marriage.

That law was not subject to public referendum and the governor (John Lynch) who signed it was elected after telling voters that he was opposed to gay marriage. Indeed, in no state where the public has been allowed a direct vote on the subject has gay marriage prevailed.

We are not “anti-gay.” We are for marriage remaining the important man-woman institution it has always been.

While the law sanctions gay marriage, it neither demands that churches perform them or that our First Amendment right to choose what we print be suspended. In accordance with that right, we continue our longstanding policy of printing letters to the editor from New Hampshire citizens, whether or not they agree with us.”

McQuaid is of course correct about the paper’s First Amendment rights, and it doesn’t appear that the state’s anti-discrimination law applies here. (He needs a quick refresher on representative democracy, though.) But why is he doing this? Is he concerned about losing subscribers if the Union Leader dared publish wedding announcements for same-sex couples? Does the law so offend his sense of justice and the natural order of things that he’s willing to take this drastic step? Some combination of the two?

I don’t know, and I really don’t care. What I do know is that McQuaid’s grown offspring should be concerned about the man they’re allowing to spend time with their kids. In this piece of home-spun treacle, McQuaid acts as though he’s never spent time with kids before. Maybe he hasn’t (that’s what wives are for, perhaps), and his grandsons — who will grow up in a world where LGBT folks are increasingly recognized as citizens and as members of the human community — are ill-served by spending much time with such a homophobe. (Aside: the protesting statement that the paper isn’t “‘anti-gay,'” with the term itself enclosed in ironic quotes, suggests that McQuaid and his paper think there’s no such thing as a homophobe.)

[Update: I commented on McQuaid’s piece this morning, but the paper didn’t run it, even though it complies with all of their guidelines. The publisher, despite his comments to the contrary in the piece I referenced, apparently isn’t interested in publishing critical comments.]

At least this position should provide comfort to people like Amy Wax. Participating in a same-sex marriage debate on the Federalist Society’s webpage, the Penn law professor ended her list of objections by writing:

Finally (and this is in some ways the most important concern for me, as a parent), legalizing homosexual marriage will of course create pressure to “normalize” those relationships in all contexts. (emphasis added)

Don’t worry, Prof. Wax. McQuaid and his entire paper have resisted. You can, too! While you’re doing so, please explain — to your kids, “as a parent” — why my relationship and family, which includes twin daughters adopted from right here in Philadelphia, is less worthy of respect and legal recognition than yours.

I’m tired of this, and it’s well past time to call these apparently moderate conservatives on the connection between their position and the horrendous treatment of LGBT youth. After David and I watched Obama’s effective anti-gay bullying video, he immediately asked the obvious, rhetorical question:

Does this mean we can get married now?

No. No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that the President supports marriage equality, either. He continues to oppose it.

There’s a danger in drawing a clear, straight line from opposition to equality in, say, the military or marriage contexts and the enabling of bullying against our kids. But it’s equally simplistic to pretend that the cultural and legal background in which kids grow up doesn’t have any effect on how we — adults and children alike — treat each other, either. (In this piece, Evan Wolfson eviscerates Maggie Gallagher for her willful refusal to connect any of these dots.)

I’m going to close with (of all people) Sarah Silverman, in an effective primal scream against the anti-gay forces:

The Further Misadventures of Warmed-Over Natural Law Arguments

September 25th, 2010 2 comments

I’ve spent some time going through the amicus appellate brief filed by Robert P. George et al. in the Prop 8 case. In a couple of pieces I posted a few months ago, I criticized George’s warmed-over natural law ideas, which amount to little more than convenient sophistry in defense of his preferred outcomes (including the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage.)

Nonetheless, this short and pointed amicus brief is clear and effective on its central point: We need a definition of marriage, and that definition has to be provided by the legislature (or, in the case of Prop 8, by the people). Without such a definition, everyone has a claim to be included, and there’s no legitimate basis for excluding other sorts of unions, including polygamous ones or relations between adult kin. And this definition inescapably takes in a moral dimension, as it inevitably must: What are we signaling with marriage? What is its normative, prescriptive content?

But it’s a long way from asking those vital questions to getting the answers that George et al. hope the appellate court to reach, and the argument simply doesn’t hold together. First, it’s too simple to state, as the authors do, that we have a clear definition of marriage to start (“logically prior,” as they say) and that we can then raise constitutional issues only in the context of that agreed-upon definition.

By that clinical way of considering the issue, we’d rarely be able to declare the exclusion of any group unconstitutional. So if marriage really is tied to procreation and the best interests of children (as the authors state, but in a more sophisticated way than usual), then it presumably would be constitutionally permissible to exclude women over a certain age (say, 65 for women; by the logic of this argument, we wouldn’t care about the sex discrimination involved). The authors attempt to avoid this conclusion by pointing to the natural-law-heavy assertion that men and women unite in a unique way, but why is that union important to marriage if it can’t produce children (since marriage is, again, mostly about children)? In the end, George’s natural law biases return to their moorings.

No, it’s more complicated than that: The meanings (not meaning, singular) of marriage are complex,  and subject to constant reconstruction and challenge, especially at certain watershed moments. We’re in one now. And it’s fair to say, as the authors do, that the political process has a role to play in this on-going definitional process; to that extent, the marriage equality debate has been useful to a collective consideration of the broader questions about the purposes and meanings of marriage.

But that doesn’t mean that the courts have no role to play in ensuring that those definitions are not crafted in a way that ensures the unequal treatment of certain groups of people. And, as it turns, out, the supposed clarity that George et al. find in the purpose of marriage is really just a convenient way to fence out same-sex couples. It’s obvious from what they don’t say. For example, they overlook the inconvenient fact that adult friends can marry, as long as they’re of the opposite sex. But surely such non-procreative, non-sexual unions are inimical to the purposes of marriage, as they’ve defined them. Why don’t they “weaken the links between marriage and procreation,” which the authors fear that sanctioning same-sex marriages would do?

This brief is better than most on the anti-equality side, principally because it clinically eviscerates the argument that the state should stay out of morality in creating marriage laws. Doing so would be impossible, perhaps even incoherent. But its own positive arguments for morality stand revealed as just another way to define marriage to exclude same-sex couples only – not the old, the infertile, or the non-sexual.

I’m not done. The authors also simply assert that extending marriage to same-sex couples would “convey that marriage is fundamentally about adults’ emotional unions – not bodily union or children….”

Really? As for “bodily unions,” we can see the natural law argument peeking through – and this same argument would, by the way, exclude deliberately non-procreative sexual relations between opposite-sex, married people, as well as all sex between a “whole” and a seriously disabled person (who lacks not only procreative capacity but the “equipment” needed for the task); the latter, according to their theory, shouldn’t be allowed to marry, either. But don’t expect to hear them arguing against such unions – unless the couple also happens to be gay.

As for children, we have yet another case of the anti-equality forces completely overlooking the welfare of the children in families headed by same-sex couples. But these authors go further, and overlook the very existence of these children – after all, the union of their parents is about their “emotions,” not about their kids. It’s quite apparent that none of the authors has spent any time around our families.

In short, there’s no principled way of excluding only our unions from the right to marry. It’s precisely for that reason that courts have come to recognize that what really lies at the bottom of the opposition is a kind of natural law argument that, on the most basic level, reduces to: “Ick!”

Reliably Controversial: Religion and Equality Clashes

July 22nd, 2010 No comments

Today’s column over at 365gay.com has elicited a mountain of response. No surprise there — it’s about how far to accommodate religion in anti-discrimination laws (including the marriage equality laws and public accommodation statutes). People are never shy about expressing opinions; the tougher thing is to maintain civility.