Archive for the ‘same sex marriage’ category

Saying What You Mean

October 1, 2015

There is a familiar expression which goes, “Say what you mean, mean what you say”. Recent Washington events can put some dimensions around this saying. The events were the Pope’s visit, Representative Mike McCarthy’s comments on Benghazi, and the GOP’s perspective on the Russian entry into Syria.

1. The Pope’s visit was a smashing success for Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. The Pope’s use of symbolism to emphasize the importance of humility, tending to the poor, and acceptance of all people was moving. In carefully crafted language the Pope verbally communicated what he tried to symbolize, and, also carefully alluded to catholic dogma which most Americans find less acceptable.

Namely, the Pope gave no room for a greater role for women in the Catholic Church, nor did the Pope offer hope for a more sensible approach to family planning, and the Pope omitted any direct reference for an equal place in life for the GLBT community. The Pope said this by not saying anything to the contrary.

But wait, we now have heard that the Pope met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for contempt for denying marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. In an eerily similar move to transferring a priest accused of child abuse or paying hush money to victims on the basis of them dropping criminal charges, the church once again tried to have it both ways.  The Pope kept speaking about the sanctity of all persons while his conservative handlers orchestrated a private meeting endorsing Davis’ actions.

Clearly child abuse is a human problem and not restricted to the celebrant church officials. Being opposed to birth control or abortion are matters of conscience and these beliefs can be widely held. The Catholic Church stepped out of bounds when it supported the suppression of information on criminal activity (presumably to not tarnish the church’s reputation) and now when it supports illegal actions (Davis refusal to issue licenses) to advance the church’s faith based beliefs.

Meeting openly with Kim Davis is one issue, not meeting with women’s groups or members of GLBT groups sends an equally clear message about the still broken planks in the church’s efforts to represent itself as a modern church.

2. Representative Mike McCarthy has declared his intentions to seek the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Speakers job goes to someone who is a GOP leader and well informed on GOP strategy.  In comments to Fox News, McCarthy committed an unforced error by speaking the truth. When asked to name some accomplishments of the GOP controlled House, McCarthy cited the Benghazi select committee. McCarthy attributed the drop in Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers as a direct consequent of the GOP lead investigation and proof of its accomplishment.

For anyone with a heart beat, the investigation’s purpose has been clear for a long time. For McCarthy to utter this confirmation is amazing (for telling the truth) and completely a political mistake for admitting what was patently obvious. It should be no wonder why public opinion polls of Congress register so low.

3. In the murky Syrian situation, so many Republican politicians and GOP Presidential hopefuls are weighing in on “President Obama’s failed policies”. Each one of these critics decry the President’s policies of limited involvement but also cling to the notion that troops on the ground are not necessary. “The US is not acting, Russia is”, they spout. “Our allies will begin to forsake the US and turn to Russia”, the political rhetoric goes. Hmmm.

There is no question that Syria has become a humanitarian tragedy. But if Iraq has taught anything, it is that American idealism is sorely misplaced as the foundation of a Middle East strategy. There is no Russian idealism and doing what is necessary to keep Assad in power is all that is necessary.  (Like with Afghanistan when Russia invaded and was eventually defeated, Syria is equally a bed Russia will not like to sleep in.)

If the GOP really is interested in ending the Syrian turmoil and defeating ISIS, there must be honesty about what it would take. Nothing less than another Iraq type invasion and occupation with most likely a subsequent redefinition of regional boundaries would be necessary. All of this would need to be supported by a US draft and imposition of war taxes. (I wonder whether Mike McCarthy would admit that too?)

What’s The Point?

September 7, 2015

Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk, has scratched her place into America’s folk lore. Claiming the tenants of her religion, Ms Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.  She claims to be acting under God’s law. She ran for election knowing that same sex marriage was a national possibility.  Today she claims God’s law is above US law.  Hmmm.

The Federal District Court judge who found Ms Davis in contempt and remanded her to jail when she refused, had no other alternative. Davis has said her religious beliefs are firm and accordingly she will not issue licenses to same sex couples. The judge said he would revisit his detention order this week faces an awkward situation.

If he were now to allow Ms Davis to be released, she could resume he job and order all those working in the Clerk’s office to refuse same sex couples marriage licenses. If the judge asks Ms Davis her intent and she confirms that she will not issue licenses and will not allow her subordinates to issue them too, the judge will have again no other option but to return Ms Davis to jail.

Hate in and of itself is not a crime. Nor is the act of feeling superior and “better” than someone else. Problems arise when people act upon these negative and destructive attitudes.

Law involves civil matters and when the Supreme Court found that same sex marriage was a Constitutional right for same sex couples, Davis was free to continue to hold her supremacist views but she was not free to follow them on her job.

All the politicians’ ranting and raving about the need for a religious objection exemption is worrisome. It confirms how fundamentally low quality the thinking of so many prominent political figures really are. It also runs the risk that some States may try to put such laws on the books only to be later struck down.

At the root of the Kim Davis issue is whether someone claiming membership in a “Christian” religion can hold the general views of Christianity while at the same time cherry picking the theology and picking certain specific dogmas and presenting them as the full message of their Christian views. Same sex marriage in no way hurts Ms Davis or denies her the room to celebrate her religion. In her private life, Ms Davis is free to hold her anti gay views. In her public life, she is required to treat all citizens the same.

The unstated problem here is that Davis’ view of God’s Law is unique to her specific born again church.  How can she prove that her interpretation of God’s Law is different from Methodist or Catholic or Jewish or Hindu or Muslim takes on a supreme spirit?  More to the point, how can we be a land of laws when there are so many different religions which could claim a different God interpretation on all sorts of social issues?

The judge will do everyone a favor when he revisits his decision on jail, if Ms Davis continues to refuse to fulfill her country clerk duties, he sends her back indefinitely or until her term expires.  A clear line needs to be drawn.

Religious Smoke Screens

September 2, 2015

Kentucky County Clerk, Kim Davis, has drawn public attention to a bogus religious smoke screen. Claiming her deeply held religious beliefs prevent her from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, and also not wanting to discriminate, Ms Davis has stopped issuing marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight despite Court orders to do so. Davis claims she is acting under God’s orders.   Hmmm.

The next step in this showdown comes tomorrow when a Federal District Court Judge will ask Ms Davis why she should not be held in contempt. Fines and possibly jail time could result if Ms Davis continues to ignore the Court’s order.

The question should not be whether Ms Davis is acting according to sincerely held religious beliefs.  Almost assuredly she is.  And, the question should not be whether any American may be forced to act against their religious beliefs.  Firemen must put out fires in houses of people their religion may condemn.  If the fireman refuses he is fired if he does not quit first.

The Constitution’s 1st Amendment speaks to the separation of church and State and makes clear that Ms Davis is free to hold on to her religious beliefs. The Constitution, however, does not empower Ms Davis to deny legally available services to others simply due to her religious beliefs, especially if Ms Davis is holding an office which is mandated to serve all the people in her community.  Ms Davis could simply resign.

This controversy seems so lacking in substance one wonders why the Courts have taken so long. Unfortunately, a politically popular line of reasoning goes that government cannot force people to act against the tenants of their religion.   Church officials should not have to violate their consciences in providing birth control methods as part of their health insurance plans, and in the case of Hobby Lobby, this notion was expanded to lay persons who hold strongly to a moral reservation. This began a slippery slope and the Courts may have a difficult time enforcing their order against Ms Davis.

It should be clear that no law should require members of the clergy to use birth control or to personally perform any service which violates their religious convictions. What should be just as clear is that members of the clergy should not be permitted to deny insurance coverage to non-religious employees nor morally driven citizens to withhold services for some and yet make those services available to others. This should not be a hard concept to grasp.

Regrettably, the Supreme Court and the political right have mishandled this issue for reasons that are not clear. Ms Davis is throwing the issue right back at them.

The humorous aspect of Ms Davis’ actions arises when one thinks through what she is claiming. She is saying that Allah has commanded her to stone prostitutes and kill homosexuals. Hmmm.

Maybe that does not seem so humorous but when Ms Davis or her supports stammer that she was speaking of “god” not allah, then the laughs can begin.

Religious Tolerance?

July 9, 2015

A suburban Philadelphia private parochial school is making news. The school, located in the wealthy Marion neighborhood, dismissed (fired) their popular (from students and parents perspective) director of religious studies. No specific reason was given since the school does not comment on personnel matters. Hmmm.

Margie Winters, an employee at the Waldron Mercy Academy since 2007, was notified in late June of her dismissal. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said it had no involvement. I wonder why they felt the need to comment?

Oh yes, Margie and her wife are in a same sex marriage.

In a time when the law of the land approves same sex marriages, this particular religious school seems to think it is better to follow older and more conservative rules. The school must feel students should understand that it is ok to discriminate and treat some others as if they are second class humans for “religious” reasons, even though the nation (just recently) has decided not to discriminate. Christian charity? Hmmm.

Waldron Mercy may not be over this “forced error”. While the Academy is a private institution and has broad justification to claim it was just following Catholic teachings, they have also been more than willing to accept State financial aid. With the acceptance of State aid, Waldron Mercy falls under the State anti-discrimination laws. Hmmm.

Think about it, someone can be qualified to be a director of religious education but those qualification cease upon open knowledge of a same sex marriage. Hmmm.

The Morning After

June 28, 2015

There has been a lot of celebrating these past couple of days. Everywhere one looks there are rainbow color decorations. The White House, so many celebrities FB pictures, and large groups of LBGT members all celebrating the Supreme Court 5-4 decision. While the hooting and hollering might go on for a few more days, what’s next is a fair question.

Marriage Equality has been a brilliant campaign waged by the “Human Rights Campaign” and now that the Supreme Court decision has opened up marriage and the accompanying rights and benefits to the gay community, the questions is where will HRC turn its attention?

Will they seek to advance immigration reform? Or, will they turn their attention to the many aspects of racial division? Or, would it be the general disgrace of poverty and how to end it?  The basic question is will HRC reach out to help those who have helped HRC?  Who knows?

Of course, HRC may announce that there still remains discrimination against the LBGT community and so there is still much work to be done. Hmmm. Does this sound like charities you have heard about which keep raising money long after their goals have been met? Hmmm.

It is too soon to expect an answer from HRC. For sure there will be challenges to the Supreme Court decision against which HRC is well positioned to mount a response. But looking down the road, does HRC see itself as a permanent entity perpetually guarding (or advancing) the rights of LGBT members?

I would hope the HRC top leadership possesses a vision where LGBT members think of themselves first as Americans and treat their sexual orientation as a natural gift (like being left handed). The vision would foresee no need to flaunt sexuality and no LGBT member would need to be defensive about it either.

Certainly one challenging goal the HRC might think about is to promote LGBT marriages which build better families and last as long or longer than heterosexual marriages. While it might be argued that multiple marriages, if consensual, makes no real difference, never the less “traditional marriage” is generally thought of as a long term, if not life time, arrangement.  Strong family units require more than just longevity.  Longevity and strength ought to be the goal.

What a better way to respond to Bible Thumpers who praised “traditional” marriage (they meant one man, one woman)?  LGBT marriages which lasts longer on average than heterosexual ones?  Hmmm, that seems like a peaceful “gotcha”.

Dignity, Hmmm

June 27, 2015

The Supreme Court announced yesterday a 5-4 decision allowing same sex marriages in all 50 States. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the decision was about “dignity”. Hmmm.

The Court’s hard core opposition, Allito, Thomas, and Scallia, joined by Chief Justice Roberts tried to hide their religiously grounded views by claiming that no where in the Constitution is their guidance on what constitutes marriage. Alliot wondered whether the Country had now entered a slippery slope where religious views would be exiled to the privacy of ones home. Hmmm (where else should they be?).

To the extent that marriage is never mentioned in the Constitution, the minority is correct that the Federal Government has no Constitutional right to define “marriage”. The Constitution does have a 14th Amendment, however, which provides due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. Herein lies the clue of why the minority got it wrong.

In the past the Court has heard arguments that marriage between a black and a white were, based upon Biblical interpretations, improper and should be banned “if States so chose”. This supposed religious insight is also not mentioned in the Constitution but is inferred, according to supporters of these views, in the first Amendment’s “freedom of religion” words. These religious crusaders are sure the Constitution supports their scientifically unsupported views. In Loving v Virginia, the Court decided interracial marriage was Constitutional.

Religious groups, particular well organized ones, have traditionally used various techniques to assure followers that “god was on their side”. This reassurance made followers a little more committed (especially in donating money to the cause). And, throughout history, no better technique to bind a group together has been than define an enemy or groups who were “not like them”.

Race is the easiest because you can see it. Other religious groups sometimes are easy too especially if they chose dress that differentiates. But right in there has also be sexual orientation. “Those people are different”.

With the Supreme Court decision a large number of Conservative religious groups are openly worried. These groups have long held that they could deny employment or withhold services from certain groups their religion did not accept. They claimed this was a matter of conscience. Now they fear will be required to treat LGBTs as if they were “regular people”. These groups are speaking out that the 14th Amendment is now trumping the 1st. Hmmm.

Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion honed in on “dignity” as the theme. Dignity stemming from the Constitution’s preamble and flowing though to both partners and any children they might have. In essence, Kennedy’a argument was marriage “was the right thing to do”.

The Court’s decision may also become to be seen as the right balancing of the 1st and 14th amendments.

Secularists read the first Amendment literally. There should be no State religion and all religious traditions should be welcome… providing that none interfere with anyone else’s pursuit of happiness (under the law).

So, if any church wishes to bless the marriage of only heterosexual couples, then that is their right. The church is a private organization and it has the prerogative to establish its own rules… providing these rules do not prevent same sex couples from also getting married (someplace else) and enjoying the same State/Government provided legal benefits.

An Oklahoma religious university has spoken out quite elegantly about its fear of losing tax exemption because of its long standing policy of not employing gays. In a radio interview, the University President said they had nothing against gays but their policies had long denied employment. Now the University was worried it would be forced to close because it would not change.

This quandary raises further legal questions. Should this tax exempt University be required to admit and treat as equal members of the LGBT community despite past practices? Should this University be prevented from firing an employee if that employee chooses to take on a same sex partner?

Both of these questions would be easy to decide if the only issue was “dignity”. But they seem to fall in that gray area of religious expression that does not create great harm for those denied admission or employment. On the other hand, tell me again why they should receive an tax advantages?

The Supreme Court’s dignity argument is certain well based. Church-State matters will eventually lead Americans to realize that due process is not opposed to the first Amendment, rather it helps define the limits of irrational beliefs. Religious groups can certainly continue to believe what they want about LBGT members, and as private organizations can serve whomever they please. In the greater secular United States, however, the negative reach of certain religions and religious beliefs has limits.

It is a shame that Anthony Kennedy did not have this revelation during the Hobby Lobby deliberations.

Supreme Decisions?

June 21, 2015

June is almost over and the Supreme Court has yet to issue opinions on two significant decisions. It is difficult to believe that the Court has waited this long to render its opinions because it needed more time to decide. The Court may have a flair for dramatics but I suspect the summer recess may have something to do with the timing too.

The two cases are about same sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act. Both should be cut and dry but a close 5-4 vote is predicted in both. The only remaining question is which way the 5-4 will fall.  Will the Court affirm the right of same sex couples to get married in all 50 States and will the Court affirm the intent gleaned from reading the entire ACA over a narrow reading of 4 words?

Same sex marriage is clearly absent from any reference in the Constitution. For that matter, marriage itself is absent. The concept of civil unions, however, can be inferred and the 14th Amendment would seem to offer the same protection to same sex couples as with heterosexual couples. Allowing States to decide which couples can marry and what benefits each can receive seems inherently un-American in addition to being un-Constitutional.

The Affordable Care Act has become a highly politically charged piece of legislation even though only the shallowest arguments can be made to overturn the law. (To be sure, a European style single payer system would be far superior.  The argument to simply repeal ACA, however, reveals an uncaring and insensitive political ideology.)

The Supreme Court was very close in its original opinion supporting ACA.  What one might think as a straight forward affirmative decision is not such a sure bet. A negative Court decision would fly in the face of Congressional intent (at the time the law was passed) and would appear to indicate the Court does not believe 6 million people will be hurt by the loss of health coverage. Hmmm.

With the symbolism surrounding these two cases, it is not hard to understand why the Chief Justice would hold back the Court’s decision until the Court’s last day in session. Justice Roberts certainly knows that either way the decision goes, there will be lots of people questioning the Court’s mind.

I guess that’s why we call it the Supreme Court.