Posted tagged ‘doma’

Game On

June 29, 2013

The Obama Administration announced yesterday the Affordable Care Act permanent rules.  The good news is that no one will be forced to use any benefits associated with women’s reproductive health.  It will strictly a personal choice.  The even better news is that except for genuine religious organizations, no female employee of any other organization (or affiliate) will be denied full reproductive health coverage (including birth control measures).  Let the games begin.

Not so long ago, this game was also played.  The Catholic Church asserted that its deeply held beliefs that birth control was wrong supported its contention that it should not be required to provide full woman’s health coverage.  The Church said they did not need to provide full coverage even to the female employees of the $70 million per year Notre Dame football team.  This position is a testimony to how far astray an organization can get when it allows compassion to be drowned by narrow beliefs.

The HHS announcement’s timing may be just chance.  In any case, it was clever following just days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and effectively allowed same sex marriages to return to California.  Many religious organizations were not happy with that outcome, and some see the world’s end following soon.

President Obama was in Senegal this week.  He and Senegal President, Macky Sall exchanged words over the treatment of homosexuals and potentially their rights to marry.  Senegal is an overwhelmingly Muslim country and surprise, surprise, god has told the Senegalese that there can be no same sex marriage.  Hmmm.

The HHS announcement, same sex marriage, and anti-homosexual laws all have something in common.  These are about restrictions where someone has said “I don’t approve of doing X myself, and I don’t approve of you doing it either”.  They hold these views despite the fact that no one is forced to use contraceptives, no one is forced to marry someone of the same sex, and no one is forcing anyone to become homosexual.

Why can’t some choose to live their own lives they way they wish (like practicing Catholics or Muslims) and let others follow a different life style (providing the other person is not harming others)?

DOMA Doomed?

March 27, 2013

The Defense of Marriage Act is somewhat like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  Both represent compromise legislation.  Both laws anticipated the trends already underway.  When these laws were passed, evidence was mounting, homosexuals were not strange people.  In most regards they were just like everyone else.

The military rap was that gays would destroy “unit cohesion” (quietly the brass was whispering that gays were not brave like the rest of the military).  As it has turned out, gays have distinguished themselves and performed just as well as anyone else.  So, no more “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.

DOMA represented a “two-fer”.  First, it was a way to limit gay marriage to only those States that enacted laws permitting marriage.  No other State would be required to honor the marriage status if it did not also have gay marriage provisions.  Second, DOMA met the needs for all those who still wanted to punish gays by denying them Federal benefits available to “one man-one woman” marriages.

Sounds like discrimination to me.  If viewed in the light of the times, however, DOMA was a compromise which cried out, “be patient, wait a little longer until the majority of Americans are in favor of marriage equality”.  Has that time come?

From national polls, the answer is yes, the time has come to repeal DOMA.  Now the question is has the Supreme Court’s time come?

Poll after poll is showing clearly there is a wide difference in acceptance of same sex marriage by age group.  Younger Americans see DOMA as just discrimination and nothing more.  The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is packed with older Americans and is tilted in a conservative direction.  So how the Court will decide is not a slam dunk prediction.

Should the Court strike down DOMA (as it should), that will not be the end of the world for opponents of same sex marriage.  States still have to vote for making same sex marriage legal in their specific State.  And that may take some time.

Repeal of DOMA will, however, signal the beginning of the slippery slope.  As more States recognize marriage equality, the day will come when States that do not recognize or authorize same sex marriage will be seen as discriminating against a class of people.  Then just as interracial marriage became the law of the land, so will same sex unions.

So will the Supreme Court see its chance to be on the right side of history, or will it vote its age?


March 26, 2013

Laws prohibiting prostitution are often held up as laws about “victimless crimes”.  In a similar fashion, the Supreme Court this week will take up two cases which are also about “victimless crimes”.

Sweeping aside for a moment the whole notion of why Federal, State, or Local governments are in the business of marriage, the Supreme Court deliberations on California’s Proposition 8 and Congress’ Defense of Marriage Act deal indirectly with a concept where there is no victim.

While it is clearly true that certain religious organizations and many Americans strongly believe that marriage should be about one man and one woman, same sex marriage in no way impacts the quality of any heterosexual marriage nor does it eliminate any right or benefit authorized by government.

Those who seek to maintain laws that are exclusionary are special.  They seem to lack the capacity, I think, to look into a mirror and see themselves.  Instead what they see is everyone else as less perfect and out of step.   Those highly hooked in their religious dogma, go further.  They see others as doomed for eternity.

My question is, so what.

Just suppose same sex couples are doomed (this of course presupposes there is some spirit to “doom” and someplace for the doomed to go), in any case, how does their marriage effect anyone else here and now?

Marriage Equality’s Big Day Coming

February 26, 2013

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Hollingsworth v Perry (California’s Proposition 8) on March 26, 2013.  Their decision could tip the balance and move the Country towards full marriage equality.

Also being heard on the 26th will be US v Windsor better known as the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Proposition 8 is about the California Constitution while DOMA is about the US Constitution.

Former Governor Jon Huntsman has just written in “The American Conservative” that marriage equality is a conservative issue.  Now a number of prominent Republicans are signing a brief Ted Olson plans to file with the Supreme Court this week.  Olson’s intentions are to show the Court the degree to which public opinion has moved in America.


Olson’s arguments will be similar to both cases.  Both Constitutions speak of equal rights.  So why should committed same sex couples not receive the same treatment under the law as heterosexuals?

Counter arguments will range from a religious based “marriage is a union only of one man and one woman” to recognition that it was a California popular vote that passed Prop 8, and a duly elected Congress passed DOMA by a large majority.

It is just as interesting what won’t be argued.

The most obvious is why are States and the US involved in marriage at all.  Why is marriage not left to private associations like churches or even the Elks Club (if you are not a church fan).  These institutions should be able to set the rules as they see this issue.  Hmmm.

The role States and the US government play is more related to contracts, written or implied.  The government’s arena is documenting these “civil unions” and laying out the playing rules.

Who can marry (like at what age, existing relationship), what is common property, what happens to that property if the “union” should end, and who can represent the other in end of life decisions are a few obvious issues where the Government must have a role.

The Supreme Court has historically looked to public opinion in deciding cases where the Constitutional issue is cloudy.  With these two cases, many would predict that the conservative Justices would prefer to keep the “one man, one woman” practice.  Unfortunately, both of the Constitutions as well as public opinion now favor marriage equality.

The Supreme Court can, if it chooses, place itself on the winning side of history.


Say It Again, Tim

August 6, 2011

GOP Presidential hopeful, Tim Pawlenty, announced he will now sign the Family Leader’s “Marriage Pledge”.  Wow, this is breaking news.

First, you might ask, “who is Tim Pawlenty?”  Next, you might wonder “Should I care?”  Lastly, you might sigh, “Of course, he’s a politician, isn’t he?”

Pawlenty is struggling to remain relevant in the GOP Presidential nomination mix and wants to somehow escape Iowa with some credibility.  His campaign things there would need to be some Iowa grass root support in order for GOP big money to back him when they already have Mitt Romney and Michele Bachman who voters do respond to.  Pawlenty’s strategists must have concluded that damning one group (gays and lesbians) would hurt less than upsetting Christian conservatives.  I guess he just did the math.

Normally I am a strong supporter for people who can do the math.  So many can’t.  In this situation, Pawlenty is coming down on the wrong side of history.  Losing out on the GOP nomination is one thing but having sold out others is something he will have to live with a long time.

The issue is rather basic.  Law and customs gives certain benefits to people who are “married”.  Traditionally this has been reserved for one man and one woman.  Today, however, there is a growing understanding that gay and lesbian can be normal committed couples too.  So why shouldn’t they be able to be “married”?

As a matter of religious belief, one can understand a religion taking the position that gay marriage was out of the question.  As a matter of government policy, protecting individual rights and ensuring the absence of discrimination demands that both Federal and State governments offer the same rights to all couples.

The list is long and has almost nothing to do with religious beliefs.  Tell me why hospital visiting rights, tax deductions, adoption rights, survivor benefits and inheritance rules are just for man and woman couples?

I guess Pawlenty sees it differently.  We might all be better off if he worried more about domestic policy that favored strong economic growth and protected the rights of all citizens.

A New Age

August 4, 2011

Our national political stage has changed.  It may still be changing.  It is hard, however, to see that this change is for the good.

In the past, it was normal for one party to control, and in that situation, legislation was pretty much assured passage.  When a divided Congress existed, a perspective bill was loaded up with favors for the minority party.  With this extra pork, the bill passed easily.  These great years when Congress worked also lead up to the current $14 trillion debt.

Today we are seeing something different.  We have a divided Congress and divided parties within Congress.  But that is only half the problem.  The Country is broke and spreading pork is much more difficult.

Washington is now about a new political theater and the script is still being written.

The utter shame of the recent debt ceiling increase, which featured demagogic babble, was a prime example of lost opportunity cost.  Defense spending is clearly out of line, taxes are at an all time low, the national health care delivery system is too costly, and basic manufacturing jobs are still leaking from the country.

Our elected representatives feel more at home posturing about DOMA or over turning Roe v Wade or defining the US as a Christian country where Sharia law is unwanted.  These are all non-issues while stimulating new jobs through sound government policies is very difficult.

Debt or sound policy… what a choice.

DOMA Red Meat

February 25, 2011

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, has spoken.  He has called for the GOP to nominate someone in 2012 who will put as a top priority the enforcement of DOMA.  Perkins joins a long list of terribly confused people who think that marriages are sacred, are the best and only example of how to raise a family, and when pushed, they really feel that same sex life styles are an abomination.

Catholic Bishop Tommy Tobin (of Providence, Rhode Island) said he would redouble his efforts to defeat a pending Rhode Island bill that would legalize same sex marriage.  Bishop Tobin is no stranger to these human rights issues and consistently picks the side that excludes individual human rights such as in women’s rights and gay rights.

One must search high and low for why people like these two take such positions.  There is no evidence that committed same sex couples are less stable than the 50% divorce rate of man/woman couples.  There is no evidence that same sex couples’ home environment is less nurturing than heterosexual ones.  So why are Perkins and Tobin so vehement?

Blind prejudice could explain it.  But I would look more to economics.

Perkins tells people how good and important heterosexual family formation and life style is.  For that, people send him and his foundation money.  Oh, yes they send money.  Bishop Tobin is busy closing churches in the inner cities (where poor people with little or no money live) and opening new ones in the suburbs (where richer people with money live).

The bigger question I have is why would the GOP give any attention to these two special interests?  The GOP must be, by now, seeing the coming wave.  The younger generation has seen gays up close and believes these are ordinary people who simply have a different sexual orientation.  They have not acquired this preference, they were born with it.  They are not lesser people, they are just different, like left handers and right handers.

At the end of the day, a spirited pro-DOMA Presidential campaign could not be better news for Democrats.