Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Lessons of History for Liberty and Equality - NO Second Class Citizens

marriage equality wins at the state capitolYesterday, the Governor of Illinois signed into law full marriage equality for that state, a state with the motto "land of Lincoln", recognizing same sex marriage. Previously, that state had, as others do, provisions in place for civil unions.

One of the problems with civil unions as an alternative to marriage is that they don't receive recognition for tax purposes that marriage does. In another state that is recognizing same sex marriage this month, Hawaii, which also has had civil unions for some time, this was one of the reasons for that state's legislature to change their laws. This was underlined by Think Progress in their coverage of the lesbian law maker who was shamefully ignorant on this key topic:
" federal agencies have explicitly said in the months since the DOMA decision that civil unions will not be counted for most federal marriage benefits, including tax benefits, Social Security, and any partner benefits for federal employees."
Because human beings for no good or valid reason, are being treated differently, and unfairly, under the law, I would argue that as wonderful as state by state equality is, we need something on the national level - for the same reason that we did so in the civil war, fighting to end slavery. States don't treat people fairly when allowed to act badly. We've seen it in the embrace and institutionalization of slavery in the 18th and 19th century; we've seen it in the 19th and 20th century, with Jim Crow laws. We see it now, with the attempts by various conservatives to try to return to those Jim Crow laws of voter suppression and other kinds of discrimination, trying to hide them under different covers and false justifications.

I can still vividly recall as a child, traveling with my very conservative Christian Yankee parents throughout the deep south, seeing vestiges of segregation with remaining 'whites only' and 'coloreds only' signs hanging over water fountains. My parents explanation for these signs still being in evidence, and for the existence of them in the first place, was that the people making the laws, the people voting, in these places deeply and sincerely believed in the importance of segregation, and that while they held what were clearly different views of racial characteristics, they honestly did not believe themselves to be bigots or racists.

And of course, the dominant political movements, currently pretty much inherited by modern conservatives, including the tea party, believed they were upholding sacred tradition and important values, up to and including both family values (particularly as relating to anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage) and religious values. We still see the occasional argument that God does not want the races to mix.

This underlines how subjective 'sincere belief' is, how much it is the anti-factual 'truthiness' of subjective feelings over objective information that shows those feelings to be wrong. The reasoning, arguably not actually involving REASON, is the same whether someone believes a same sex couple cannot parent as well as a heterosexual couple, or whether someone doesn't believe God will permit global warming damage to occur, that Obama is a gay secret Muslim born in Kenya, or whether someone still believes in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy as an adult: feeling or belief is NOT by itself a valid basis for action for harming others.

Now, instead of the civil war with guns and cannon, we have continuing culture wars. Just this morning, I received yet another appalling mass email from Minnesota for Marriage, trying to fund raise in their effort to go after Rep. Tim Faust (D - Hinckley), a Lutheran Minnister. The Minnesota for Marriage group is hoping to threaten Faust, to punish him, in the next election. That, however, does not seem to be the direction Faust's constituency is going, per Politics Minnesota:
Faust is a Lutheran minister from Hinckley. His House district voted in favor of the constitutional ban on gay marriage, and Faust didn’t know which way he would vote until shortly before the issue came up on the House floor. He’s been door-knocking in his district since the legislative session ended, and while some have expressed anger over his vote, most have thanked him or said they’ve changed their view on gay marriage.

When it comes to his bid for re-election next fall, Faust said the gay marriage vote will only have a small impact on his chances.

“It’s going to motivate people, the 25 to 30 percent of people in my district who are very strongly opposed to it, and maybe they will be more motivated to work against me and work for my opponent,” Faust said. “It’s going to make a difference, but is it going to make a difference in the mind of the independent voter? I don’t think so.”

I was particularly struck by the religious intolerance as well as the homophobic intolerance inherent in the position of Minnesota for Marriage, which is acting to enforce conformity and orthodoxy in attempting to enforce their narrow religious views on those who don't share their belief but who share the larger umbrella of Christianity. This to me - admittedly brought up a protestant - smacks of the historic European religious wars.

Just this week there was news about federal challenges to gay marriage bans in Idaho and Pennsylvania moving forward, and litigation is active in Ohio and Virginia. In New Mexico, a court recently ordered insurance equality, and other litigation over the legality of same sex marriage is ongoing. Michigan and Texas also have gay marriage ban challenges heading through the courts, and a challenge may be headed through the courts in Georgia next year as well. New Jersey courts ruled same sex marriage legal earlier this year, and a last minute challenge to the new Hawaii recognition of same sex marriage was also declared legal, earlier this month.

But clearly, as with first slavery, and then racism, some states, particularly those with large ultra-conservative majorities, will NOT willingly abandon the oppression of the LGBT community, any more than they willingly abandon their efforts to oppress other minorities in an attempt to prop up their deteriorating dominance.

And of course we continue to see support for the oppression of the LGBT minority supported by our conservatives in the U.S. overseas, both in Africa and now in the Soviet Union. These people like to portray themselves as super-patriots; the reality is they are pseudo-patriots who do not in fact support the fundamental basis on which this nation is founded - liberty and equality.

I was recently shocked by a statement made on this blog, in a comment on another post, that argued for a belief that same sex couples (or presumably same-sex oriented individuals) should be barred from adopting children. Presumably, the belief included should be barred from having children as well, since the essence of the belief was that same-sex individuals were, because of the inherent defects in their sexuality, incapable of being good parents.

This troubles me deeply, and offends me deeply, because extensive study of this subject has been done over the past several decades. On one search of academic research I cam across some 83 separate studies, done in different ways, in different places, over varying amounts of time. ALL of the research showed that two parents, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, tended to be better than single parents, but it found NOTHING to show that sexual orientation had a negative impact on parenting ability. I am always stunned by the conservative refusal to acknowledge that there are plenty of bad heterosexual couples, and by their clear inability to demonstrate any credible peer-reviewed research that shows heterosexual/traditional marriage parenting superiority.

Before anyone denies someone else their fundamental rights as human beings, either to be married or to be parents, there should be some solid factual basis for the action, not an emotional basis. This is as true in issues of gender and sexuality as it has been in issues of race. If someone is going to CLAIM superiority, you damned well better be able to PROVE, beyond question, ACTUAL superiority, before any human being or governmental body acts to harm or deny equality to one of those supposedly inferior human beings. Belief, like truthiness ("the quality of seeming to be true according to one's intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like: the growing trend of truthiness as opposed to truth." --, is not a valid justification for doing so.

It is a tragic reality that in a country which gives such lip service to liberty and to equality, 150 years after the Gettysburg address, 150 years after so many people died to make liberty and equality a reality, we are still fighting wars we call culture wars, to make liberty and equality a reality. There are some battles we shouldn't have to keep fighting, but because conservatives persist in bias, prejudice and bigotry, generation after generation, in spite of being consistently on the wrong side of history, apparently we must.

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