Friday, February 27, 2004

FMA Redux

I've said in the past that I favor a Federal Marriage Amendment. I also think that civil unions are OK, and that perhaps our society as a whole was going to eventually, gradually come to this conclusion on its own. The act of the Massachusetts Supreme Court to say that, because the State Constitution didn't define marriage as between a man and a woman implies that other unions are not thereby banned, turned logic on its ear. A quick look in any dictionary defines marriage as simply something between a man and a woman. The Mass. SC took the absence of defining what has been UNIVERSALLY assumed throughout 5000 years of human history and concluded that because it wasn't explicitly defined in state law, any marriage between two consulting adults is legal. Of course, until such time as the Constitution of the State is ammended to state that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. This put the onus on those who believe in the traditional definition, the majority according any poll I've seen, to defend this position against a minority's interpretation. This is the kind of thing that those of us who rail against "activist judges" can hold up as "exhibit A" in our argument.

Charles Krauthammer's column in todays Washington Post offers a well reasoned opinion on the matter. He states his concerns with the FMA, but that "activists have forced the issue." He also points out the universally acknowledged flaw of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act ("not a chance in hell that the Supreme Court will uphold it").

Krauthamme sums up my point in the context of pointing out how Democrats are trying to position this as a wedge issue created by the President for purely political reasons:

"Wedge? Marriage has been around for, oh, 5,000 years. In every society, in every place, in every time it has been defined as an opposite-sex union. Then four robed eminences in Boston decree otherwise. With the stroke of a pen, they radically redefine the most ancient of all social institutions. And then those not quite prepared to accept this undebated, unlegislated, unvoted, unnegotiated revolution are the ones accused of creating a political wedge!"

Regardless of all of this, Krauthammer says he would probably still be against the FMA.

"I welcome the debate on the constitutional amendment because it will shift the locus of this issue from unelected judges to where it belongs: the House and the Senate and the 50 state legislatures. In the end, however, I would probably vote against the amendment because for me the sanctity of the Constitution trumps everything, even marriage. Moreover, I would be loath to see some future democratic consensus in favor of gay marriage (were that to come to pass) blocked by such an amendment.

Nonetheless, that does not render the abusive, ad hominem charges made by the marriage revolutionaries -- that it is their opponents who are divisive and partisan -- any less hypocritical. Gay activists and their judges have every right to revolution. They have every right to make their case. But they deserve to be excoriated when, having thrown their cultural Molotov cocktail and finding that the majority of Americans have the temerity to resist, they cry: Culture war!"

I agree with Krauthammer's characterization of this debate, though I still bristle at "gay marriage" because I believe in the sanctity of marriage because of it's religious, moral and traditional aspects. Spare me the "divorce" argument, too. I believe in the ideal, not in the failings of people who attempt to participate in the institution, just as I believe in the ideal of political liberty, as we are trying to establish in Iraw, even if the attempt to reach that ideal is often filled with missteps and false starts.

My differentiation between marriage and civil union may be a semantical argument, but words do mean things. Marriage, the ideal, has been defined and upheld by a thousand years of Western Civilization. It is one of the central, stabilizing institutions of our nation, and any other civilized nation for that matter. Some institutions and traditions that are valuable to a nation, as defined by the majority of the populace, need to be retained and should not fall prey to deconstruction. Slavery should have and did, marriage as being solely between a man and woman, should not. (An excellent, insightful argument is contained here regarding how "gay marriage" isn't a civil rights argument.)

Predictably, Andrew Sullivan is happy with Krauthammer's "thoughtful piece," but, after quoting Krauthammer's assertion that:

"[B]ecause of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution (which makes every state accept "the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State"), gay marriage can be imposed on the entire country by a bare majority of the state supreme court of but one state. This in a country where about 60 percent of the citizenry opposes gay marriage."

Sullivan argues that "[t]his is inaccurate. Historically, marriage has never been one of the 'public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings' that the Full Faith and Credit clause mandates are transportable from state to state. If that had been the case, we would never have had a struggle over inter-racial marriage." From here, he goes into a legitimization of his point by attaching the gay marriage cause to the civil rights cause of the past. Sullivan has used this tactic in the past, in fact, it is pretty much his standard argument for not having civil unions because they would be "separate but equal."

However, he seems to correctly point out that:

"It has long been established law that the states have a public policy exception to recognizing marriages from other states; and Massachusetts' marriage licenses, to cite the current controversy, are even issued on the condition that they are void elsewhere if unapproved in other states. The text of the cited law states:

Chapter 207: Section 11 Non-residents; marriages contrary to laws of domiciled state

Section 11. No marriage shall be contracted in this commonwealth by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another jurisdiction if such marriage would be void if contracted in such other jurisdiction, and every marriage contracted in this commonwealth in violation hereof shall be null and void.

I take this to mean that gay residents of other states that have laws defining marriage as only between a man and woman cannot be legally married in Massachusetts. I wonder if this has been upheld?

I also wonder if this is applicable to what has gone on in San Francisco? Of course, if California, which believes in man/woman marriage only, can't even uphold it's own marriage laws, how can it be expected to recognize the marriage laws of other states? This is where the flaw in Sullivan's argument seems to lie: he seems to discredit the likelihood that the current laws won't be changed, or "reinterpreted" by "activist judges." Sullivan does address this point:

"Some argue that activist courts these days will over-rule these precedents. But with 38 states explicitly saying they won't recognize such marriages; with the Defense of Marriage Act backing that up; the likelihood is minimal."

I disagree. The DMA has no teeth, as pointed out by Krauthammer. (Interestingly, William F. Buckley thinks it can still be used effectively, if only as a temporary stopgap, while an FMA gets passed.) Also, regardless of the DMA, as David Frum has pointed out today (with several questions for Sullivan) the questions related to the legality of marriage across state lines need to be answered. Frum says he asks "these questions to drive home this point: Americans may live in states, but they conduct their financial and legal lives in a united country bound by interstate institutions."

One of the irritating aspects of Sullivan's argument is how he continues to want to have his cake and eat it too. He's happy that judges in Mass. "interpreted" a long standing assumption, but then tries to "reassure" those that oppose a redefinition of marriage that such "interpretations" of law won't be applied in the future? Does he expect us to think that liberal judges won't redefine laws to reflect their mindset? What's keeping the Mass. Supreme Court from changing the above clauses to say that they would consider the reverse to be true?

Sullivan talks of how 38 states ban marriage, but revels in the "civil disobedience" that gay couples, many presumably from those same states, are participating in as they rush to San Francisco to get married. Why? By his own argument, these marriages are presumably invalid. If they have no legal ground to stand on, why are so many rushing to do this? Could it be that many homosexuals are getting "married" because of the symbolic nature of the act? Or do they actually expect that one day their "marriage" in California will be recognized as legal throughout the United States? If this latter is the case, why should they think so? Is Sullivan really trying to convince us that homosexuals will be happy if their definition of marriage is considered law in, at the most, only 12 states? Somehow, I don't think that's the case.

Back to Frum:

"If a couple gets married in Massachusetts and that marriage goes truly unrecognized by any entity outside the state – well then the Massachusetts wedding ceremony is just a form of words, as meaningless as the illegal weddings now being performed in San Francisco. If you’re not married outside Massachusetts, then you are not really married inside Massachusetts either.

Somehow I cannot imagine Andrew and those who think like him reconciling themselves to that outcome. I suspect that 'letting the states decide' will over time gradually evolve into a demand to allow the most liberal states to impose their social values on the others through the mechanism of a million petty lawsuits on a thousand different issues. That is why it is necessary and proper to settle this issue on a national basis. And since the proponents of same-sex marriage have chosen 2004 as the year in which to bring matters to a head, they have no fair complaint if the opponents of same-sex marriage choose (sic) make their reply in that same year."

The fact of the matter is, the FMA is a "preemptive" strike by those suspicious of a larger agenda against the traditional institution of marriage. (As an aside, the link inserted in "preemptive" is to V.D. Hanson's latest piece, which concerns how the word "preemption" has devolved into a political slur.) Sullivan's view is that "the religious right amendment is both extreme - in that it bans any state from granting civil marriage rights to gays - and premature - in that the need for it on purely federalist grounds hasn't been in any way proven." He is correct that the issue has not yet become a federal issue and hasn't been brought before the Supreme Court. Yet, his belief that the Supreme Court would continue to interpret the Full Faith and Credit clause to read that marriage isn't one of the "public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings" that are transportable from state to state is an excercise in feigned ignorance.

Despite his altruistic legitimizations, Sullivan agrees with judicial activism as long as such activism moves in a direction he favors and he opposes it when it doesn't. Likewise, the same can be said for those on the "religious right." Yet, somehow, according to Sullivan, their agenda is less pure than his own, presumably because they are bigots or homophobes. With an FMA in place, one with specific language stating that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, the Supreme Court would have no wiggle room to "interpret" the Constitution in a way that would be "favorable" to either idealogical side. Specifically, the Full Faith and Credit clause would be taken off the table and the SCOTUS would be faced with a simple, concise definition of marriage in the Constitution, one they would be hard-pressed to "interpret."

The only mischief that could then be done would be for them to "interpret" what it means to be a "man" or "woman." But as the Massachusett's Supreme Court has shown, perhaps I shouldn't be so sure in assuming that the basic biological truth of what makes one a man or woman need not be codified in law. Most assumed marriage was between a man and a woman and didn't feel it needed to be explicitly defined. The Mass. Supreme Court took a lack of definition and in a fine bit of relativistic philosophy determined that no definition meant that any definition could be applied. I hope that the absence of a definition of "man" and "woman" doesn't cause similar legal innanities in the future. But I won't be surprised.

Peggy Noonan, in her latest column, says that:

"America is now a country--it was not always--in which people feel free to hold whatever private views on all human groups and behaviors while bowing to the moral necessity to show respect and regard for all groups that are different, in whatever ways. We have gone beyond tolerance in America; we have arrived at affection and sympathy and mutual respect."

I believe that is where I am. Thus far, the advocates for gay marriage have certainly indicated that they expect to receive such sympathetic treatment, and they should. I only wish that they would show the same "affection, sympathy and mutual respect" for those who desire to uphold a traditional definition of marriage.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Potemra on Sullivan and "The Passion"

Mike Potemra hit it on the head when he talked about Andrew Sullivan's review of Mel Gibson's The Passion.

His take on The Passion has the strength and weakness of Sullivan’s writing in general. The strength: a brilliant power of analytic insight. The weakness: a tendency to overreact emotionally. Some of his very particular criticisms of The Passion were quite perceptive. I’m thinking here, chiefly, of his remark about the film’s violence. He goes back to the Greek derivation of the word “porno-graphy”—“flesh-writing”—and notices how the film focuses much more intensely on the physical chastisement of Jesus than on His kenosis, his emotional and spiritual self-emptying of His divine honor on our behalf (which is much more central to the Redemption). I can’t count how many times people have told me about this movie, “wow, no man could have endured that much.” They’re not aware of it, but they’re peddling heresy. In fact, a man did endure that much. Jesus was not a superman, in either the Nietzschean or the comic-book sense; He was a man, Who was also God. Sullivan is theologically spot-on when he says: “Theologically, the point is not that Jesus suffered more than any human being ever has on a physical level. It is that his suffering was profound and voluntary.” Now, a brief comment on the weakness of Sullivan’s comment. He accuses Gibson of going “some way toward exaggerating and highlighting . . . the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story,” and says that “to my mind, that is categorically unforgivable.” Now, I saw this movie, too, twice, and I was especially on the lookout for signs of anti-Semitism or an overstress on Jewish guilt. I didn’t see it—and I think if Andrew hadn’t been angry at the film on other grounds, he wouldn’t have seen it either.

That's what has begun to bother me about Sullivan. He can be logical, insightful and concise when he wants to be, but if he brings "emotional baggage" into a topic, his rational side submerges beneath a sea of roiling emotions. I can't help but think his attitude toward religious conservatives as a result of the Federal Marriage Amendment has colored his perception of this film. Yet, all that being said, I haven't seen it yet, so perhaps I should withold judgement. If my opinion ends up being closer to Sullivan than that of the majority of folks over at National Review, I'll let it be known.

Finally, on a lighter note, I can't resist this...Check out this 1971 Doonesbury strip.(thanks to NRO's the Corner).

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Early History of Church and State

Justin at Dust In the Light , when commenting on how the Supreme Court voted Wednesday to let states withhold scholarships from students studying theology, made a pithy comment about secular humanism and Marxism which reminded me of something. I've long thought that perhaps the only way to stop the confusion about what the separation of church and state is SUPPOSED to mean would be to point out that so-called secularism is a religion of another sort. In fact, what it really is is the modern form of what was called Deism. Deism gained some adherents during the Enlightenment, though those were mostly of the aristocratic or intellectual class and were relatively few in number.

Deists believed in a sort of "watchmaker God" who basically set up the world to act according to specific laws of Nature and then stepped back to see what would happen. They believed that God and Rationalism could coexist and these deists and other Rational Christians were one side of the Great Awakening of the mid-18th century. (The other side was Jonathan Edwards and his Evangelical crowd). Some noted Deists (whether the average American realizes it or not) were Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. Some historians believe that Deism was the first step down the road to secularism. That may be true, but what I want to focus on is how some of its adherents, such as Jefferson and Franklin, had religion at the top of their minds when founding our nation. As will also be shown, there were other religious figures who had interesting things to say about both formulating a new government and religious rights who weren't Deists.

Regardless of the version of religion practiced by the Founding Fathers, they were all heavily influenced intellectually by the Enlightenment. As such, the most important and lasting impact of the Enlightenment in America was its influence on the political thinking and government of the colonies and eventually the United States. The concepts of natural law, inherent freedoms, and self-determination that have been embedded in the American fiber were Enlightenment ideals as well as religious. Basically, the influence of the Enlightenment, through its many Deist proponents in America, didn't mean the abandonment of the Protestant ideas that originally inspired the settlement of America. In fact, if nothing else, the ideals of the Enlightenment combined with the traditional moral teachings of Christianity to inspire the ideals spelled out in the founding documents of our country.

For instance, the Enlightenment bedrock principle of reason is reflected in the appeal in the Declaration of Independence to "the Law of Nature and of Nature's God,"; the assertion in the preamble of the Constitution that Justice, domestic tranquility, the common defense, the general welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty were the proper purposes of government; and the Federalist Papers? preference for "reflection and choice" over "accident and force" as the foundation of political society is another example. However, it is important to note that these ideas had been inspired by the classical and Judeo-Christian thought that was much older than the Enlightenment. This emphasizes the relationship between Christian thought and Enlightenment ideals. Documents such as the Mayflower Compact (1620) and William Penn's Frame of Government for Pennsylvania (1682) show that ideas for government resting at least partially on reason and consent had been part of colonial political philosophy prior to widespread exposure to Enlightenment ideas.

Tangentially related to the historical relationship between religion and our government, it should be noted that religious figures took a central role in American political thought. John Wise stated in 1717 that civil government was not unlike church organization in that it could rest on reason and rational conclusions instead of being dependent on divine rights, archaic customs or even Scripture. In other words, man could use reason to discover and apply the proper principles to human government. Wise called these principles natural law, which he believed to be consistent with God's law. In 1744, the Puritan clergyman Elisha Williams declared that "all are born . . . naturally equal" and everyone "is a reasonable . . . moral and accountable Being: and therefore . . . must reason, judge, and determine for himself." This laid important groundwork for the freedom of religious belief and expression. Another Puritan clergyman, Samuel Hopkins, extended these thoughts to attack the institution of slavery in 1776. The slaves brought to North America had "never forfeited their liberty or given anyone the right to enslave or sell them," Hopkins wrote in his A Dialogue Concerning the Slavery of Africans. He also pointed out the inconsistency of a nation, America, championing liberty while maintaining institutionalized slavery. Reason abhorred this circumstance, he said. Yet, as the case of slavery is particularly good at pointing out, the ideals of reason, the Enlightenment, and Christianity in general did not always remain intellectually consistent or achieve practical results.

The subject of political obedience was also greatly affected by the linkage of Christianity and the Enlightenment. Jonathan Mayhew, in 1750, noted that Scripture and reason dictated that rulers be judged according to a "higher law." Fourteen years later, James Otis of Boston declared that every Briton in North America "is by the law of God and nature, by the common law, and by act of parliament . . . entitled to all the natural, essential, inherent and inseparable rights of our fellow subjects in Great Britain." Otis conflated divine, natural and constitutional rights into what to him appeared to be a rational and consistent whole. These examples are provided to show that the intertwining of religious thought and government goes back to the founding of our country.

In summary, the effect that the exposure of religion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment was a growth of rational religion and the idea of freedom of religion as a natural right. This led to changes in religious orthodoxies and traditions of churches throughout the American Colonies and a further splintering of religious sects. When it came time to unite against England, it became obvious that no single religious sect would prevail over the others and they all essentially agreed to disagree. This evolved into a realization that no one church could dominate a new nation, which resulted in the separation of church and state. This right of religious freedom, along with the difficulty of sustaining orthodox thought in the midst of splintered religious sects, led to guarantees of religious freedom in the constitutions of many states and the Bill of Rights.

However, it is notable that the God who grants equality in the Declaration of Independence is the deist version, not the God worshipped in the majority of the traditional churches of the colonies at the time. The Enlightenment's impact on religion influenced many of the leaders of the American Revolution. Jefferson and Franklin both spent time in France and were exposed to the French Enlightenment, which tended to be more antagonistic to religion than did the English version. This point is not intended to denigrate Jefferson and Franklin. They believed what they believed and recognized that it was important to allow all Americans to worship (or not worship) freely, without being dictated by the government the form their religious observances were to take.

Thus, the true intent of the "separation of church and state" was to permit citizens to practice their religion freely without fear of governmental prosecution. Implicit in this is the right to not practice any form of religion. The effort to divorce ourselves from the importance of religion to our national heritage may indeed point to the secularization of our society. To disqualify something from government funding simply because God is mentioned misses the mark. Our Founding Fathers, whether they be Deists, Congregationalists or Catholics, would have never imagined that the clause "separation of church and state" would have been perverted in such a way. Not in their wildest dreams.

* Believe it or not, I didn't know all of this just off the top of my head. Many of the ideas are my own, but it should be assumed that most of the "hard information" comes from the Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies, Jacob Ernest Cooke ed., Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1993. The many external links from this document are provided for further investigation, not to annoy.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Nader's IN is reporting that - Nader to Jump in Presidential Race. Apparently, thanks to the link from Drudge, there is a good chance he'll do it on Meet the Press this Sunday. I simply can't believe that this would be good for the Democrats. Perhaps President Bush will benefit from the same thing that caused his father to lose a second term; Ross Perot and his 3rd party enabled a two-term Clinton Presidency.

Could it be that Nader would do the same for the President? It's interesting that the last 4 Presidential elections (I include the upcoming 2004 race) could reveal that the winner has, or will have, never received a majority of the votes. There appears to be a desire for a legitimate third party in this country. The problem is that the only successful third parties in this nation's history have been populist in nature, and the Green Party led by Nader or even Ross Perot's cult of personality, Reform party of the '90's failed to tap into truly populist themes. The Greens are still too liberal for the average American and Perot was a bit too wacky and his main theme, economic stability and growth, had already begun to turn around by the time of the election. Not to mention the lack of confidence exhibited by Perot when he withdrew, then re-entered the race.

No, a successful third party would have to be in the middle. The Republican is the on the right, the Democrats on the left, only the middle remains. The opportunity is there for some organization to cherry-pick ideas, and presumably "interest groups." I bet that the vast majority of union members would go for a strong on defense, but protectionist candidate. One who won't be perceived as pandering to the extremes of either established party and who truly has "working Americans" in mind.

The greatest challenge would be to create an organization from scratch. That's why it would probably take a candidate who had established himself in one of the two parties to break away. John McCain is the obvious example, but there are others, such as any number of so-called Blue Dog Democrats. It would also take more than fielding a candidate at the top of the ticket. A successful 3rd party would have to simultaneously attempt to create state and local parties. It would have to be done on a broad front. Some states have recently had independent governors, such as Ventura in Minn. and King in Maine, who were relatively successful. Unfortunately, neither could really build a strong 3rd party even on the state level. So maybe it will be impossible, maybe one of the established parties will have to have a complete meltdown and then re-invent itself to appeal more to the "average American." Perhaps the United States can only really handle two parties. It's worked so far, but will it forever?

The cynicism that politics brings to the conversations of normal people can't be ignored. Americans are checking out of the political process because "politicians are all the same." The hold that the professional politicians have on our government is stronger than ever. It will take a genuinely thoughtful and charismatic individual to shake things up and reassert the ideals on which this country was founded. It may sound corny, but we really need to get back to a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Not one for the splintered special interest groups and the big money. Is this a pipe dream? Maybe . . . maybe not.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Me vs. Joseph M. Reynolds

After reading "Crushing discourse -- Taste of power corrupts Bush" by Joseph M. Reynolds on the ProJo's web site, I felt compelled to reply. Here is my response letter to the editors at the Journal, in total:

In his piece "Crushing discourse -- Taste of power corrupts Bush" of 2/19/2004 on the Journal's editorial pages, Joseph M. Reynolds asserts that there is a "trend toward excecutive sovereignty that President Bush is facilitating, as he runs roughshod over not just his political foes but also the branches of government that exist to check excecutive power." Further, Mr. Reynolds warns that President Bush's "method of governance" is "a method that is eradicating the sacred American tenets of judicial autonomy and citizen review." He claims the President has labeled those who oppose him politically as "unpatriotic" and "weak on terrorism." These are all very serious charges, none of which Mr. Reynolds supports with facts, only with his own assertions.

The cornerstone of his piece at first appeared to be the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi. Unfortunately, it was subsequently revealed that Mr. Reynolds use of the Hamdi case was merely window dressing and Mr. Reynolds did not see the need to truly delve into the particulars of the case. This is too bad, because there is a genuine question at the heart of the issue. Does an American citizen, captured while fighting against his country in the field of battle have the same rights of legal representation as if he had been caught robbing the corner store?

The President and his administration, as well as the U.S. Military, believe that a prisoner of war, regardless of citizenship, does not have the same rights as a citizen charged with a criminal act. Others argue that he does have those rights, that he is not an "enemy combatant" but more of an accused criminal, and some even argue that those rights should be extended to non-citizens, such as those currently held in Guantonamo for fighting against the U.S. This is an important argument and the fact that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Hamdi's petition points to potential resolution of the debate.

However, Mr. Reynolds seems most eager to point out that the Court did so "over the objections of the Bush administration and its henchman, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft." As this is the first instance of many assertions made by Mr. Reynolds acusing President Bush of a power grab, it appears as if it is not Hamdi's case in particular that is important. Rather, Hamdi's case is important only in that provides Mr. Reynolds with an opportunity to show that the President is bent on establishing some sort of autocratic rule.

Perhaps this lack of focus on the real debate at the heart of the Hamdi case, combined with the priority that Mr. Reynolds places on asserting that the President is being corrupted by power, is why Mr Reynold's ends up contradicting himself. Later in his piece, Mr. Reynold's asserts that the President is somehow "eradicating the tenets of judicial autonomy," forgetting that he led off his piece with an instance of the Supreme Court proceeding with hearing Hamdi's case despite the Bush Administration's objections. If the President is intimidating the judicial branch to such a degree, how come the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case over the objections of the all-powerful and unchecked President? This internal contradiction in his piece probably explains why Mr. Reynolds cleverly removes any need to provide real supporting data when he states that his piece "does not call for anything specific" because "we haven't reached a point at which there are proposals to debate." Would that be because debate requires that facts be put forth instead of unsubstantiated polemics?

To summarize, Mr. Reynolds, while writing in a fine style with plenty of bold words and impressive literary styling, has warned the reader about a power hungry President with dreams of monarchy. This same President is supported by such "henchman" as John Ashcroft and runs roughshod over the judiciary (as shown by the Supreme Court having agreed to hear a case over the "monarch's" objections). Additionally, as Mr. Reynolds asserts, the "king" attempts to quash political opposition by calling those who oppose him "unpatriotic," yet somehow Mr. Reynolds managed to bravely shed light on the President's autocratic aspiration by utilizing the "free press."

Mr. Reynolds states that his column "calls for conversation" and that "[t]he need is dire." Mr. Reynolds states his hope for a Presidential election filled with true, ideological debate rather than "the catch-phrase-driven, image-conscious politics that have poisoned too many contests." A very interesting proposal given the imagery laden, factually challenged piece to which Mr. Reynolds had just subjected his readers. He calls for a Presidential debate filled with ideological substance over style. He did so in a piece full of literary style and little factual substance.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

I'm for a Federal Marriage Amendment

Justin Katz over at Dust in the Light sorta/kinda responded to some of my post on gay marriage. He's been fighting the battle against the likes of Andrew Sullivan for quite some time and is understandably exhibiting some attributes of burnout. He pointed out a letter to the editor at the ProJo from Richard A. Matera (Providence) that ran today. To pull from Justin's post:

"If the courts are saying that all couples, regardless of who they are, are entitled to the rights of marriage granted by the state, then the religious ceremony should be separated from the civil. This would preserve marriage as defined by religious groups while opening it up to everyone. (It would mean that those having a religious ceremony would also need a civil ceremony.)"

My argument does run similar to this, but I maintain that the religious ceremony for heterosexuals would automatically be legal. Now, I suppose some of the more liberal Protestant religions, or at least some churches therein, would (and have) allowed gay marriage. This would result in the perception that my solution creates a double standard. How come gays getting "married" in a church wouldn't be automatically legal whereas heterosexual, religious ceremonies would be legal. How can this be separate but equal? That's a valid point. I will attempt to address it a bit later.

Justin goes on to point out a "fatal flaw" in my "more-reasonable" approach (other than the one just mentioned):

"... Mr. Matera cuts right to the fatal flaw in Marc's more-reasonable approach: this movement is subversive to its core. There are no two ways about it. In order to force affirmation of a minority lifestyle, homosexual activists and utopianist dictator-in-a-bottle liberals will push culturally established, nationally understood acceptance of religious ceremonies out of the public square. To liberate sex from the restraints of parenthood and responsibility, religion must go in the closet.

It wouldn't, apparently, be good enough to declare that homosexuals can be married by whoever will marry them, whether religious or secular; either the movement will seek to force churches and synagogs to perform the ceremonies, or they will, as Matera has suggested, seek to make religious ceremonies irrelevant in the civil sphere. That somebody as considerate, respectful of religion, and conservative as Marc has come darn close to the same solution shows how persuasive the argument could be."

Justin is correct, it is a persuasive argument. But I think my insistence on the fact that religious, heterosexual marriages are automatically legal compared to the not-automatically-legal religious "gay marriage" is my line in the sand. Yet, again, how is this rationally, logically, consistent. I'm afraid it might not be. And I guess that's the rub. My priority isn't on "equal", I guess. Instead, my priority is on limiting the power of a minority to dictate to the majority a new set of rules that, in the eyes of many, would sully a cherished institution.

My point is not whether "gay marriage" is right or wrong, my point is that those on both sides have a right to legal union between two consenting adults. But I note that I often hear of how the "religious right" just wants to foist its views and morality onto others. Well, isn't this a case of a different morality being foisted upon others? Must a time-honored interpretation of a valuable institution have its definition altered because of the desires of a minority? At what point does perceived equality become paramount, even if it impinges upon the religious rights of others to practice their faith, including maintaining cherished institutions (such as marriage) as they define them? Especially if there is a method of accomplishing the goals of equality in a legal way, one in which legally-bonded homosexuals will have the same rights and privileges as married heterosexuals. It's called a civil union. But that may just be the problem. It's not called "marriage."

Could it be that it really is just about the word "marriage?" That "gay marriage" proponents feel that "marriage" must be the term applied to their desired legal union? That only that one word, "marriage," confers legitimacy upon their legal union and without the word, they will feel like their union is somehow second class? This thinking is flawed in many areas. Whether they think that calling a legal union between two homosexuals "marriage" would confer legitimacy or not, those who oppose the idea would never, in their hearts and minds, consider their "gay marriage" on equal terms as that of a heterosexual marriage. To my mind, the important thing is that homosexuals attain legal, equal rights and all of the privileges thereof via some sort of civil union. A term does not automatically confer legitimacy. All it will do is antagonize those who will never recognize you as truly married. But, they may be more inclined to recognize that you have legal rights equal to those who are married if they don't feel you are jamming your definition of "marriage" down their throat. They will tolerate you, never accept you. As a conservative, I feel like I'm being merely "tolerated" every day I live in Rhode Island! The right to be left alone is all we can really ask for, isn't it?

Another point is that many would probably refer to you as "married" anyway, even if you "only" had a civil union. Perhaps this semantical argument is just too shallow, but I think it probably has a ring of truth. Instead of going for the home run, "gay marriage" advocates can "settle" for a three-run double; you can get all of the rights of a married heterosexual couple. Sure, it's a "civil union," but you and your friends and like minded people will probably just call you "married" anyway. You can even find a church to have the ceremony in. No state or national government is going to make it illegal for homosexuals to have a church wedding ceremony. If this sounds condescending, it isn't meant to be. But if all of the religious trappings are there, doesn't that satisfy any desire for religious approval that you may have? In summary, you can have a civil union, with equal rights to married people; you can have a religious ceremony, which in and of itself doesn't make your union legal, but does cast religious approval over your union. How is this not really "marriage?" Just because some "right-wing wacko envangelicals" say it isn't? Since when did you worry about what they thought? Remember, you'll get equal rights as a couple and have the option (as you do now, if you can find a willing minister) of a real "church wedding." Haven't you gotten everything you wished for?

But I miss the point again. This is about the state defining marriage for all to include unions between any two consenting adults; straight, gay, or otherwise. Maybe Justin was right when he said:

"In order to force affirmation of a minority lifestyle, homosexual activists and utopianist dictator-in-a-bottle liberals will push culturally established, nationally understood acceptance of religious ceremonies out of the public square. To liberate sex from the restraints of parenthood and responsibility, religion must go in the closet."

Does the government have a right to redefine something on a large scale based on the request of a minority without the consent of a majority? Isn't this what was meant by a "tyranny of the minority?" This brings me right back to some sort of Federal Marriage Amendment. Here is an excerpt from a column from David Limbaugh that sums up my feelings on the necessity for an FMA (my emphasis in bold):

"Congress passed the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1997. This law provides that, consistent with the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause, federal territories and possessions and states may refuse to honor same-sex relationships that are treated as marriage under the laws of other states.

The FMA would go further by constitutionally defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. The Amendment would forbid Congress, state legislatures, and federal and state courts from recognizing same-sex marriage. It would also prohibit the courts from sanctioning civil unions, while state legislatures would be free to do so. One of the purposes of the Amendment was to prevent activist courts, like the Massachusetts Supreme Court, from 'legislating' into legitimacy same-sex marriages or unions.

Some conservatives oppose the FMA, believing it doesn't go far enough because it wouldn't restrict Congress and state legislatures from recognizing civil unions, which they believe severely diminish the institution of marriage. Proponents of the Amendment argue that it goes just far enough. It expressly preserves traditional marriage and prohibits judicially created assaults on the institution, yet leaves the decision to sanction civil unions in the hands of the state legislatures, where it ought to be in a federalist system.

I understand the argument that we should leave this decision to states, which have always had sovereignty over family law matters. But if a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting legislatures as well as courts from indirectly undermining traditional marriage by sanctioning civil unions or domestic partnerships could pass under the rigorous amendment procedures our constitution requires, I don't think the principle of federalism or state's rights would be significantly compromised. After all, in the ratification process, an overwhelming majority of states will have spoken democratically.

. . . And while the FMA would still allow state legislatures to recognize civil unions, it would not permit them to recognize same-sex marriages."

David Limbaugh also offers that "we must understand that homosexual activists consider marriage itself as the hill to die on." I guess this is where I have the biggest problem with the "gay marriage" advocates. Just as I disagree with those who would bar homosexuals even from civil unions, I disagree just as much with those who seek to redefine a cherished institution against the will of a majority in the name of equality. Especially when some seem to be doing it just because others cherish the current definition. Some seem to be taking joy in upsetting the apple cart.

I maintain that there is a middle ground. It is derived from something this country has traditionally had a deep reservoir of: pragmatism. American pragmatism may be dying as we find ourselves stratifying to the "left" and to the "right." I confess that I am most often one of those in the latter, but in this case, I'm on the side of compromise. Maybe it is "straddling the fence," but I do empathize with both sides. However, because my conservative nature and distrust of the activist left is strong, I hold that it is important to support enaction of a safeguard against any slippery slope down which the radicals would like to take us. Therefore, I favor a Federal Marriage Amendment. If the "gay marriage" advocates can one day muster up enough support to overturn such a law, than they, and their concept of "gay marriage," will have already gained widespread acceptance in this country.

Friday, February 13, 2004

I Favor Civil Unions

Gay marriage...I guess I'll go ahead and weigh in. First, I can't conclusively say whether homosexuality is a choice or is more of a genetic-type lifestyle. I'm inclined to believe the latter, so let's put it at 10% I think it may be a choice compared 90% sure it isn't. Truthfully, though, I don't think whether it's a choice or not is germane to the topic of "Gay Marriage."

As an educated, tolerant and rational individual, I concur that homosexuals have a right to a legal, civil or government recognized bond just as do heterosexuals. I believe that the nature of such a homosexual union can be defined so that it is limited in the same way as are heterosexual (ie; no polygamy, incest, marriage to minors, etc. is allowed), if it isn't already implicitly recognized that such is the case. In short, homosexuals have just as much right as heterosexuals to commit themselves to a legal union. My rationale comes from nothing other than an applicatoin of reason to the topic. If we are to accept that homosexuals are equal, than they should be accorded all of the rights that others enjoy.

I believe that deeply religious people have strong convictions and have a right to disapprove of homosexual unions. Reasonable religious people (be they Christian, Jew or Muslim) can "hate the sin and forgive the sinner" and are tolerant of homosexuals, if not their lifestyle. They believe in the teachings in the Torah, Bible, or Koran, holding them up as the center of their morality and believe that they state that homosexuality is a sin and not acceptable. They uphold the institution of marriage as a sacred union, more in the domain of the church than the state. To them it is a moral entity not a civil one. They believe that to allow those who they believe are sinners to be morally sanctioned by being allowed to marry would be a sin and against the tenets of their religion(s).

Marriage was "institutionalized" by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. In a common tactic, the Catholic hierarchy co-opted a heretofore Pagan ritual and legitimized it to assist in the conversion of heretics. Over the centuries, its nature as a fundamentally religious sacrament has been recognized and embraced. Although it is notable that after the Reformation, some Protestan sects, such as the Puritans, actually did not believe in a church marriage ceremony as it smelled too much of "popery," the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country has recognized marriage as a legal institution. As such, marriage has become firmly placed in the domain of both civil and moral jurisdiction. Regardless of the history of the institution, be it ancient, medieval, colonial or modern, the fact is that now marriage is regarded by secularists as an essentially legal entity and by the religious as an essentially moral and religious entity. This is where the conflict lies.

Neither side will be able to compromise their principled position on this matter. I truly see that both sides have reasonable arguments. The religious hold marriage as mostly sacred, the secular hold it as mostly legal. For those secularists who favor gay marriage to impugn those they oppose (whose opposite stance is based on deeply felt religious convictions) as "bigots" and "close-minded" and the like are unfair and exhibit a lack of sympathy for deeply held religious beliefs as well as, dare I say, intolerance. Those religious people who would refuse that homosexuals have a right to a legal union don't have a rational argument from a legal standpoint and are also exhibiting a degree of intolerance.

What is the solution? A civil union. Yes, it's a comprimise, and may have problems of its own. To my mind, the preferred method would be to allow the people of each state decide, either through their duly elected representatives or referendum, whether they want "gay marriage" or not.

(*Note on the Massachusetts' Supreme Court decision. Massachusetts Law made no provision for Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court made the assumption that as such Gay Marriage is condoned. Why didn't they conclude that, because there was no provision in the law addressing homosexual marriage, then it was up to the Mass. Legislature to define marriage such that homosexual marriage is included. In other words, why is the burden of proof, so to speak, on those who seek to maintain the status quo and not on those who seek to change it?)

Again, even if a particular state legislature should decide to ban gay marriage or define a civil union as the equivalent of heterosexual marriage, it wouldn't stand on its own. Should another state legislature condone gay marriage as defined by its current proponents, the "Full faith and credit clause" of the Constitution would be used to apply the broader definition nationwide. In other words, regardless of the decision of a particular sovereign state, it would have to submit to the dictates of other states.

This leads to the enactment of some form of Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This is a course I personally don't favor, but in the spirit of compromise, it may be the only solution. Obviously, the Amendment would have to be worded in such a way as to establish that legal union and marriage are the same thing, but that marriage is solely the legal union of a man and a woman while a civil union can be between any two consenting adults (or something similar). I realize this is the concept at its most simplistic, but the exact Amendment proposals can probably be found elsewhere. So, a so-called FMA would be one solution.

Another solution would be to take marriage out of the civil domain altogether. Everyone simply has a legal, civil union and marriage becomes simply a religious ceremony. It would confer no legal right and would be relegated to the status of a religious tradition. I'm fairly certain that the latter is unacceptable to all. To the religious for obvious reasons; to homosexuals and their supporters this would be undesirable because they seem to be seeking the implicit endorsement of their status that the term "marriage" confers. This leads to another point; maybe the problem does really just boil down to the word: MARRIAGE. Perhaps the solution would be as simple as making two types: Civil Marriage and Holy Marriage (or something like that, just be careful not to call it Secular Marriage, or S.M., may not work ;).

Attempts to equate this debate to that of Civil Rights are irresponsible. Civil Union and Marriage are not a Separate but Equal argument in the same vein as the entirety of our segregationist past. How is a simple, legal document stating that homosexuals are legally joined and have all of the rights that such a union entails somehow less legal, less equal than legal marriage? Blacks experienced inferior services, dwellings, etc. How can a legal concept such as civil unions somehow be inferior if it is clearly defined as equal to marriage. Are there degrees of legality in a conceptual or metaphysical plane?

Perhaps the real irony is that some of those who fight against the perceived attempts of the "religious" to push religion on those who don't subscribe to it are at the same time pushing their "religion," secularism, upon those same "religious." Neither side should push their view upon the other. Maybe this is the only instance, but separate but equal would truly be a solution given that it is strictly a concept, an idea, not a tangible, physically concrete entity.

Finally, I believe that the proponents of gay marriage have needlessly approached this from an antagonistic angle. They have essentially attempted to ram this idea down the throats of the public. Most Americans are tolerant. They don't really care, but if their cherished institutions, as they define them, whether historically accurate or not, are perceived to be under attack, they will resist. Polls indicate that the country is at least marginally against gay marriage. To most it is still an abstraction. It has been shown this past week in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal, and presumably gay marriage-friendly states in the nation, that passionate debate will break out as this issue reaches each state. It is by no means a slam-dunk for either side in Massachusetts. In fact, right now, the Constitutional Convention regarding this issue has been suspended for a cooling off period. Attempts to include provisions for civil unions have been rejected by both sides. This failure to compromise indicates the entrenched, all-or-nothing positions staked out by both sides. To my mind, compromise is possible, and it is called Civil Union.

***I realize this may be a somewhat rambling treatise, but this is how I feel, off the cuff, with no time to evaluate logically the construction and coherency of the above. Keep this in mind before assailing me on the finer points.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Looking back at some old news stories, here's more conspiracy theory stuff for you regarding Iraq and WMD . . .

When the adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq, they argued that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn’t acceptable. The administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer,' the President said, “but sometimes it’s the only answer. . .If Saddam isn’t stopped now, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he’ll use that arsenal.'”

There was also the fact that this war plan had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed the inspectors.

The President had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between the President and Halliburton – he gave them a sweet no-bid contract , you know.

Meanwhile, there were terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swore it would strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Future Presidential candidates were quoted as supporting action but urging the President to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on the former President's reaction said he would completely support his successor if he decided to attack, though he urged to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I left out the names on purpose. It was Bill Clinton who was President, the time was February 1998. The real story, with names, is just as powerful and can be found at James Lileks' blog The Bleat. [hat tip Instapundit].

Friday, February 06, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online says:
"Weapons of Mass Hysteria If anything, the war was about 100,000 corpses too late."

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Scientists win Kennewick Man ruling as the 9th Circuit Court rejects tribes' appeal to bury ancient bones. This is good news for science, particularly archaeology and history. For more on the Kennewick Man and the controversy surrounding him, try going here, here, and here and for the Native American point of view, try here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

In an editorial called "Arming Red China", the Washington Times points out the cozy nature of relations between those "Old Europe" countries that opposed our action in Iraq and Communist China. Scariest portion:

"During Mr. Hu's visit, Monsieur Chirac criticized Taipei for stoking tensions with mainland China. It was overlooked that it is Beijing that has 450 missiles aimed at Taiwan, and not the other way around. It was tacitly acknowledged, however, that the rationale for China's military expansion is to counter American power in the world — a goal that France is now supporting. Both Messers. Hu and Chirac referred to the partnership between their countries as 'strategic,' and the French Foreign Ministry mentioned the leaders' 'convergence of visions' about the need for 'a multi-polar world' in which their nations are not subjected to 'a uni-polar American worldview.'"

Can there be any doubt about the motives of the French? Is this the kind of "International" support that Sen. Kerry et al are criticising the Bush Administration for not courting? Of course, I suppose that the argument would be that because the Bush Administration so badly bungled the diplomacy of Iraq with the French, Chirac felt he had no choice but to turn to China for support against the Imperialist American Regime . . . in so many words.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Uh oh, looks like the FCC is going to launch an investigation into the halftime show.
Hey, didn't this happen already? Who cares? The Pats win again! Meanwhile, the national story isn't the great game, instead, it's all about how Janet Jackson's Superbowl flash, which has ticked many people off. For me, it's not about the Boob, it's about the manner in which it was exposed. Clothes ripped off aren't the kind of positive message that needs to be sent. It also seems much of the outrage is over the fact that the halftime show was essentially a talentless display of hacks playing to the lowest, basest instincts. P-Diddy and his bunch was pretty lame, singing about "I wanna take your clothes off" and Kid Rock wearing the flag. Concerning Kid, I don't think he intended to disprespect the flag or nation, I just think he was ignorant of the fact that the American flag is not supposed to used in such a manner. So, to sum up:

1) P-Diddy and crew - Bad, no talent, just looking to shock with gyrating, booty shaking song.
2) Kid Rock - ignorant attempt at patriotism, needs to learn about the flag rules.
3) Janet/Justin - real nice job, showing how a man can always rip the clothes off of a woman to get what he wants.

I'm glad my kids are a little too young to really understand what was going on. If the NFL wanted a quality halftime show, all they had to do was put the acts on that did the pre-game show. Now that was classy, especially Beyonce and the guy who sang the tributed to the Shuttle astronauts.