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Old 01-11-2010, 05:35 PM   #1
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the conservative case for same sex marriage

Quote:
The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage
Why same-sex marriage is an American value.
By Theodore B. Olson | NEWSWEEK
Published Jan 9, 2010
From the magazine issue dated Jan 18, 2010

Together with my good friend and occasional courtroom adversary David Boies, I am attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8—the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex.

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?

My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation.

This bedrock American principle of equality is central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike. The dream that became America began with the revolutionary concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence in words that are among the most noble and elegant ever written: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Sadly, our nation has taken a long time to live up to the promise of equality. In 1857, the Supreme Court held that an African-American could not be a citizen. During the ensuing Civil War, Abraham Lincoln eloquently reminded the nation of its found-ing principle: "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

At the end of the Civil War, to make the elusive promise of equality a reality, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution added the command that "no State É shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person É the equal protection of the laws."

Subsequent laws and court decisions have made clear that equality under the law extends to persons of all races, religions, and places of origin. What better way to make this national aspiration complete than to apply the same protection to men and women who differ from others only on the basis of their sexual orientation? I cannot think of a single reason—and have not heard one since I undertook this venture—for continued discrimination against decent, hardworking members of our society on that basis.
Various federal and state laws have accorded certain rights and privileges to gay and lesbian couples, but these protections vary dramatically at the state level, and nearly universally deny true equality to gays and lesbians who wish to marry. The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution. It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life's joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution's protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law.

It is true that marriage in this nation traditionally has been regarded as a relationship exclusively between a man and a woman, and many of our nation's multiple religions define marriage in precisely those terms. But while the Supreme Court has always previously considered marriage in that context, the underlying rights and liberties that marriage embodies are not in any way confined to heterosexuals.

Marriage is a civil bond in this country as well as, in some (but hardly all) cases, a religious sacrament. It is a relationship recognized by governments as providing a privileged and respected status, entitled to the state's support and benefits. The California Supreme Court described marriage as a "union unreservedly approved and favored by the community." Where the state has accorded official sanction to a relationship and provided special benefits to those who enter into that relationship, our courts have insisted that withholding that status requires powerful justifications and may not be arbitrarily denied.

What, then, are the justifications for California's decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive.

The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way. Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors' prisons. Gays and lesbians have always been among us, forming a part of our society, and they have lived as couples in our neighborhoods and communities. For a long time, they have experienced discrimination and even persecution; but we, as a society, are starting to become more tolerant, accepting, and understanding. California and many other states have allowed gays and lesbians to form domestic partnerships (or civil unions) with most of the rights of married heterosexuals. Thus, gay and lesbian individuals are now permitted to live together in state-sanctioned relationships. It therefore seems anomalous to cite "tradition" as a justification for withholding the status of marriage and thus to continue to label those relationships as less worthy, less sanctioned, or less legitimate.

The second argument I often hear is that traditional marriage furthers the state's interest in procreation—and that opening marriage to same-sex couples would dilute, diminish, and devalue this goal. But that is plainly not the case. Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?

This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children. What's more, it is pernicious to think marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because of the state's desire to promote procreation. We would surely not accept as constitutional a ban on marriage if a state were to decide, as China has done, to discourage procreation.

Another argument, vaguer and even less persuasive, is that gay marriage somehow does harm to heterosexual marriage. I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me what this means. In what way would allowing same-sex partners to marry diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples? Tellingly, when the judge in our case asked our opponent to identify the ways in which same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriage, to his credit he answered honestly: he could not think of any.

The simple fact is that there is no good reason why we should deny marriage to same-sex partners. On the other hand, there are many reasons why we should formally recognize these relationships and embrace the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and become full and equal members of our society.

No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable "lifestyle" should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.

I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California's Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society.

Reactions to our lawsuit have reinforced for me these essential truths. I have certainly heard anger, resentment, and hostility, and words like "betrayal" and other pointedly graphic criticism. But mostly I have been overwhelmed by expressions of gratitude and good will from persons in all walks of life, including, I might add, from many conservatives and libertarians whose names might surprise. I have been particularly moved by many personal renditions of how lonely and personally destructive it is to be treated as an outcast and how meaningful it will be to be respected by our laws and civil institutions as an American, entitled to equality and dignity. I have no doubt that we are on the right side of this battle, the right side of the law, and the right side of history.

Some have suggested that we have brought this case too soon, and that neither the country nor the courts are "ready" to tackle this issue and remove this stigma. We disagree. We represent real clients—two wonderful couples in California who have longtime relationships. Our lesbian clients are raising four fine children who could not ask for better parents. Our clients wish to be married. They believe that they have that constitutional right. They wish to be represented in court to seek vindication of that right by mounting a challenge under the United States Constitution to the validity of Proposition 8 under the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In fact, the California attorney general has conceded the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, and the city of San Francisco has joined our case to defend the rights of gays and lesbians to be married. We do not tell persons who have a legitimate claim to wait until the time is "right" and the populace is "ready" to recognize their equality and equal dignity under the law.

Citizens who have been denied equality are invariably told to "wait their turn" and to "be patient." Yet veterans of past civil-rights battles found that it was the act of insisting on equal rights that ultimately sped acceptance of those rights. As to whether the courts are "ready" for this case, just a few years ago, in Romer v. Evans, the United States Supreme Court struck down a popularly adopted Colorado constitutional amendment that withdrew the rights of gays and lesbians in that state to the protection of anti-discrimination laws. And seven years ago, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down, as lacking any rational basis, Texas laws prohibiting private, intimate sexual practices between persons of the same sex, overruling a contrary decision just 20 years earlier.

These decisions have generated controversy, of course, but they are decisions of the nation's highest court on which our clients are entitled to rely. If all citizens have a constitutional right to marry, if state laws that withdraw legal protections of gays and lesbians as a class are unconstitutional, and if private, intimate sexual conduct between persons of the same sex is protected by the Constitution, there is very little left on which opponents of same-sex marriage can rely. As Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented in the Lawrence case, pointed out, "[W]hat [remaining] justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution'?" He is right, of course. One might agree or not with these decisions, but even Justice Scalia has acknowledged that they lead in only one direction.

California's Proposition 8 is particularly vulnerable to constitutional challenge, because that state has now enacted a crazy-quilt of marriage regulation that makes no sense to anyone. California recognizes marriage between men and women, including persons on death row, child abusers, and wife beaters. At the same time, California prohibits marriage by loving, caring, stable partners of the same sex, but tries to make up for it by giving them the alternative of "domestic partnerships" with virtually all of the rights of married persons except the official, state-approved status of marriage. Finally, California recognizes 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the months between the state Supreme Court's ruling that upheld gay-marriage rights and the decision of California's citizens to withdraw those rights by enacting Proposition 8.

So there are now three classes of Californians: heterosexual couples who can get married, divorced, and remarried, if they wish; same-sex couples who cannot get married but can live together in domestic partnerships; and same-sex couples who are now married but who, if they divorce, cannot remarry. This is an irrational system, it is discriminatory, and it cannot stand.

Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.

Find this article at
The Conservative Case For Gay Marriage - Newsweek.com
© 2010




what's to dispute?
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:02 PM   #2
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It's amazing how many of the points he makes are the same points that Little San Francisco™ has been making.
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:28 PM   #3
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Protecting marriage to protect children - latimes.com

Protecting marriage to protect children
Marriage as a human institution is constantly evolving. But in all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood.

By David Blankenhorn
September 19, 2008

I'm a liberal Democrat. And I do not favor same-sex marriage. Do those positions sound contradictory? To me, they fit together.

Many seem to believe that marriage is simply a private love relationship between two people. They accept this view, in part, because Americans have increasingly emphasized and come to value the intimate, emotional side of marriage, and in part because almost all opinion leaders today, from journalists to judges, strongly embrace this position. That's certainly the idea that underpinned the California Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.

But I spent a year studying the history and anthropology of marriage, and I've come to a different conclusion.

Marriage as a human institution is constantly evolving, and many of its features vary across groups and cultures. But there is one constant. In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood. Among us humans, the scholars report, marriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children.

In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its next generation. Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood -- biological, social and legal -- into one pro-child form: the married couple. Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other.

These days, because of the gay marriage debate, one can be sent to bed without supper for saying such things. But until very recently, almost no one denied this core fact about marriage. Summing up the cross-cultural evidence, the anthropologist Helen Fisher in 1992 put it simply: "People wed primarily to reproduce." The philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of conventional sexual morality, was only repeating the obvious a few decades earlier when he concluded that "it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution."

Marriage is society's most pro-child institution. In 2002 -- just moments before it became highly unfashionable to say so -- a team of researchers from Child Trends, a nonpartisan research center, reported that "family structure clearly matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage."

All our scholarly instruments seem to agree: For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.

For these reasons, children have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world. The foundational human rights document in the world today regarding children, the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically guarantees children this right. The last time I checked, liberals like me were supposed to be in favor of internationally recognized human rights, particularly concerning children, who are typically society's most voiceless and vulnerable group. Or have I now said something I shouldn't?

Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one. Moreover, losing that right will not be a consequence of something that at least most of us view as tragic, such as a marriage that didn't last, or an unexpected pregnancy where the father-to-be has no intention of sticking around. On the contrary, in the case of same-sex marriage and the children of those unions, it will be explained to everyone, including the children, that something wonderful has happened!

For me, what we are encouraged or permitted to say, or not say, to one another about what our society owes its children is crucially important in the debate over initiatives like California's Proposition 8, which would reinstate marriage's customary man-woman form. Do you think that every child deserves his mother and father, with adoption available for those children whose natural parents cannot care for them? Do you suspect that fathers and mothers are different from one another? Do you imagine that biological ties matter to children? How many parents per child is best? Do you think that "two" is a better answer than one, three, four or whatever? If you do, be careful. In making the case for same-sex marriage, more than a few grown-ups will be quite willing to question your integrity and goodwill. Children, of course, are rarely consulted.

The liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously argued that, in many cases, the real conflict we face is not good versus bad but good versus good. Reducing homophobia is good. Protecting the birthright of the child is good. How should we reason together as a society when these two good things conflict?

Here is my reasoning. I reject homophobia and believe in the equal dignity of gay and lesbian love. Because I also believe with all my heart in the right of the child to the mother and father who made her, I believe that we as a society should seek to maintain and to strengthen the only human institution -- marriage -- that is specifically intended to safeguard that right and make it real for our children.

Legalized same-sex marriage almost certainly benefits those same-sex couples who choose to marry, as well as the children being raised in those homes. But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society. That's a change that, in the final analysis, I cannot support.

David Blankenhorn is president of the New York-based Institute for American Values and the author of "The Future of Marriage."
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:34 PM   #4
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Many of the points in your posted article are refuted by Irvine's, nathan. And I get the feeling we already went into quite some depth on Mother and father vs. 2 stable parents in the previous thread.
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:56 PM   #5
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Yes, but now it's said by a "liberal Democrat"

Actually this article was posted a long time ago and the truth came out about David Blankenhorn, he's not liberal nor a Democrat.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:27 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by nathan1977 View Post

But I spent a year studying the history and anthropology of marriage, and I've come to a different conclusion.
A whole year? Gasp. He must be an authority, then. As compared to people who spend entire careers studying the same topic, I mean.

Non-sarcastic translation: a year is a drop in the bucket in academic terms, and hardly qualifies one to speak with any degree of authority.


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Originally Posted by Diemen View Post
And I get the feeling we already went into quite some depth on Mother and father vs. 2 stable parents in the previous thread.
I made a well thought out response to some of Nathan's posts regarding this topic in the previous thread, that held some undeniable truths in it, and was genuinely curious as to how Nathan would respond. Alas, there was no response.

Nathan, if you see this, not a slam on you at all. Maybe you were busy and didn't have time to respond. I was just curious as to your reaction to my points, but you sort of dropped out of the conversation after that. I was a little disappointed by that.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:49 PM   #7
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For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other.

For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.

For these reasons, children have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world.

Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one. Moreover, losing that right will not be a consequence of something that at least most of us view as tragic, such as a marriage that didn't last, or an unexpected pregnancy where the father-to-be has no intention of sticking around.

Because I also believe with all my heart in the right of the child to the mother and father who made her, I believe that we as a society should seek to maintain and to strengthen the only human institution -- marriage -- that is specifically intended to safeguard that right and make it real for our children.

But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society.
THE CHILDREN!

These highlighted sentences sound like they were written by someone with a mental deficiency. Seriously. What a jackass the author of this article is. His opinions are based on horribly unintelligent logic.
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Old 01-11-2010, 08:02 PM   #8
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Irvine, your comment, "let's be honest: there's no actual argument against same-sex marriage beyond straight-up, in-your-face animus and hostility towards gay people," makes it clear you don't think debate is possible on this subject. Besides, neither you nor I probably have anything new to say on the issue apart from commenting on developments of the day such as which state voted down same-sex marriage or which courts decided to make law this time.

Your shtick is the Progressive shtick.

There is no intellectual argument to be made against same-sex marriage, or any other part of the Progressive or liberal agenda, because none exists. That's the whole condescending premise of the book 'What's The Matter With Kansas.' There is Progressive Thought and than there are the Red State rubes who can't be trusted to act or make decisions in their own best interest. In summary, dissent from Progressive Thought can only be based on fear or ignorance and democratic self-determination and traditions must be in harmony with the Progressive Worldview to be legitimate.

Nor are there any political or legal arguments to make as Progressives always frame their agenda in the language of "rights." Every worker has a right to a living wage. Abortion is a right. Health care is a right. And same-sex marriage is a right and opposition to it is no different than opposition to mixed marriages 50 years ago. "Rights," of course, aren't up for vote or debate.

As I've said several times, I don't bemoan your attempts to move society in a direction that you see as forward. That IS your right. I've tried to understand your point of view when you've argued intelligently and I've excused the occasional pejorative when you've argued out of passion or frustration.

What I do regret is that you and your FYM supporters have come to the conclusion that decent people in a country as large and diverse as ours can't simply disagree on the issue. Call me wrong, not hateful. Until that changes I see no reason to waste my time.
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Old 01-11-2010, 08:58 PM   #9
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Call me wrong, not hateful. Until that changes I see no reason to waste my time.
Isn't wrongness that's based on bigotry usually implicitly hateful?


Btw, great piece by Ted Olson. Nice to see that some conservatives can employ logic and compassion in this area.
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Old 01-11-2010, 10:38 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by INDY500 View Post
or which courts decided to make law this time.
This crap gets repeated constantly and it just drives me up the wall.

INDY do you have any comprehension at all as to what the common law system is about? Like even a little? Is it that you are fundamentally opposed to common law and would prefer to have a civil system like the French?
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Old 01-11-2010, 10:50 PM   #11
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What I do regret is that you and your FYM supporters have come to the conclusion that decent people in a country as large and diverse as ours can't simply disagree on the issue. Call me wrong, not hateful. Until that changes I see no reason to waste my time.
And what I regret is that you, haven't always argured from an intellectual point of view rather very pointed homophopic slurs at times, some generally others personally. So I have a hard time saying you are just wrong. And yours slurs have been documented so it's not like you can act innocent and play the victim.
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Old 01-12-2010, 08:44 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by nathan1977 View Post
Protecting marriage to protect children - latimes.com

Protecting marriage to protect children
Marriage as a human institution is constantly evolving. But in all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood.

By David Blankenhorn
September 19, 2008

I'm a liberal Democrat. And I do not favor same-sex marriage. Do those positions sound contradictory? To me, they fit together.



as Olson says:

Quote:
This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children. What's more, it is pernicious to think marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because of the state's desire to promote procreation. We would surely not accept as constitutional a ban on marriage if a state were to decide, as China has done, to discourage procreation.



and Nathan, again, please, tell me, why do the children need "protection" from Memphis and myself?

and let's just be honest, Nathan: your positions are anti-family and anti-child. you are presenting, as ever, a fundamentally bigoted argument that harms the fabric of society by imagining a perceived threat presented by some minority group, and then you're arguing that this menace needs to be sanctioned.

you know, like it's Europe and the 1920s.

and, hate to break it to you, but Blankenhorn has changed his position:


Quote:
A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage

By DAVID BLANKENHORN and JONATHAN RAUCH
IN politics, as in marriage, moments come along when sensitive compromise can avert a major conflict down the road. The two of us believe that the issue of same-sex marriage has reached such a point now.

We take very different positions on gay marriage. We have had heated debates on the subject. Nonetheless, we agree that the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

For those not immersed in the issue, our proposal may seem puzzling. For those deeply immersed, it may seem suspect. So allow us a few words by way of explanation.

Whatever our disagreements on the merits of gay marriage, we agree on two facts. First, most gay and lesbian Americans feel they need and deserve the perquisites and protections that accompany legal marriage. Second, many Americans of faith and many religious organizations have strong objections to same-sex unions. Neither of those realities is likely to change any time soon.

Further sharpening the conflict is the potential interaction of same-sex marriage with antidiscrimination laws. The First Amendment may make it unlikely that a church, say, would ever be coerced by law into performing same-sex wedding rites in its sanctuary. But religious organizations are also involved in many activities outside the sanctuary. What if a church auxiliary or charity is told it must grant spousal benefits to a secretary who marries her same-sex partner or else face legal penalties for discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status? What if a faith-based nonprofit is told it will lose its tax-exempt status if it refuses to allow a same-sex wedding on its property?

Cases of this sort are already arising in the courts, and religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage are alarmed. Which brings us to what we think is another important fact: Our national conversation on this issue will be significantly less contentious if religious groups can be confident that they will not be forced to support or facilitate gay marriage.

Gay couples have concerns of their own. Most, of course, want the right to marry, and nothing less. But federal recognition of same-sex marriage — leave aside what you think about the merits — is not likely in the near future. The federal Defense of Marriage Act forbids it. Barack Obama and most other Democratic presidential candidates opposed gay marriage. And most Americans continue to oppose it.

At the same time, federal law links many important perquisites to marital status, including Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, spousal immigration rights and protections against mutual incrimination. All of these benefits are currently denied to same-sex couples, even those living in states that permit same-sex marriage or civil unions. But these same benefits could be conferred by federally recognized civil unions.

Yes, most gays are opposed to the idea that religious organizations could openly treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples differently, without fear of being penalized by the government. But we believe that gays can live with such exemptions without much difficulty. Why? Because most state laws that protect gays from discrimination already include some religious exemptions, and those provisions are for the most part uncontroversial, even among gays.

And while most Americans who favor keeping marriage as it has customarily been would prefer no legal recognition of same-sex unions at either the federal or the state level, we believe that they can live with federal civil unions — provided that no religious groups are forced to accept them as marriages. Many of these people may come to see civil unions as a compassionate compromise. For example, a PBS poll last fall found that 58 percent of white evangelicals under age 30 favor some form of legal same-sex union.

Linking federal civil unions to guarantees of religious freedom seems a natural way to give the two sides something they would greatly value while heading off a long-term, take-no-prisoners conflict. That should appeal to cooler heads on both sides, and it also ought to appeal to President Obama, who opposes same-sex marriage but has endorsed federal civil unions. A successful template already exists: laws that protect religious conscience in matters pertaining to abortion. These statutes allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, for example. If religious exemptions can be made to work for as vexed a moral issue as abortion, same-sex marriage should be manageable, once reasonable people of good will put their heads together.

In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.

But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society. When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.

David Blankenhorn is president of the Institute for American Values and the author of “The Future of Marriage.” Jonathan Rauch is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/op...gewanted=print

note that even Blankenhorn dropped the "think of the children" argument and instead made his case on religious freedom, i.e., the freedom to be a bigot because God tells you to.

when, Nathan, are you going to drop the "children" argument?

if you'd like to argue against same-sex adoption, please go ahead and do so. but i think we all know that it cannot be tied to marriage in any sort of intellectually honest way.
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Old 01-12-2010, 08:53 AM   #13
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Irvine, your comment, "let's be honest: there's no actual argument against same-sex marriage beyond straight-up, in-your-face animus and hostility towards gay people," makes it clear you don't think debate is possible on this subject. Besides, neither you nor I probably have anything new to say on the issue apart from commenting on developments of the day such as which state voted down same-sex marriage or which courts decided to make law this time.

Your shtick is the Progressive shtick.

There is no intellectual argument to be made against same-sex marriage, or any other part of the Progressive or liberal agenda, because none exists. That's the whole condescending premise of the book 'What's The Matter With Kansas.' There is Progressive Thought and than there are the Red State rubes who can't be trusted to act or make decisions in their own best interest. In summary, dissent from Progressive Thought can only be based on fear or ignorance and democratic self-determination and traditions must be in harmony with the Progressive Worldview to be legitimate.

Nor are there any political or legal arguments to make as Progressives always frame their agenda in the language of "rights." Every worker has a right to a living wage. Abortion is a right. Health care is a right. And same-sex marriage is a right and opposition to it is no different than opposition to mixed marriages 50 years ago. "Rights," of course, aren't up for vote or debate.

As I've said several times, I don't bemoan your attempts to move society in a direction that you see as forward. That IS your right. I've tried to understand your point of view when you've argued intelligently and I've excused the occasional pejorative when you've argued out of passion or frustration.

What I do regret is that you and your FYM supporters have come to the conclusion that decent people in a country as large and diverse as ours can't simply disagree on the issue. Call me wrong, not hateful. Until that changes I see no reason to waste my time.


i am talking about SSM here.

no, there is no logical argument against SSM that isn't rooted in straight-up bigotry. i see no point in conceding anything other than your right to disagree. i see no merit in the arguments put forth, and you'll note that you never have anything of substance to say on this discussion, you merely make broad, sweeping complaints about how, you know, it's gay people who are really intolerant.

if there's an intellectual argument to be made, go ahead and do so.

we've all been waiting a long time to hear one.
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Old 01-12-2010, 12:01 PM   #14
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What I do regret is that you and your FYM supporters have come to the conclusion that decent people in a country as large and diverse as ours can't simply disagree on the issue. Call me wrong, not hateful.
If it was just a simple disagreement then I doubt this would be such a heated issue. But when one side is also arguing to essentially relegate a certain segment of the population to second-class status, and arguing that their sexuality actually threatens children and the moral fabric of society, all without any real evidence or rational argument to back up such damaging claims, it goes well beyond mere disagreement.

If someone were actively trying to prevent your access to equal rights under the law, with no convincing argument beyond "that's what I believe," I think you'd see through it to the bigotry pretty easily.
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Old 01-12-2010, 02:56 PM   #15
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A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage

By DAVID BLANKENHORN and JONATHAN RAUCH

This is a reasonable middle ground. Perhaps Blankenhorn does have some liberal influences in his background, after all.


As long as we are going to have religion, we are going to have 'guilt free' discrimination.
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