Saturday, February 5, 2011

Disturbing News out of Bahrain

      This news just in from Bahrain, a country that many consider to be one of the more tolerant countries in the Middle East. This situation shows us once again just how much work we have to do in this region of the world to promote the inherent dignity of LGBT people. Gulf News has the full report...
" Manama Bahrain has arrested 127 people, mainly gays from the Gulf countries, for holding a "depraved and decadent" party.
The revellers hired a sports hall in Hidd, a conservative village on Muharraq island in the north of Bahrain, and organised on Wednesday evening a fee-paying party that brought together gay men from the Arabian Gulf countries.
Most of the gays were between 18 and 30 years old and one Lebanese and one Syrian were among those arrested following the police bust, Al Ayam daily reported on Friday.
Neighbours, complaining about the late night noises emanating from the sports hall in the traditional fishing village, had alerted the police who sent a patrol to verify the claims at around 2.30am.
An undercover agent paid the 20 dinar entrance fee and was allowed into the hall where he saw dozens of cross-dressers drinking and smoking shishas. More patrols were called in and 127 people were arrested in the police swoop, the daily said.
Initial investigations have revealed that the gays were either Gulf nationals who came to Bahrain for the party or were living in Bahrain and flocked to the hall in Hidd. The organisers are being held separately.
The embassies of the non-Bahrainis have been told about the arrest, the paper said.
The hall was shut down on Thursday pending the investigation. Hidd Club officials who own the hall said that they would look into the case and check with the investor who had rented it.
Homosexuality is banned in Bahrain, like in the other five Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and foreigners arrested in relation to gay activities are deported after serving prison terms."

In Maryland, Gay Marriage is Only Four Votes Away

     As most of you know, the state of Maryland is on the verge of legalizing gay marriage. The current Governor, Lieutenant Governor, as well as a majority in the House of Representatives have expressed support for marriage equality, they are just waiting for a bill to make its way through the State Senate. Though marriage equality advocates in the state are convinced that they have the votes that they need, they are currently four votes shy.

     As it stands now, twenty Senators have expressed support - nineteen of them Democrats and one Republican - and twenty one oppose - ten of them Democrats and eleven of them Republicans. Three Senators are undecided at the moment, and the other three have declined to state how they will vote. In order for it to pass the 47 member body, it must have the support of at least four of these six members.

     All of my readers who live in Maryland, get to your phones and emails...here are the six members who are the key votes on this legislation.

John C. Astel - 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3578
john.astle@senate.state.md.us
Joan Carter Conway - 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3145  
joan.carter.conway@senate.state.md.us
Ulysses Currie - 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3127  
ulysses.currie@senate.state.md.us
Edward Kassemeyer -1-800-492-7122, ext. 3653
edward.kasemeyer@senate.state.md.us
Katharine Klausmeier - 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3620
katherine.klausmeier@senate.state.md.us
James Rosapepe - 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3141
 jim.rosapepe@senate.state.md.us

Point By Point Refutation of NOM's New "Pastor's Resolution Petition"

     The National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island today released this "Pastors Resolution Petition", a petition which they are encouraging all "Bible Believing Pastors" to sign. In my opinion, NOM has stooped to a new low, showing even more blatant disrespect and hatred for LGBT people and their allies. My analysis and refutation for NOM's reasons why the Rhode Island legislators is below, as well as the text of the document. If you would like to read the original, without my input, it can be found here

RESOLUTION ON MARRIAGE IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND By Bible Believing Pastors of Rhode Island Relative to bills H-5012 and S-0029 before the RI General Assembly

     WHEREAS, The laws of nature, human reason, and thousands of years of human tradition in all cultures have always affirmed marriage to be a heterosexual institution If ALL cultures – which is what this passage says – have affirmed that marriage has always been a heterosexual institution, why do we not see history back up this “fact”. From the Native Americans, tribes in Papua New Guinea, to the Roman and Greek empires – we see the exact opposite. Which reminds me – don’t Christians claim that Rome fell because they sanctioned gay unions? Can’t have it both ways NOM.

     WHEREAS, Our own society has been based from the beginning on the Judeo-Christian ethic which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. And just because we have always done something one way means that we should always continue to do it that way? This is the definition of the appeal to tradition logical fallacy. And since our society was presumably “founded” upon this Judeo-Christian ethic, we should go back to the time when women were not allowed to vote? The world progresses in its ideas – start progressing with it.

     WHEREAS, The Bible and Jesus Christ in particular define marriage as a heterosexual union between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). So? Just because Jesus said so does not mean the Rhode Island Government should as well. Plus, you all should know better – being in the state which Roger Williams founded because of the oppressive codification of religious laws by the Puritans of Massachusetts.

     WHEREAS, Monogamous heterosexual marriage, involving the intimate, permanent union between the two complementary sexes, male and female, is uniquely and naturally suited to fulfill our deepest needs for human companionship. So therefore, this statement implies that gay and lesbian relationships are less than then heterosexual. To these pastors – and to NOM – my relationship with my husband does not fulfill my deepest need for companionship, and instead they would rather me go and “marry” a woman to whom I am not at all interested. Plus, if that’s what your really concerned about – permanent unions – I challenge you all to sign a petition to outlaw divorce.

      WHEREAS, Under normal circumstances, children are best nurtured in the context of a two-parent family, where appropriate male behavior is modeled by a loving father and appropriate female behavior is modeled by a loving mother. You can say this all you want, but just because you say it does not make it true. What do you do with all the social science data that shows that it does not matter the gender of the parents, but only that there needs to be TWO of them.

      WHEREAS, Heterosexual marriage provides the strong moral, social, and economic foundation for both family and community life. Inference once again is that gay and lesbian marriages would weaken the social, moral, and economic foundation. Thus we are directly the “enemy” of society. Yet again, do we see this play out in the real world? No! Every country that has legalized gay marriage has not slid into the chaos of moral, social, and economic depravity. In fact, the opposite is true. Which state is it again that has the lowest divorce rate in the country? Oh yea, Massachusetts.

     WHEREAS, Rhode Island continues to be one of the few states without a so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Thanks God. Your not defending anything, your excluding people who want to take part in the institution.

      WHEREAS, The Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament clearly and specifically forbids homosexual conduct – as well as all other forms of sexual misconduct outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11) Again, so what? So now Rhode Island should base its laws on the Bible. Again, Roger Williams would be ashamed!

      WHEREAS, The Bible plainly declares that God loves all people, regardless of their lifestyle, and that he accepts, forgives, heals, and transforms all who come to him in genuine repentance and faith Well, that’s great. You guys can believe that my husband and myself are living in sin. But what do you do with the fact that your so called “change” therapy is actually mentally harmful, increases the suicide rate of those who undergo such therapy, and has been shown not to work.  Plus, being gay and lesbian is not a lifestyle – its an orientation. Get your terminology straight.

       WHEREAS, It is the function of government to provide for the common good of society, to protect marriage and family life, and to promote social righteousness Actually that is not the function of Government, and if you all would read any of the founding texts, the Founding Fathers rejected this concept. Government was actually instiuted to protect, and I quote from the Constitution, “the blessings of Liberty”. Again, believe what you want, but evidence outweighs your opinion.

      WHEREAS, Civil laws play a decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior in society Yea, though this may be true, I really don’t see how allowing gay marriage would be a bad thing. Oh shock, it would let those who are growing up in our society see that gay and lesbian people are equal to them…oh the horror.

       WHEREAS, Our concern as clergy is not merely to preserve the institution of heterosexual marriage as a religious rite within our own denominations but to preserve the well-being of marriage and family life throughout our state and society No, your wanting to institute your version of marriage on all of us, even in the face of all evidence that marriage equality does not hurt the well-being of marriage or family life.

      WHEREAS, The passage of laws legalizing homosexual marriage will force the teaching of the validity of this lifestyle in the public schools of our state One word for this: Homeschool. If you hate the public schools not teaching your version of morality that much, isolate your kids from the world and brainwash them into thinking your particular way. Very simple – just don’t expect the rest of us to subsidize your backwardness.

       WHEREAS, The passage of laws legalizing homosexual marriage will place persons of conscience who oppose such unions for moral reasons in jeopardy before the law in their business and legal relationships Oh so now you are the victims of the evil gays? So now you want the ability to do business to only those people who are not “sinning”? If so, shut down your business period. You exist within the public sphere, and the public sphere says that you are not allowed to discriminate. Deal with it. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is This What It Means To Be A True Conservative?

     Though I am not necessarily a "Conservative" by any means, even I found issue with this Venn Diagram by Melissa Clouthier over at RedState.com. For a little background on why she made this diagram - you can see her post here.

      What do you all think? Must a True Conservative be all of these things? If a "True Conservative" is what she says it is, does not that then make conservatism an ideology that is very closed minded and does not allow for dissent at any time?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is the Gay Left Turning Into The Religious Right?

         So, yesterday I  had my first confrontation with the ideology of the Gay Left. Though the term “Gay Left” may seem like a generalization, anyone who has studied gay culture and followed both LGBT issues/gender theory knows that there are established “ideas” that a gay person must ascribe to, and if they do not, then there is question about their loyalty to “The Cause”. My argument yesterday has caused me to do some serious thinking about the concept of identity politics and how fast LGBT people judge others when they do not agree with them. For the former, I will be starting a series of posts on the idea of identity politics sometime next week, but today I would like to address the idea of gay bigotry and hatred.
     
     Though I know that my feeling on this issue do not make me popular, I have constantly written on this blog about how I feel that many LGBT people are caught in a cycle of victimhood . Please realize that there is a distinction that does need to be made here. I am not saying that LGBT people are not victimized , for evidence shows this. What I mean by this cycle of victimhood is this idea that their very identity is as a victim. For example, if you disagree with them on something regarding sexuality, they view it as an attack on them as a person.
       
      That is what happened yesterday. In my discussion, I was attacking a “pillar” concept within gay theory/culture. Thus, when I was disputing this concept, it seemed as though I was attacking their very being. Therefore, instead of analyzing what I was saying, they twisted it (straw man argument), attacked the twisted and weaker argument and in the end called me a bigot because I did not agree with them.
       
      Funny thing is, the way this conversation started was with me arguing against the concept of heteronormativity. For those who do not know what heteronormativity is, it is the idea that LGBT people are purposefully excluded from the culture because of our sexual orientation/gender identity, thus making us under constant oppression.  I, on the other hand, claimed that it was not an acceptable term to use because it reinforces a sort of permanent “victim status” for gays. That instead of dealing with actual victimizations – and overcoming said victimizations - we are using the concept of heteronormativity to instead live as victims.
         
      Their reaction and the hatred and anger directed at me, gives credence to my original assertion – that this term heteronormativity has transformed us into permanent victims. If anyone disagrees with us about sexuality, they are attacking our very being. Instead of looking at my argument on face value, they rejected it outright because it does not fit the “gay norm”, construed it instead as an attack on them as a person, and ultimately called me bigoted because I disagreed with them.
        
       My response is this: Just because someone does not agree with you should not automatically make them the subject of your vitriol. That gets you nowhere.  Instead of evaluating my argument for what it was, these individuals have internalized my opposition and have construed it to meaning that I am anti-LGBT (which any reader of this blog would know that I am not). I thought, and still think, that I have a very valid point that should be discussed. But instead of discussing the argument – because it did not fit in the common “gay norm” (thus it should be outright rejected) – they are showing just how closed minded they truly are.  In a few posts next week I will analyze this concept further; and show how though we might not like to think so, the Gay Left is very similar in its thinking as the Religious Right.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are Civil Unions the Path to "Gay Marriage"

       Though I do not normally comment on the writings of those of the Religious Right, I think I am going to start doing so more often. First, it allows us to understand the mindset of our opponents, as well as analyse more clearly their arguments. I came to this conclusion the other day when I was reading an article on Focus on the Family's Citizen Link Magazine entitled "Civil Unions Come out of the Closet: Goal is Same Sex Marriage". The writer, Jenny Tyree, makes the assertion that civil unions legislation is actually a ruse by marriage equality advocates to force gay marriage on an unsuspecting populous.

       Her main assertion is that we should not legalize civil unions because in the end, those who advocate for marriage equality will not be satisfied with just civil unions, but will eventually want full marriage rights. She quotes Brian Raum from the Alliance Defense Fund to make her point...
 “Those who support the passage of a civil unions law –- even those here today -– will be the same individuals and organizations who will then say that civil union laws create second-class citizen status for same-sex couples,” Raum said. “And not only that -– that it creates a constitutional claim that requires, then, the state to redefine marriage through the court system.”
She then follows up on Raum's argument by stating,
Make no mistake.  Civil union legislation is not a good compromise for protecting marriage.  Civil unions are only the bait required to get fair-minded people to take the hook.  The big fish is same-sex marriage. 
       This is typically the response that pro-marriage equality activists get from the religious right; that we cannot legalize civil unions because in the distance there is the big bad specter of gay marriage. They believe that those evil homosexual activists who are intent upon redefining marriage will not be sated by our compromise of civil unions.

        For starters, has the link between civil unions and gay marriage ever been hidden? Of course not!The end goal of gay activists has always been marriage equality (not civil unions), and I am surprised that Jenny has been blind to this end goal. That is not the problem though, for Jenny goes even further and states that because of this link to marriage equality, all fair-minded people should not support civil unions for LGBT couples.

       This gives us a very distorted view of why people should support or reject legislation. For if we were all concerned about "slippery slopes" in legislation, then we would not support anything. This is because everything and anything can be extrapolated to further concepts and ideas, and so on and so forth. For example, lets say that  a piece of legislation that would drastically decrease the amount of abortions in this country was proposed in Congress or a state legislature. Let us say that it was a great bill that even a liberal would support. But yet, would it be acceptable for liberals to say, "Oh we can't support this legislation, because those who are supporting it (Republicans and Focus on the Family) will use this to eventually attempt to outlaw abortion period."?  I think not! For if legislation is good and is something that "fair-minded" people would support - it should be supported. Just because one segment of the political spectrum would be advocating for something further, does not automatically make the current legislation rubbish.

     Thus in the end, is Jenny's position actually logical? I think not. For instead of actually addressing the concept of civil unions, she instead twists the discussion of civil unions into one about gay marriage (a classic logical fallacy called the Straw Man). To Jenny, if you read this (I don't know if you have trackbacks on your website or not), please address civil unions as a respectable alternative rather than by switching the subject to deal with gay marriage.

Republican Senator in Maryland To Support Gay Marriage Bill!!

      This just in from Maryland, Republican state Senator Allan Kittleman - the man who had previously intended to introduce civil union legislation in the Maryland Senate - has come out in favor of the marriage equality bill that is being considered in the legislature. 


     Though the Republican caucus in the State has stated official opposition to the bill, Kittleman instead believes that "Our government is not a theocracy...Therefore, while my spiritual life is extremely important to me, it cannot be the sole basis for my decisions as a state senator."


     Though Senator Kittleman had originally proposed the civil unions bill as a "compromise" between the Republican party and the Democrats, with his support of the marriage equality bill, we now see that his true feelings are on the side of equality. Remember also, that he stepped down from his position as minority leader because of his feelings on the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples. Thus he deserves thanks from the LGBT community for staying true to his principles. 


Here is Sen. Kittleman's statement on the issue - one that everyone should read!



STATEMENT BY SENATOR ALLAN H. KITTLEMAN ON SENATE BILL 116
I want to express my thoughts on SB 116, Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. As most of you know, I have long supported equal rights for same sex couples. A few years ago, I voted in favor of allowing same sex couples the right to make medical decisions for each other.
This year, I decided to work on legislation that allowed civil unions for all couples - opposite sex and same sex couples. My goal was three-fold:
1. I wanted to ensure that same sex couples had the same rights and responsibilities as married couples in Maryland;
2. I wanted to remove the government's intervention in what most Marylanders consider a religious institution (marriage); and
3. I wanted to develop a consensus on an issue that has been very divisive for many years.
In early January, I announced my proposal for civil unions for all couples. Somewhat surprisingly, I received much more criticism from people who wanted same sex marriage than those who oppose such marriages. I actually received quite a lot of messages and emails from Republicans supporting my decision.
A recent poll performed by Gonzales Research confirmed strong support for civil unions. The poll found that 62% of Maryland voters support civil unions. Of that amount, 73% of Democrats, 60% of Independents and 41.5% of Republicans support civil unions. This figure was higher than the support for same-sex marriage in Maryland.
According to the poll, 51% of Maryland voters support same-sex marriage. Of that amount, 65% of Democrats, 52.4% of Independents and 24% of Republicans support same-sex marriage.
Unfortunately, despite the support by a strong majority of Maryland voters, I did not receive any support from my Republican and Democrat senate colleagues. In fact, the Republican senate caucus yesterday voted to take a "caucus position" against same-sex marriage. My Republican colleagues have also made it very clear to me that they would not be supportive of my civil union legislation. I also did not receive any support from Republicans or Democrats in the House of Delegates.
Based upon the lack of support I have received for my civil union bill, it was evident that my legislation would not receive a favorable report from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. With the deadline for submitting legislation approaching quickly and with the Committee hearing scheduled to be held on Tuesday, February 8th, I made the decision to forego my efforts to have civil unions for all couples in Maryland.
As I noted above, my primary goal has always been to ensure that same sex couples have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples currently have in Maryland. I see this issue as a civil rights issue. I was raised by a gentleman who joined with others in fighting racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s. Watching him fight for civil rights instilled in me the belief that everyone, regardless of race, sex, national origin or sexual orientation, is entitled to equal rights.
Consequently, with the civil union legislation no longer being a viable option, I was put in the position of deciding whether to support same-sex marriage or voting to continue the prohibition against same-sex marriage. As a strong proponent of personal and economic liberty/freedom, I simply could not, in good conscience, vote against SB 116.
I know that some may contend that since the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, Maryland should continue to prohibit same sex marriage. First, let me state that I am a strong follower of Jesus Christ. I worked in youth ministries for many years. However, while my faith may teach that marriage is between a man and a woman, our government is not a theocracy. As the state senator from District 9, I represent everyone in my district, regardless of their faith. Therefore, while my spiritual life is extremely important to me, it cannot be the sole basis for my decisions as a state senator.
I know that some will be upset with my decision to support SB 116 and I respect the fact that people have differing opinions on this issue. I carefully considered my decision. I sought counsel from many people, including my family, clergy, advocates for both sides, fellow legislators and many others. These discussions were very helpful to me and I appreciate the time that those individuals took to talk with me. Ultimately, it was my strong feelings about civil rights that led me to decide to support SB 116.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Virginia DADT Bill Fails in Committee!

      This just in from Virginia - a House committee voted to not even recommended Delegate Bob Marshall's "lets buck the DADT repeal of the U.S. Congress for our own National Guard" bill to the full Virgina House of Representatives. Though Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli already stated that he believed that the bill would result in the Virginia National Guard losing its federal funding, Marshall was not dettered. In the end though, his hissy fit about gays in the military got absolutly nowhere. The Washington Post Reports...

A House  committee voted Tuesday evening to effectively kill a highly controversial proposal to retain the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy for gay service members in the Virginia National Guard.
Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) argued the Virginia National Guard should continue to bar gays and lesbians from serving openly, despite a Congressional vote to repeal the policy that has barred their open service at the national level.
The Defense Department is working to formulate regulations to enact the Congressional action and President Obama has said the policy will be repealed before the end of the year.
Among those speaking on Marshall's behalf were a retired Marine brigadier general who commanded a battalion in Vietnam and Herb Titus, a professor who Marshall noted several times taught Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) in law school. (Campaign flashback--Titus served as chairman of a three-member group that supervised the writing of McDonnell's thesis.)
Only two members of the Republican-led committee supported the measure--Del. Joseph P. Johnson Jr. (D-Washington) and Del. Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford).

Del. Bill Janis (R-Goochland) argued that though, as a Navy veteran, he opposes the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, it would create a "management and disciplinary nightmare" for field officers if Virginia National Guard members served under different rules than the rest of the military. He noted guardsmen frequently serve in units overseas alongside members of other state guards and the U.S. military.
Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) has also written that the federal government could withhold more than $200 million in funding for Virginia's National Guard if the state bucked federal policy, a concern cited by several committee members. McDonnell has said he believes Virginia should follow federal policy.
The same  committee also voted to kill a bill proposed by Del. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) to require the guard to follow federal recruitment standards.
Morrissey left the meeting steamed after House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford), who chairs the committee, allowed the group to vote before he'd presented the bill. Howell said Morrissey's bill was unnecessary because the panel had already dispatched the proposal from Marshall it was intended to counter. 

Barbara Bush Supports Marriage Equality!

This is the newest commercial from the Human Rights Campaigns drive to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State. Though poll after poll in New York have shown that a majority of the people support marriage equality, it seems as though the Republican establishment in the State is still not listening. Hopefully as more and more conservative Republicans like Barbara Bush come out in support of full marriage rights for gay and lesbians, these other Republicans will realize that being pro-gay marriage and Republican is not mutually exclusive.


Iowa House Passes Constitutional Ban on ALL Gay Partnerships

      Today, the Republican dominated Iowa House of Representatives voted 62-37 to propose to voters a constitutional ban on all forms of relationship recognition for gay and lesbians. This includes marriage rights, civil unions, and also domestic partnerships. 



       With all the hatred towards LGBT people that has consumed the rhetoric in Iowa over the past year, as well as the reach of this constitutional amendment, I am sure that if there was a lawsuit brought before the federal courts, that the amendment would fall; as it is directed specifically at gay and lesbian citizens because of an animus towards them. 

      Furthermore, though I do not want to see this amendment on the ballot, and am thankful for Senate Majority Leader Mike Grondstal for blocking its consideration in his chamber, I have to wonder why the Republicans in Iowa are dead set on this legislation passing. They know full well that there would be these multiple legal issues, so why then are they still making an issue out of it. I am inclined to think that it is because in many parts of Iowa - just like in many other states of the heartland - there is still alot of animus towards LGBT people. Thus, in order to ensure that they stay in power, the Republicans are sacrificing their principles of limited government and taking the politically expedient route. 

      What do you all think? Is this a correct estimation, or could the Republicans actually be doing this because they "believe that it is the right thing to do?" I would be interested in hearing your thoughts, especially those individuals who live in Iowa and would therefore have a better understanding of the situation.



The Iowa Independent has the full story on todays legislative activity...


A constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships passed the Iowa House Tuesday afternoon 62-37. Democratic Reps. Dan Muhlbauer, Brian Quirk and Kurt Swaim joined 59 Republicans in support of the measure. Thirty-seven Democrats voted “no,” and one Republican was absent.
The legislation, House Joint Resolution 6, was the subject of nearly three hours of debate with only two lawmakers speaking up in support. The rest of the time was filled with Democrats denouncing the bill as nothing more than writing prejudice and discrimination into the constitution.
“Here’s the funny things about rights — they’re not supposed to be voted on,” said state Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines).
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) worried about how history will judge Iowa lawmakers who vote in support of revoking marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“Many years from now we’ll look back on this debate and we’ll regret it,” he said.
After discussing his belief that marriage is about “responsible procreation,” state Rep.Rich Anderson (R-Clarinda) asked what could come next if the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage is allowed to stand. He concluded that it would lead to legalized polygamy and incest.
“If we remove the gender requirement for marriage, there is no rational basis to define the number,” he said. “So we open up the possibility of the constitutional recognition of polygamous relationships. That’s a slippery slope. And I don’t know where the logic is to draw the line. We wouldn’t recognize incestuous relationships between two consenting adult brothers and sisters. That raises up within us disgust, and we can’t accept that. We draw lines. We define marriage.”
Some of the most impassioned testimony came from state Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames), who argued that Iowa has long been ahead of the rest of the nation in recognizing the rights of minorities.
“Iowa is a special place. We have been ahead of the nation many times when it comes to civil rights. Here we are again; we are ahead of much of the nation. I am proud of the role we play to lead our nation in civil rights again,” she said.
“In the 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia not only ended the ban on interracial marriage but declared that marriage is one of the basic civil rights,” Wessel-Kroeschell continued. “In a representative democracy, we must not only vote the will of our constituents, but we must also do our homework, and sometimes we need to ignore the polls and do the right thing. This is one of those cases. We need to be on the right side of history, vote for equality and justice for all and vote no on HJR 6.”
Two outspoken opponents of marriage equity — Republican state Reps. Glen Massie of Des Moines and Rep. Kim Pearson of Pleasant Hill — took the highly unusual step of refusing to answer questions in defense of the constitutional amendment when requested by Democratic state Rep. Nathan Willems of Lisbon. Willems eventually got state Rep. Erik Helland (R-Johnston) to discuss whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Iowa Constitution applies to everyone except for gay couples, with Hellend concluding that there is a fundamental disagreement on the issue.
          

Should We Take the All or Nothing Approach to Marriage Equality?

        Yesterday, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois signed into law a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions starting on June 1 of this year. Automatically, as if on cue, we heard from the Religious Right complaining that this was a step towards legalizing gay marriage in the state; but just as understandably at the same time we also heard the traditional clamoring from the LGBT community stating that civil unions are separate and unequal to the institution of marriage. To these advocates, they see nothing as a win unless it is full marriage equality, and civil unions are a slap in the face to their equality minded temperament.

      Though I see where these advocates are coming from, I feel as though they don't see the big picture of the issue. Yes, civil unions are separate and unequal from the full rights and social status that marriage gives to a couple (as the proposition 8 trial in California has shown), but at the same time, could it not be said that civil unions are a step in the right direction of full equality? I feel as though the above advocates - though well meaning - believe that we exist in an all or nothing society. But this is not the case, and therefore the smallest wins and gains for equality - no matter what form they take, is always a positive. For example, when I move back to Tennessee this coming August, do I want my Canadian marriage recognized? Of course, but as the state of Tennessee has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, my husband and I would be content with a civil union. Would I want it to stay a civil union, and exist in a complacent state of not caring any longer? Not at all, and I would work diligently with local legislators to introduce legislation that would repeal the current gay marriage ban.

       In conclusion, I believe that those who think that civil unions should be avoided at all costs should talk with those who live in states (31 by last count) who cannot be married at the moment because of constitutional amendments. Tell them that they should "wait" to have their relationships recognized until full equality can be gained. I for one, reject this approach and instead believe that we don't make progress normally through large leaps and bounds, but instead through small steps.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Iowa: The True Role of the Senate

       I have written over the past few months extensively about the state of Iowa and the role of the judiciary/legislature in that state. Today is not any different, but instead of portraying the situation in Iowa in a negative light, I find it appropriate to use Iowa in the positive sense, to show an example of WHY we have certain branches of government.

       For the past few months, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has refused to allow a vote on a marriage amendment in his chamber of the legislature. A few days ago, the Senate  voted against a proposed rule change that would eliminate the ability of the majority leader to decide what bills come before the body failed in part because of the stubbornness of the Majority Leader. His resoluteness gives us a good example of how a Senate is supposed to work.

        You see, a Senate in the general sense, is supposed to provide for a check against the whims of the popularly elected House of Representatives. Though the Senate is also popularly elected, the difference between the two is their terms. A Senate normally has terms that are twice or three times as long as those in the House. In Iowa for example, Senators terms are 4 years compared to their House counterparts' 2 years. The reason for this is because the whims of the populace can change at any time, unpopular legislation might be passed, or, as we have seen in Iowa, an unpopular judicial decision could be handed down. The role of the Senate is to provide a place where "cooler heads" can prevail. Where it is not always about wining the next election (like it is in the House) and instead committees and Senators can evaluate policies with a more open mind.

         Though a Senate does not always follow the reasons for its original design, it is a breath of fresh air to see Gronstal using Iowa's Senate to controlling the emotional - and ill thought out - whims of the majority. It is by him doing this that the "cooler heads" of those who support marriage equality will prevail - for the more time that logic and reason are able to be used, the more people we will win to our side.

    What do you all think? Is what Gronstal doing in Iowa an expression of what a Senate should be about? Or should there instead be more of a deference to the people of a political jurisdiction?

Gay Marriage "Disproven" with a $20 Bill - "Can't Have the Counterfeit "

Ok, now this has to be one of the most ridiculous video on gay marriage that I have seen in a while. Though I will let it speak for itself, I will say that I pity those who think this is a "slam dunk" against the notion of marriage equality. Protect Marriage Maryland - of which this man is a member - should be proud. As per usual - I would love to hear your thoughts!


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