Friday, October 31, 2008

Certain victory for same-sex marriage (but when?)

The Field Poll is the gold standard of California polling. When they speak, we should listen.

Once again they have spoken (and for the last time) on Proposition 8. I urge you to read the fascinating analysis. The message is very clear: We live in a highly divided state.

No, not on gender and race (that is so last millenium!) but in geography, political ideology, party affiliation, age, education, and religion. Strangely, these are quite strongly correlated.

Grandpa, a lifelong Republican, voted early for Prop 8 by mail. He's a huge fan of McCain, lives outside Sacramento, is strongly conservative, didn't make it past high school (who could afford to back then!), and never misses Sunday services. Although he doesn't know any gay people (he doesn't get out much), he assumes they're likable enough and doesn't believe the attack ads. He usually minds his own business, but marriage is just too important for him to give in on. He wants to protect the institution of marriage for his granddaughter for when her live-in boyfriend is ready to make an honest woman of her. Hopefully, he will still be around to see it.

His granddaughter Katlin is now in grad school. She never trusted politicians much before, but there's something special about Obama, and she is looking forward to voting for him on Election Day. For her, No on Prop. 8 is a nobrainer. She has lots of gay friends, and they hang out on Sundays in the City. She's tried talking to Grandpa, but they live in different worlds, and she's given up on his generation anyway.

Grandpa won't change his mind, but he won't be around much longer. The future belongs to the multiethnic, multicultural, diversity-tolerant embracers of Change: our youth. As it should be.

It seems Grandpa is at last outnumbered. It appears (after some fretful gap closing) that Proposition 8 is ready to be defeated: 49% to 44%.

Even if (unthinkably) we are set back once again, we should remember John Milton's admonition: they also serve who only stand and wait.

Grandpa is not ready for change. We are. The good news for most of us is, we can outwait him. The better news is, it seems we don't have to.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Mormon Perspective (Part 2)

Just what is it that drives 2% of the California population to donate 40% of the money to annul my marriage?

Not satisfied with my prior post, I decided to look further and found the answer in scott's comment on this blog post).

Below are some highlights of the official Mormon teaching regarding same-gender attraction, according to two high-ranking officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church and Elder Lance B. Wickman, a member of the Seventy.

Needless to say, I disagree with essentially every one of these beliefs. You decide.

[NOTE: comments in italics are those of the interviewer or my own providing context, and not those of the Church officials]

Is homosexuality innate? not a noun that describes a condition. It's an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.

homosexual feelings are controllable.

The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn't have a position on.

So are homosexuals just out of luck?

same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.

There's really no question that there is an anguish associated with the inability to marry in this life. We feel for someone that has that anguish. I feel for somebody that has that anguish. But it's not limited to someone who has same-gender attraction....I happen to have a handicapped daughter...[who] will never marry in this life, yet she looks wistfully upon those who do....whatever the hindrances to our enjoying a fullness of joy here, we have the Lord's assurance for every one of us that those in due course will be removed. We just need to remain faithful.

Isn't homosexual about who you are, not what you are?

I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence that they are from Texas or that they were in the United States Marines. Or they are red-headed, or they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such a high school.

Why does the Church care about civil marriage anyway? Isn't that just a private matter?

marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy.

It really doesn't matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it's given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, "That is not right. That's not appropriate."

children deserve to be reared in a home with a father and a mother.

Do you see any irony in the fact that the Church is so publicly outspoken on this issue, when in the minds of so many people in the United States and around the world the Church is known for once supporting a very untraditional marriage arrangement — that is, polygamy?

I see irony in that if one views it without the belief that we affirm in divine revelation. The 19th century Mormons, including some of my ancestors, were not eager to practice plural marriage. They followed the example of Brigham Young, who expressed his profound negative feelings when he first had this principle revealed to him. The Mormons of the 19th century who practiced plural marriage, male and female, did so because they felt it was a duty put upon them by God....if you start with the assumption of continuing revelation, on which this Church is founded, then you can understand that there is no irony in this. But if you don't start with that assumption, you see a profound irony.

Here's some real irony: God apparently keeps changing his mind.

Mormons used to but no longer believe (thanks to divine revelation) in polygamy (abandoned in 1890), the inferiority of black people (abandoned in 1978 with the following immortal words: "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said [about Blacks and the priesthood]... We spoke with a limited understanding."), and the belief that God was once a person.

Mormons still believe that a "woman's primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband", that the dead can be baptized (including more than 300,000 Jewish holocaust victims), and that access to the Temple (including a Temple Marriage that lasts through all eternity) can be denied to those who do not give 10% of their income to the Church.

I can only hope that God will once again whisper into the ear of the Prophet (currently Thomas Monson) that He as changed His mind yet again on His views of gender role and sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, I guess we're stuck duking it out the old fashioned way: via the ballot box.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Libertarian Perspective

I am no Libertarian, as popularly understood. Nonetheless, I advance here a purely libertarian defense of same-sex marriage that I regard as sufficient support both for supporting the California Supreme Court decision in re Marriage and for opposing the California Constitutional referendum Proposition 8.

There are two questions that a libertarian should consider: whether the judicial question was correctly decided, and whether there is a moral justification in overruling this.

The salient (and my opinion correct) reasoning of the California Supreme Court is firmly based i.a. on the following reasoning:

  1. The Legislature has disavowed a public policy objection against same-sex unions by voluntarily creating a legal equavalent in domestic partnerships and by estoppel cannot simultaneously argue a rational interest in favoring opposite-sex unions.
  2. Rational basis of discrimination is in any case insufficient because heightened scrutiny is the required test, since homosexuals are a suspect class (as a subclass of gender-related discrimination).
  3. A subordinate status of domestic partnership strictly less than marriage (i.e. separate and unequal) is well established from near-universal rejection of the alternative status by heterosexuals, vitiating contrary claims by same-sex marriage opponents.
  4. Even stipulating the primacy of child rearing as the primary purpose and effect of marriage, no compelling evidence has been admitted into evidence at trial that same-sex marriage is deleterious is this end. The burden of proof of any factual hypothesis remains with its asserter.
  5. Though not normative, existing precedent from Massachusetts and foreign jurisprudence reduces the hurdle of judicial novelty.

The moral basis for overturning this ruling has not (and I believe cannot) be established for the following reasons:

  1. Discrimination against homosexuals is well documented, and must be ethically presumed to be invidious barring compelling reason.
  2. Homosexuality is well documented in multiple species, across unrelated cultures, and throughout recorded history, despite strong sanction against it, and is therefore scientifically established as an innate orientation, not an intentional choice.
  3. Stipulating the assertion by same-sex marriage opponents that there exists a legal equivalent of marriage, and despite the countervailing trend of more permissive sexual opportunity, the broadbased expression of desire to marry by homosexuals must be accepted prima facie as evidence that homosexual orientation is not merely a sexual drive but a sexual identity. This facial presumption is reinforced by the near impossibility of psychological conversion, as accepted by the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations.
  4. No evidence distinguishing homo- and heterosexual pair bonding in kind has been scientifically shown. In particular, no evidence exists that the desire or intention to procreate is the cause rather than effect of marriage. Suggestive evidence to the contrary would include an elevated divorce rate among infertile couples, widowed and postmenopausal adults, and couples with adult children.
  5. For libertarians, government involvement in interpersonal relations is inherently intrusive and should be narrowly tailored. In particular, laws fostering child rearing should be limited to those bearing children. Given the low cost of medical tests estabilishing parental relationship, this is a feasible limitation of government power.
  6. The (in my opinion vacuous) counterargument that private discrimination against homosexuals should not be hindered by government action is not relevant here, as same-sex marriage seeks governmental, not popular, support. Hypothetical and indeterminant "slippery slope" arguments are impossible to defend before they are advanced, and should be addressed only as they arise in particular.

I intend the above to be a sufficient reason to vote against Proposition 8, though it is certainly not a necessary one. Aristotle held that the law is reason devoid of passion. Pace Aristotle, I still believe that the most compelling reason is the non-legal one: it is the right thing to do. If you do not already believe this, then you are likely ill-equipped to distinguish rational argument from rationalization, and this post is probably a complete waste of both our time.

Still, I had to try...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Palin's pals: White trash trashes Obama

It doesn't take much to anger John McCain, and true to form he got angry in the third Presidential debate:

Let me just say categorically I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. Whenever you get a large rally of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people, you're going to have some fringe peoples. You know that. And I've — and we've always said that that's not appropriate.

But to somehow say that group of young women who said "Military wives for McCain" are somehow saying anything derogatory about you, but anything — and those veterans that wear those hats that say "World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq," I'm not going to stand for people saying that the people that come to my rallies are anything but the most dedicated, patriotic men and women that are in this nation and they're great citizens.

Who exactly are these patriotic citizens of the Heartland?

The above video (available on YouTube) was filmed by Al Jazeera, singling out no doubt the kookiest Americans to make a point. Still, they seemed authentically American to me, and no dubbing was needed to put those vile and ignorant words into their mouths. One of the least bigoted comments was actually the most revealing:

I don't like the fact that he thinks us white people are trash.

Now why on Earth would he ever think that?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Mormon Perspective

How has the Yes on 8 campaign affected Mormons?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints last weekend launched a massive drive in support of California Proposition 8 to take back the right of gays to marry in California. The above link points to a blog written by a lifelong Mormon and native Californian, and I strongly urge you to read for yourself. It is compelling and speaks in a more authentic voice than I possess.

In short, it claims that the single-minded pursuit, launched by the highest levels of the Mormon church, to take away the right of gays in California to marry is not only a threat to gays, but also a threat to the spirituality and cohesion of Mormons themselves, and has awakened ugly expressions of fear, pride, arrogance, triumphalism, intolerance, and division among its members. It has given too much prominence to the role of wealth in the Church and is an outlet for "feelings of shame, revulsion, disappointment, and failure in having gay children or family members".

Why in particular are Mormons, more than most, obsessed with gay marriage (funding 40% of the support for Prop. 8)? It may be that they place unique importance on marriage itself because, unlike Christians and atheists alike, a married Mormon couple stays together not just "til death do us part", but throughout all eternity. That is a long time to allow two men to stay married. Let me quote the LDS Apostle of the Lord, Elder Russell M. Nelson, sent out over the weekend:

A Temple the highest and most enduring type of marriage that our creator can offer to his children....Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory or exaltation.

This statement shows clearly what the Mormon First Presidency fears most: not same-sex marriage, but loss of the keys to the afterlife. To stay married after death , you need a Temple Marriage, for which you need a Temple Pass, issued only to those in "good standing", meaning i.a. that you pay your 10% title.

The Catholics had a good run with this scheme once upon a time: they sold Indulgences to bail your relatives out of Purgatory (and just in time to fund the construction of St. Peter's Basilica), but when superstition gave way to reason, and under threat (later honored) of schism, they yielded on this venal ploy.

This belief in the persistence of marriage beyond the grave gives Mormons more incentive than most to get the institution of marriage right and defend the privilege of their own view of who exactly can participate, and to this end they have raised over $8 million, dwarfing every other contribution by an order of magnitude, as well as order their flock to actively canvass our neighborhoods with the gentle-sounding scare tactics.

From this perspective, same-sex marriage is indeed a slippery slope, not to the fancifully farcical predictions of bestiality, incest, or polygamy (though I hear the Mormons know something of the last), but toward an end far more dangerous...

It is not gay marriage that Mormon leaders fear, but secular (i.e. non-Temple) marriage of otherwise well-meaning and good Mormons, which is a gateway sin to not tithing. The Mormon community is a cradle-to-grave fraternity, with no dissent tolerated. [I know more than one Catholic Archbishop that would love that loyalty and power!]

The Apostle goes on to say:

And some [marriages] are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options: they always breed misery.

He disappointingly fails to elaborate on the exact source of this misery. Had he done so, I could have stayed alert to avoid it. You see, I am a gay man, married to a man, and have never been happier. This misery which apparently awaits me, is taking its time to arrive.

Perhaps I would have been happier in a Platonic friendship (except I already tried that with a woman, which tormented her, then with a man, that tormented me). Perhaps I would have been happier sleeping around with random men (not really my style), or marry a woman (and watch helplessly while her self-esteem and youth erode before my eyes). Perhaps they think two men cannot live in one house, pay one mortgage and property taxes, grow old (and fat) together. I am living proof that they can. If this is the misery I am condemned to, count me in!

Proposition 8 is simple because the arguments themselves are vacuous. All content is in the axioms: is homosexuality innate, does Jesus' love trump St. Paul's homophobia, who suffers most if we are wrong?

Remember before you vote, that a yes vote might forcibly divorce me from my own husband, vacating my vows to be with him now and forever, and make the divorce rate go up! You will be undermining the successful and solemn marriage of another. Your hands will be dirty.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

No longer just a little confused

No original thought for today. Instead, I will pass on this video1 contrasting Obama's excellence with Palin's mediocrity and expressing "confusion" how she can pass herself off as the "better American":

I myself have never been confused about the reason for this. Underachievers have always hated overachievers, viewing the latter as a threat to their self-esteem. I call these people the "I don't know much" people, because they are so often inclined to take non-original opinions overheard at the water cooler, pass them off as their own, then preface the (sometimes bigoted, always ignorant) comment with the phrase "I don't know much, but I know this...". Well, they're half-right anyway. They don't know much, and don't much want to. For the dumb, lazy, and undereducated, ignorance is bliss.

[1] I found this video posted to a youtube channel PalesInComparison under the title "I'm a Little Confused" but no original source was listed, so I regret I cannot give credit where it is due (though the production quality is worthy of a TV ad and was likely professionally created.)