Nel's New Day

October 30, 2013

Marriage Equality: Pro & Con

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:12 PM
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After the New Jersey Supreme Court declared marriage equality the law of the state, Hawaii is using a special session called by the governor to tread the waters of legalized marriage equality. The rift between conservatives and progressives is building.

The Hawaii Senate has passed SB1 legalizing marriage equality by a 20-4 vote and sent it to the House. The House Republicans, however, want to remove the one GOP member in the legislature who supports the law from the 13-member Judiciary Committee before a final reading that would send the bill to the House. GOP Rep. Cynthia Thielen said, “I support marriage equality. I may be the sole Republican in our minority caucus that does … but I can guarantee I’m not the sole Republican in our community who does.”

At least, 1,800 people signed up to testify about the bill when it was in the Senate panel, causing Senator Clayton Hee to limit statements to one minute. Attorney General David Louie spoke in favor of the bill but acknowledged that a same-sex couple from Hawaii who married in California would get the federal benefits created by last summer’s Supreme Court ruling as if Hawaii legalized marriage equality. Republican Sam Slom, one of the nay votes on the Senate panel, said that people could go to California frequently enough that they could just marry there. Back to same-sex marriage for the elite.

Gary Secor, who represents the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii, worried about “the potentially negative sociological impact such relationships may eventually have on society.” The others who opposed marriage equality used religious reasons, at one time reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.” Testimony also argued that the bill was pushed by those outside the state and would harm Native Hawaiians. The testifier who compared marriage equality supporters to Nazi Germany, stating that a vocal minority was trying to exert their view over a silent majority, failed to mention that the opponents to the bill were very vocal. Or that gays and lesbians were many times persecuted and killed in Nazi death camps.

The Mormons, who claimed after they played a big part in passing California’s Proposition 8 banning marriage equality, have returned, sending anti-LGBT marriage letters to their Hawaiian local ward congregations to be read to the faithful in the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Those objecting to marriage equality can get some help directly from LGBT people. A New York Times article interviewed some couples who are also opposed to same-sex couples. Together for 18 years, Brian Blatz, 47, and Dan Davis, 58, see no point in marrying because “it isn’t going to change anything in terms of how we feel about each other.”

Other opposition comes from those who believe that as an outdated institution, marriage forces same-sex couples into the mainstream or that it creates financial burdens and legal entanglements. Sean Fader, 34, views marriage as “this oppressive Christian model.” Feminists perceive marriage as historically oppressive. Stephanie Schroeder and Lisa Haas say that marriage privileges couples and stigmatizes single people. John D’Emilio thinks same-sex marriage is elitist; his partner of 32 years, Jim Oleson, has been married and has no interest in doing it again. Still others fear they may have to pay higher taxes if they are married.

Before federal legalized marriage equality, gays and lesbians protested civil unions as “feel-good marriages,” Larry Kramer’s description. After the Supreme Court decision, he married David Webster in July.

A valid objection to the fight for marriage equality is that it was done at the expense of other issues such as AIDS prevention and non-discrimination in employment and housing. Emilio said, “After people with good health insurance could have treatment for H.I.V., the community sort of abandoned AIDS as a priority.”

One issue being addressed—again—is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to bring up the bill next week with the support of all 54 Democrats and at least four Republicans. GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk are co-sponsoring the legislation, and GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch and Lisa Murkowski voted for the bill in the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Rob Portman (OH) said he is “inclined to support” the bill, and other senators targeted by advocates include Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Dean Heller (NV), Jeff Flake (AZ), John McCain (AZ), and Pat Toomey (PA). Flake has said he won’t support the bill because it protects transgender workers.

Reps Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are leading the campaign to pass ENDA through the Republican-controlled House. Even if the GOP members of the House were inclined to support ENDA, they won’t have any time this year because they will be gone most of the time. The House quit today until November 12 and may cancel some of the 18 days left in the session. Nice work if you can get it. The deadline for final budget recommendations from the joint House/Senate Committee is December 15, and the existing budget expires on January 15. Not many working days before then.

ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 except the 109th when the GOP controlled Congress and the presidency. Similar legislation has been introduced without passage since 1974. The bill hasn’t had a vote on the House or Senate floor since November 2007, when it passed the House 235-184.

Not all gays and lesbians agree that marriage won’t give them and their families greater protection. In at least 20 states, lawsuits are addressing the constitutionality of state amendments or statutes banning marriage equality: Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Other states are taking further action:

 North Carolina: Buncombe County register of deeds Drew Reisinger has announced that he will accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples in spite of a 2012 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Oklahoma: Darren Black Bear and Jason Pickel are the first same-sex couple to marry in the state despite its ban against same-sex marriage.  The Cheyenne Arapaho recognizes the couple as wed although the state does not.

Oregon: A campaign is well on its way to collect enough signatures for an initiative that would overturn the state’s constitutional ban on marriage equality.

Before SCOTUS handed down its landmark decision legalizing federal marriage equality, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick wrote this:

“Nine years ago … same-sex marriages started happening in Massachusetts, and the time since then has proved wonderfully unremarkable. The sky has not fallen. The earth has not opened to swallow us up. Thousands of good people, contributing members of our society, have made free decisions about whom to marry. Most have been joyful and lasting. Some have failed. Ho-hum.”

The 2003 court decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health included the following statement from then-Chief Justice Margaret Marshall:

“Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

Not everyone may want marriage, but for those same-sex couples who do, the United States is gradually opening up. Marriage equality is inevitable; government would save lots of taxpayer money if they just changed the laws.

My opinion? Marriage equality is like health care: everyone should have the right to have it. And people who don’t get married because they say they’ll never need it may change their minds when they run into legal problems.

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