Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rick Perry, his pals, and Constitutional Amendments

I originally started this as a pointed, humorous open letter to Rick Perry, but I have been having trouble channeling my inner-humor to deal with this.

In case you haven't heard (I hadn't), it seems that Rick Perry and a handful of other potential Republican presidential candidates have decided that we need a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  I heard about this from BionicDance's YouTube channel (see her video titled Sector Control: Persecution specifically).  I think that Kate (BionicDance) handled the subject pretty well by herself, but I have a (slightly) less emotional analysis and would like to address the bigger issue that this creates.  For the record, I am not part of the LGBT community (I'm straight as an arrow, in case any available straight women like what they read here!!).  However, I do support their rights as I generally would any other group of people who don't interfere with my rights.

I'd like to first mention the immediate issue, which is a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  My question:  "Why?"  I think this is a perfectly valid and simple question.  Why must the United States of America have an amendment to its Constitution banning gay marriage?  Why is gay marriage even an issue?  The usual answers I've heard are:
  1. "Gay marriage taints the sanctity of marriage."  --  The United States does not make laws with respect to religious preference (more about this below).  If marriage is, indeed, a religious construct rather than a legal one, then marriage as a legal construct should be abolished immediately.  End of conversation.
  2. "Gay marriage is contrary to family values."  --  Two US citizens capable of making decisions for themselves and are in love with each other seems, to me at least, to be the foundation for marriage.  As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, the gay/lesbian community has been excluded from the privilege of marriage for so long that their decision to marry is typically much deeper and more thought-out than heterosexual marriages.  Seriously, there is nothing about homosexual marriage that is causing the hetero marriages out there to fail.  They are doing so on their own merit (or lack thereof).
  3. "Gay marriage is an abomination!"  "If gay marriage is allowed it will cause the human population to die off." -- The first statement is typically an excuse for religious dogma shrouded in an opinion statement, but when the people who speak it try to separate the religious aspect from it, they say it means the second statement.  First, there is no requirement that married couples have offspring.  Second, the population is continuing to increase without gay marriage or the requirement for married couples to spawn.  There is no reason to believe that allowing gay marriage will create any problem for humankind.  Besides, it is not the role of government to institute population control policies (and if it is, then I think we need to start to spay/neuter some of our human population).
  4. "Gay couples who raise children will encourage the children to be gay."  "Allowing gay marriage will mean that being gay is acceptable behavior and set a bad example for children." --  Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, it is pretty well-established that homosexuality is typically more deeply rooted in the psyche than simply a learned behavior.  In point of fact, most heterosexuals (even kids) are genetically predisposed to be attracted to the opposite sex.  They won't learn this behavior from an adult, and most people in the LGBT community will tell you that life would be much easier if they were more like everyone else.  It isn't a choice -- it's more deeply rooted than that.  Is it a genetic issue?  a deep psychological issue?  a mis-wiring of the brain?   Who knows?  Who cares?  A child isn't going to "learn homosexuality."  The worst case would be that a child who is predisposed to homosexuality would have a sense of understanding and acceptance of themselves rather than to put a bullet in their own head later in life as they become so depressed and confused and isolated when they feel "different" and have no place to turn.
  5. "What next?  People will start asking to marry their pets!"  --  Pets/livestock are considered property (at this point in time) and do not have the faculties to make decisions as you and I do about love and the responsibilities surrounding it.  While we love our pets and feel they "love" us, that is not the same kind of conscious love that happens between two intelligent beings.  When it becomes that way, then it would not necessarily be unreasonable to allow inter-species marriage.  Consider that black (so-called "African-American") people were considered property and sub-human not so long ago in recent history.  We have since become more enlightened...or less bigoted...whatever the case may be.  Society hopefully adapts to what it learns about the life around it.  Consider what will happen when and if intelligent life from other planets inhabits the Earth with us.  The question of marriage between human and alien life will ultimately need to be considered.
  6. "I just don't like gay marriage."  "It makes me feel uncomfortable."  --  Thanks for being honest.  My comment about your answer is below.
So I think that covers all the usual answers.  None of these have any business being a matter for government policy, and definitely not a constitutional amendment.  If you're religious and are convinced that the U.S. is a "Christian nation," then please re-read my other entry called "School Prayer" where I cover this ad-nauseum.  You're wrong, get over yourself.  If you can't figure out why this is a serious issue for gay people, then I invite you to perform a thought experiment:  Pretend you are not able to marry.  Figure out how you will deal with power-of-attorney and access to your loved one in time of sickness, how you will manage health care for a non-working partner, how you will handle the death of your partner and property ownership, etc, etc.  Think about how the rest of the nation will arbitrarily refuse to accept the loving union between you and your spouse.  That's what our gay friends are dealing with, and it most definitely is and should be a big deal to them!

My final thoughts addresses the larger issue of "reason #6" (above) and legal/constitutional policy in general.  If you're wanting to ban gay marriage because it is uncomfortable to you, then while I applaud your honesty, I disapprove of your using comfort as the basis for law.  Basically, Rick Perry and his cohorts are effectively using this as a basis for law, and they're wrong.  While they likely haven't yet done so, I'm sure that they will ultimately compare it to anti-smoking laws.  Here we have a legal substance, but it is illegal to use it in various places.  The reason for the law is that it is thought to harm others (and it does), but more realistically the law protects those who are made physically uncomfortable by the presence of tobacco smoke.  There is a difference, though.  Tobacco smoke, as I mentioned before, is not simply an idea you don't like, but is a physical irritant.  When people smoke around me, for example, I have a negative physical reaction.  When someone smokes around me, they affect the ability for me to enjoy my rights as a citizen without physical harm.  Gay marriage, on the other hand, is an idea that some people dislike.  Gay marriage doesn't cause anyone physical harm, nor does it negatively impact the rights of others.  A same-sex couple holding hands, while potentially offensive to you, would actually be legal whether or not there was a gay marriage ban.  If ideas are allowed to drive legal and constitutional bans, would it be OK for me to initiate a ban on Adobe Flash?  Flash is offensive to me and is actually far more harmful to the population at large than gay marriage.  When we talk about tolerance, these are the times when we should be considering what that word means.  There are acts - such as animal cruelty, rape, murder, and family violence - that are examples of things we should not tolerate.  That's why there are laws against these acts.  There are laws against child pornography.  We have decided, as a society, that such ideas are so unconscionable that they need to be illegal.  This is very far from banning gay marriage or Adobe Flash.

I am somewhat embarrassed that I live in the same state where Rick Perry is governor.  First he tries to get rid of the drought through a mass prayer event.  Then he speaks out against gay marriage.  This is a man that I cannot respect because, while his intentions seem to be well-placed, his decisions are based on pure ignorance.  Instead of setting an example of behavior that can be emulated by the public, he is promulgating (and even validating) the same ignorance and bigotry that the most uneducated or stupid of people believe.*  He is not the kind of person I want representing my country as president, and I am sorry to say that he represents me as governor of the state where I live.  Unfortunately I can say the same about most of the politicians in office -- both Republican and Democratic.  Our system of government was founded on the assumption that those who served in office would do what was best for its citizenry, regardless of what popular (or corporate, or special interest, or political party) pressure would say to do.  They were supposed to be the more highly educated among us.  Instead, elections are a popularity contest based on the empty promises they give us all and how charismatic they are with the public.  While I sit in awe of those who have the responsibility of representing the United States of America, I also sit in disgust wondering how the founders of our great nation are rolling over in their graves when they see the kind of people that followed them.

* - I don't mean to imply that everyone who has religious beliefs is stupid or uneducated, but what I am saying is that, well, using your public office to organize an prayer event to try to affect the weather is both stupid and uneducated, and it would be more useful for our public servants to be helping those affected than to try to change the weather....and of course, there is that issue of gay marriage.