Tag: gay marriage

Krauthammer Misreads History

Charles Krauthammer calls same-sex marriage “the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history.” Really? Some might say that ending “till death do us part” was more radical. And maybe ending the requirement that the bride promise to “love, honor, and obey.” And how about the end of polygamy? Polygamy was probably the most common marital system in the broad sweep of human history, but now it is virtually unknown in the Western world; indeed, ahistorical conservatives warn that allowing two people of the same sex to make a vow of marriage could lead to polygamy.

More currently, I would suggest that the truly radical redefinition of marriage is the revolution over the past generation in the idea that people should marry before they cohabit or have children. Barely a generation ago cohabitation simply wasn’t acceptable; now it  is just assumed. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy is celebrated on the cover of People and no one seems to much care. In 2009, for the first time, more 25- to 34-year-olds were unmarried than married. A writer as smart as Krauthammer should be able to see that that gay liberation and gay marriage are a product, not a cause, of the unprecedented redefinition of sex, marriage, and childrearing.

But like socially conservative politicians, Krauthammer is not about to confront his friends, colleagues, and fans by denouncing that radical redefinition of marriage. Sensing discomfort with rapid social changes, he shouts “Look over there!”

Reducing the incidence of unwed motherhood, divorce, fatherlessness, welfare, and crime would be good for society. But it’s not easy to figure out what to do. That’s why social conservatives point to a real problem and then offer phony solutions.

What Do Social Conservatives Want?

Social conservatives talk about real problems but offer irrelevant solutions. They act like the man who searched for his keys under the streetlight because the light was better there.

Social conservatives tend to talk about issues like abortion and gay rights, stem-cell research and the role of religion “in the public square”: “Those who would have us ignore the battle being fought over life, marriage and religious liberty have forgotten the lessons of history,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) at the Values Voter Summit.

But what is the case for social conservatism that they’ve been making at the summit and in recent interviews?

  • Mike Huckabee: “We need to understand there is a direct correlation between the stability of families and the stability of our economy…. The real reason we have poverty is we have a breakdown of the basic family structure.”
  • Jim DeMint:  ”It’s impossible to be a fiscal conservative unless you’re a social conservative because of the high cost of a dysfunctional society.”
  • Rick Santorum: “We can have no economic freedom unless we have good, virtuous moral people inspired by their faith.”

Those are reasonable concerns, but they have little or no relationship to abortion or gay marriage. Abortion may be a moral crime, but it isn’t the cause of high government spending or intergenerational poverty. And gay people making the emotional and financial commitments of marriage is not the cause of family breakdown or welfare spending.

When Huckabee says that “a breakdown of the basic family structure” is causing poverty – and thus a demand for higher government spending – he knows that he’s really talking about unwed motherhood, divorce, children growing up without fathers, and the resulting high rates of welfare usage and crime. Those also make up the “high cost of a dysfunctional society” that worries DeMint.

But take a look at the key issues of the chief social-conservative group, the Family Research Council – 7 papers on abortion and stem cells, 5 on gays and gay marriage, 1 on divorce. Nothing much has changed since 1994, when I wrote in the New York Times:

The Family Research Council, the leading “family values” group, is similarly obsessed. In the most recent index of its publications, the two categories with the most listing are “Homosexual” and “Homosexual in the Military” – a total of 34 items (plus four on AIDS). The organization has shown some interest in parenthood – nine items on family structure, 13 on parenthood and six on teen pregnancy – yet there are more items on homosexuality than on all of those issues combined. There was no listing for divorce. (Would it be unfair to point out that there are two items on “Parents’ Rights” and none on “Parents’ Responsibilities”?)

Back then, conservatives still defended sodomy laws, as Santorum continued to do as late as 2003. These days, after the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down such laws, most have moved on (though not the Montana and Texas Republican parties). Now they just campaign against gays in the military, gays adopting children, and gays getting married.

Why all the focus on issues that would do nothing to solve the problems of “breakdown of the basic family structure” and “the high cost of a dysfunctional society”? Well, solving the problems of divorce and unwed motherhood is hard. And lots of Republican and conservative voters have been divorced. A constitutional amendment to ban divorce wouldn’t go over very well with even the social-conservative constituency. Far better to pick on a small group, a group not perceived to be part of the Republican constituency, and blame them for social breakdown and its associated costs.

But you won’t find your keys on Main Street if you dropped them on Green Street, and you won’t reduce the costs of social breakdown by keeping gays unmarried and not letting them adopt orphans.

Cal Thomas Fulminates against Freedom

Cal Thomas, who bills himself as “America’s #1 nationally syndicated columnist,” rose to fame as the vice president of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in its heyday, though you won’t find that fact in any of his official biographies. But you could figure it out by reading his columns. In his latest, on the California gay marriage decision, he ranges from factual inaccuracy to a revelation of just how reactionary and authoritarian he really is, to a really striking biblical citation.

He starts by denouncing the “decision by a single, openly gay federal judge.” Not true. Judge Vaughn Walker may be gay, but he has never said so. And Salon magazine demonstrates that any such “evidence” is extraordinarily thin. So this is an extraordinary statement by a man who calls himself a journalist of 40 years’ standing. Not to mention an offensive suggestion that gay people shouldn’t serve as judges. Thomas went so far as to call former attorney general Ed Meese, who recommended Walker to President Ronald Reagan, to ask how such a thing could have happened, and Meese assures him,  “There was absolutely no knowledge, rumor or suspicion” of Vaughn Walker being a homosexual at the time of his nomination by Ronald Reagan. Well, thank God. You’d hate to think that Ronald Reagan would have put an accomplished Republican lawyer on the federal bench if he’d been a homosexual.

Thomas goes on to complain that this (not) “openly gay federal judge” has struck down “the will of 7 million Californians.” Well, yes.  Of course, 6.4 million Californians voted the other way, so I guess on net he struck down the will of 600,000 Californians. And that’s what judges do when they strike down unconstitutional laws. The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board and Loving v. Virginia “struck down the will of tens of millions of Americans.” Libertarians and conservatives asked the Court in the Kelo case to strike down the duly enacted eminent-domain laws of Connecticut.

The sentence continues: The judge also struck down “tradition dating back millennia” – though for much of that time marriage involved one man and more than one woman. And of course traditions are not to be followed blindly. No doubt Cal Thomas thinks that millions, even billions, of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists should leave the faiths of their fathers and follow Christ.

And then the sentence moves to Thomas’s real concern: The judge also struck down “biblical commands, which the judge decided, in his capacity as a false god, to also invalidate.” Does Thomas really believe that the judges of the United States, operating under a Constitution that makes no mention of God, should obey “biblical commands”? It’s true that the Virginia trial judge who convicted the Lovings of miscegenation did rule that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He thought he was following biblical commands. But the Supreme Court overruled that judge.

Thomas is fulminating against gay marriage and against “judicial vigilantism.” But his real objections to American law and life go much deeper:

We have been spiraling downward for some time, beginning in the ’50s with the Playboy philosophy that gave men permission to avoid the bonds of marriage if they wanted to have sex. In rapid succession came the birth control pill (sex without biological consequences), “no-fault divorce” (nullifying “until death us do part”), cohabitation, easily available pornography, and a tolerance for just about anything except those who deem something intolerable.

Cal Thomas would like to take American life back somewhere before the 1950s, before adults could make their own decisions about sex, before birth control and cohabitation and tolerance. The American people may still be split 50-50 on gay marriage, but they would overwhelmingly reject Thomas’s reactionary vision for society.

How reactionary? Well, consider this:

Muslim fanatics who wish to destroy us are correct in their diagnosis of our moral rot: loss of a fear of God, immodesty, especially among women, materialism and much more.

Which sort of follows from his earlier point:

No less a theological thinker than Abraham Lincoln concluded that our Civil War might have been God’s judgment for America’s toleration of slavery. If that were so, why should “the Almighty,” as Lincoln frequently referred to God, stay His hand in the face of our celebration of same-sex marriage?

A more loving Christian might think that God would punish a nation that practiced slavery, but not a nation that allowed everyone to make a commitment to the person they loved. But surely Katrina, the financial crisis, 9/11, and the BP oil spill are enough punishment, even for a nation that displays a “tolerance for just about anything.” Anything that’s peaceful, anyway, as Leonard Read put it.

Toleration really is the thing that Thomas doesn’t like:

What we tolerate, we get more of, and we have been tolerating a lot since the Age of Aquarius generation began the systematic destruction of what past generations believed they had sacrificed, fought and died to protect.

I wonder how many American soldiers really believed that they went into battle to prevent gay people from marrying the person they love. I’ll bet more of them said they were fighting to protect our freedom, our Constitution, and indeed our religious freedom – for everyone.

Thomas ends his column with a biblical citation for those who want to “understand what happens to people and nations that disregard God”:

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

Two books later in the Old Testament, in I Samuel 8, the story of Israel and its lack of a king is continued. This is actually one of the most famous passages in the history of liberty and of Western civilization. As we’ll see in a moment, the rest of the story served as a constant reminder that the origins of the State were by no means divinely inspired:

    1: And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

3: And his sons walked not in his ways, but took bribes, and perverted judgment.
4: Then all the elders of Israel came to Samuel,
5: And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6: But the thing displeased Samuel, And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

7: And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people

9: yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
10: And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
11: And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, and some shall run before his chariots.
12: And he will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and his chariots.
13: And he will take your daughters to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14: And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15: And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16: And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17: He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18: And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

19: Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
20: That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

21: And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
22: And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.

God’s warning to the people of Israel – you will be sorry if you choose a king to rule over you – resonated not just in ancient Israel but on down to modern times.  Thomas Paine cited it in Common Sense to remind Americans that “the few good kings” in the 3000 years since Samuel could not “blot out the sinfulness of the origin” of monarchy.  The great historian of liberty, Lord Acton, assuming that all 19th-century British readers were familiar with it, referred casually to Samuel’s “momentous protestation.” And now Cal Thomas thinks this seminal warning against tyranny is a capstone to his tirade against freedom, tolerance, and equality under the law. How sad.

California’s Gay Marriage Ban Lacks a Rational Basis

I haven’t even begun to dig into Judge Walker’s 138-page (!) opinion that strikes down Proposition 8 on both due process and equal protection grounds, but here are three key excerpts.  First, the conclusion that government lacks a “rational basis” for preventing same-sex couples from marrying:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.

Then the equal protection conclusion:

Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

And finally the due process conclusion:

As explained in detail in the equal protection analysis, Proposition 8 cannot withstand rational basis review. Still less can Proposition 8 survive the strict scrutiny required by plaintiffs’ due process claim. The minimal evidentiary presentation made by proponents does not meet the heavy burden of production necessary to show that Proposition 8 is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest. Proposition 8 cannot, therefore, withstand strict scrutiny. Moreover, proponents do not assert that the availability of domestic partnerships satisfies plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry; proponents stipulated that “[t]here is a significant symbolic disparity between domestic partnership and marriage.” [citation omitted] Accordingly, Proposition 8 violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In short, the court found none of the government’s asserted interests – including tradition, moving slowly on social change, and promoting different-sex parenting – to be “legitimate.”  This is obviously a big deal and will be appealed – and no gay marriages will be allowed until the appellate process will have run its course (most likely up to the Supreme Court).  Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.

Cato’s chairman Bob Levy, also co-chair of the advisory board to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (which sponsored the suit) had this to say:

The principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide that so often defines issues in this country.  Today, people from across that divide came together to fight a law that cut to the very core of our nation’s character.  Prop. 8 attempted to deny people an indispensable right vested in all Americans.  This Judge and this Court bravely confronted wrongful discrimination and came down on the right side – defending and enforcing equal protection, as demanded by the Constitution.

I too think this was the correct decision – reserving, of course, the right to criticize parts once I’ve done more than skim it – though I fear it will poison our politics in a way not seen from a legal decision since Roe v. WadeRoe v. Wade is not what today’s ruling should be compared to, however – both because this was only one district judge and because Roe v. Wade was a tortured fabrication of constitutional law that no legitimate constitutional scholar really defends (not even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg).  I would liken it more to one more step in the civil rights movement, giving all Americans equality under the law.  If you want a court case to compare it to, try Loving v. Virginia (which struck down bans on interracial marriage).

I should also add that this all could have been averted if government just got out of the marriage business entirely: have civil unions for whoever wants them – which would be a contractual basket of rights not unlike business partnerships – and let religious and other private institutions confer whatever sacraments they want.  If the state provides the institution of marriage, however, it has to provide it to all people.

A Look Inside the Dark Heart of the GOP

Evidence that Republican leaders and conservative pundits want to shake off their anti-gay image continues to mount. Since the 2008 election, gay marriage has become legal in four more states and the District of Columbia, yet conservatives have been virtually silent. As Congress moves to repeal the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, Republicans are almost all voting against it, but they’re not making a lot of noise about it.  Jonathan Rauch cites the lack of interest in Iowa in overturning the state court’s gay marriage decision and Republican strategist Grover Norquist’s observation that the Tea Party enthusiasm is focusing Republicans and conservatives on economic rather than social issues.

Many politicians have had a long dark night of the poll. They know that public opinion on gay rights has changed. Gallup just issued a poll showing that more than half of Americans believe that “gay or lesbian relations” are “morally acceptable.” Seventy percent, including majorities of all demographic groups, favor allowing openly gay people to serve in the military. Those are big changes since 2003, much less 1993, and politicians can read polls. Indeed, one thing that gay progress shows us is that cultural change precedes political change.

But out in the real world, where real Republicans live, the picture isn’t as promising. In the Virginia suburbs of Washington this week, Patrick Murray defeated Matthew Berry in a Republican primary. Berry, formerly a lawyer for the Institute for Justice and the Department of Justice, seemed to be better funded and better organized than Murray, an Iraq war veteran. The Republican in my household received at least two mailers and three phone calls from the Berry campaign and nothing from Murray. So why did Murray win? Well, Berry is openly gay, and David Weigel at the Washington Post reports that the Murray campaign did send out flyers focusing on gay issues. They may have gone only to Republicans in the more conservative parts of the district. And Republican activist Rick Sincere tells me that “in the last few days before the election, I received numerous emails from the Murray campaign that included subtle reminders that Matthew is gay and supports an end to DADT. He also, in a Monday email, took a quotation from Matthew out of context to make it look like he supports a federally-enforced repeal of Virginia’s anti-marriage law. In other words, Murray played the anti-gay card.” Blogger RedNoVa made similar observations, adding, “If you were at the Matthew Berry party last night, you would notice that the average age in the room was about 30. Young people were everywhere. The future of our party was there. Murray’s campaign crowd was older, and full of party purists.”

But Northern Virginia is far more genteel than western Tennessee, where the Jackson Sun recently reported that two Republican congressional candidates suggested that physical violence was an appropriate response to gays who enlist in the military:

Republicans Stephen Fincher, Dr. George Flinn, Dr. Ron Kirkland and Randy Smith as well as independent Donn Janes took part in the event…

The candidates said that they think President Barack Obama and Democrats’ support for ending the military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is “political correctness” that adds an unnecessary stress on the military.

Flinn portrayed ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as the latest in an effort by Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to weaken the military.

Kirkland, a Vietnam veteran, said of his time in the military: “I can tell you if there were any homosexuals in that group, they were taken care of in ways I can’t describe to you.”

Smith, who served in the first Iraqi war, added: “I definitely wouldn’t want to share a shower with a homosexual. We took care of that kind of stuff, just like (Kirkland) said.”

With Republicans like that, it’s no wonder that many moderates, centrists, and libertarians still aren’t sure they want to vote Republican, even with Democrats running up the deficit and extending federal control over health care, education, automobile companies, newspapers, and more.

What’s a Libertarian?

In a new episode of Stossel,  Cato’s David Boaz and Jeffrey Miron join a panel of experts to discuss where libertarians stand on a host of major issues facing the nation today.  They tackle libertarian views on war, abortion, the welfare state, gay rights and more.

Watch the videos below for a full re-cap.

The first video covers the so-called culture wars, including gay marriage, abortion and immigration:

More videos after the jump.

In the second video they discuss the role of government in providing aid to the poor:

In the third video, the panelists discuss libertarian views of war. Should the United States leave Afghanistan and Iraq? What should we do about Iran? Watch:

If you’re hungry for more, the segment is a great supplement to David Boaz’s timeless book, Libertarianism: A Primer and Jeffrey Miron’s forthcoming book Libertarianism: From A to Z.

Marriage, Private and Public

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just get the state out of the marriage business? Perhaps. Marriage is fundamentally private, after all. It’s a matter for families, churches, and couples to decide for themselves.

Yet state recognition of marriage often acts to keep the government out of private life, to ensure family stability, and to give regular, orderly rules for all those times when, despite our best efforts, family and state still collide. Here are just a few of the things that the civil side of marriage does:

  • If you’re happily married and you have children, you don’t have to worry for a moment about child custody law. Your children are yours to raise jointly, whether they are biological or adoptive.
  • If you’re married and you die without a will, your spouse typically gets at least a share of your estate. You don’t have to do anything special for this to happen. It’s automatic, and I think this probably strikes most people as fair.
  • If you’re married, you don’t need to do anything special to be able to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse. It’s presumed that you are competent to do this.
  • You can sponsor your foreign spouse for U.S. citizenship.
  • You can sue for wrongful death of a spouse.
  • You can collect a spouse’s Social Security benefits.
  • You can often keep joint personal finances without worrying that your spouse will bankrupt you.

Depending on where you live, some of these protections can be won outside of marriage, if you’re willing to go to a lawyer and spend a few hundred bucks. Others, like the last four, can’t be had without either a marriage or a blood relationship.

State recognition of marriage protects families, often from the state itself. If the state got out of the marriage business, the state would be a lot more in all of our private lives, judging, inspecting, regulating, forbidding, taxing, redistributing, and all the rest. Much of the state part of marriage is really a protection against the state.

All of this is a lead-up to saying congratulations to the same-sex couples who will now be able to marry in Washington, DC. Perhaps even more than other types of marriages, same-sex marriages need these protections. (Some, like sponsoring an immigrant or collecting Social Security, may have to wait for federal law to catch up.)

On the whole, same-sex marriage means that gays’ and lesbians’ private lives can stay private. It gives them a protection against the government, which has too often been used against them. It means that gays and lesbians can be treated the same as any other group of citizens. And it means that their basic right to be left alone is finally being honored.