Referendum 74 Marriage Equality in Washington State and Intellectual Dishonesty

Approve Ref 74

The anti-gay faction consciously manipulates the short attention span of many people.  By feeding upon people’s own insecurities and playing to emotional sound bites, they put forward flimsy arguments that do not hold up under any serious scrutiny by any rational person.  Unfortunately, it’s often in these few seconds that a person might make up his mind about an issue and form a lasting opinion.  I would love it if people would invest that extra 30 seconds or even 5 minutes to rationally decide for themselves if they want to uphold discrimination in our laws, or vote for equality.  I propose that the more conservative you are and the more religious you are, the more strongly you will come to support Referendum 74 in Washington state, which seeks to affirm marriage equality.  Here are some flawed arguments against marriage equality that I often run across.  The worst part of this for me is not that someone may disagree with me on this issue, but that those making these arguments clearly are intellectually capable of recognizing the fallacy of their own arguments – and the raw dishonesty of them – and yet, they continue because the arguments connect emotionally with certain sets of people.

Homosexuals already have the same rights as Heterosexuals

This is one of the most common & intellectually dishonest arguments that anti-gay groups use.  The argument goes that since I, a homosexual man, and my neighbor, a heterosexual man, have the same legal right to marry a woman, therefore I am not being discriminated against.  BOTH my neighbor and I have the exact same right to marry a woman – bingo, therefore no discrimination!

There are fundamental flaws in this argument, so let’s start with the idea of the sanctity of marriage.  When entering into a marriage covenant, the participants are entering into a commitment with each other – a binding promise to love each other with the whole mind, whole body and whole soul.  Clearly, a man who is not attracted to women cannot in good conscience enter into this most intimate of relationships.  To claim otherwise is insulting.

However, the dishonesty is even worse – these people argue against the most basic principles upon which our country was founded.  The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence clearly states: “… all men are created equal … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  What the anti-gay individuals want to do is deny homosexuals the basic human desire and need of to love and be loved, which is the very core basis for “pursuit of Happiness.”  Homosexuals most certainly do not have the same rights as heterosexuals.

A follow-on line of argument might propose that two individuals can enter into civil contracts and therefore accomplish the same thing as what a marriage would give them.  Let’s skip the emotional components of what it may mean to be recognized as married (which are huge) and just stop with the fact that there are literally thousands of individual laws and rules that apply to the benefit of married couples only, and therefore remain unavailable as long as our civil government does not recognize marriage at the state and federal levels.

Marriage is Fragile Enough Already with 50% ending in Divorce

Protect marriage!PROTECT MARRIAGE – it’s under attack!!  Gays will ruin my otherwise perfect heterosexual marriage!

Many people would readily agree that marriage is fragile and not respected enough in today’s society.  However, that is irrelevant as an argument for denying someone from getting married.  They might as well use that argument to ban all future heterosexual marriages immediately so that they can focus on making existing marriages stronger.  After all, why allow John and Suzy to get married next week when there are so many existing marriages already in trouble?  Why introduce another marriage that might have problems?

Of course that’s a ridiculous argument – yet that’s exactly what anti-gay groups are arguing.  Instead, they should be echoing many true conservatives – arguing that any two people who truly love each other, who want to make a commitment before society and themselves and their God to love, honor, cherish and care for each other until the end of their lives – that these two people should be afforded the opportunity of marriage.

Any marriage that is based on love, commitment, fidelity, and honesty is bound to strengthen the overall institution, not weaken it.  The mean part of me says at least be consistent in your bigoted arguments – are you really concerned with the fragility of marriage?  Great!  Then I’ll whole-heartedly vote for a constitutional amendment to ban all divorce across the country.  Maybe then people won’t enter into marriage so lightly?  I’m mostly kidding.

Gays are filing suits in Court because they know they are wrong and never could win by changing the Laws through the Legislature

Well, it certainly is convenient that the argument changes based on what situation the bigots face at the moment.  It used to be that marriage should be left to the legislature instead of to the courts.  But then legislatures started passing marriage equality laws, so then the argument starts to change around.  Regardless, the Legislature is the representative of the people – specifically of the masses.  Our country’s government was very methodically crafted to allow the will of people to be represented – through the legislature – while still protecting minorities from the Tyranny of the Masses.  Ultimately, certain issues are so important and core to an individual’s rights, that public opinion becomes irrelevant.  Since the legislature represents the masses, it is beholden to the will of the masses – whether that will is right or wrong.  We only need to look back a few years to the Civil Rights era when many states banned all sorts of equality for blacks in our country.  The country’s set of checks and balances allows the minority to seek equal protection under the law through the courts.  Seeking recourse through the Courts isn’t un-American – it’s one of the most basic American rights.  Let’s be intellectually honest about this.

God says Homosexuality is Wrong

First of all, there is serious debate on this point and it’s pretty clear Jesus was more concerned with Love and Social Justice than condemning – but that’s not the point anyway.  The point is that we have a civil government, one that is not beholden to the Christian Right, the Reform Jews, or to the Muslims.  We have a separation of Church and State.  We do not impose religious doctrine on others.  Individuals have the right to worship if they want, when they want, and what they want.  Whether or not one particular set of religious beliefs allows or disallows something, the government should not – MUST not – sponsor, enforce, or otherwise impose that belief.

Our Constitution is used to grant, expand and protect the rights of people.  It is not used to restrict rights or ban equality.  It certainly is not used to impose religious beliefs.  Let’s be honest about this, especially if you’re going to shield this in a supposed religious context.  For the record, there are many religious groups that fully embrace equality – see some of them on the Faith Organizations for equality page.  Even within the Catholic Church here in the Seattle area, there is wide dissent and public statements that many churches will not turn into places where only some people are welcome (see More Parishes declining to allow signatures).

If Gays can marry, then I could Marry my Dog

At a basic and dry level, marriage is a special form of a civil contract.  As such, those entering into the contract must be legally competent – over the age of legal consent, of sound mind, and be entering into the contract with free will.  So, dogs, cats, ponies, and staplers are but a few examples of those items that sadly will not gain marriage rights anytime soon.

Similarly, simply allowing same-sex individuals to marry maintains all aspects of marriage and affirms society’s desire to create loving and stable family units.  Existing requirements for marriage – whether it’s requiring certain blood work in various states, to disallowing closely related relatives from marrying – these and all other regulations will still be applied.

This entire line of scare tactics is nothing but that – a last resort by bigots to try to scare people.  But I do appreciate how much you love your dog.

We need to protect our children!

Let’s be super clear on this one – it’s obviously an emotional appeal.  It’s just not based in logic or fact.  Or anything, actually, other than pure bigotry.  Don’t you want to protect our children?  Yes, yes!  Protect our children!

So let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves “protect them from what, exactly?”  This is where it gets interesting.  A common reply is that we want to protect them from the breakdown of the family unit – children are best raised in a stable and loving household with their biological parents.  Okay – let’s roll with that – I agree!!  So let’s protect our children!!  Clearly step 1 in protecting our innocents is to ban certain sets of people from marrying, right?  You quickly see where the logic fails.

At its core, this argument is based on a set of deceits – somehow making an equation that says if we allow same-sex couples to marry, our children will be harmed.  They conveniently forget the fact that many same-sex couples are already raising children and what they actually are proposing is that those children should be raised in a household where the parents are legally prohibited from marrying.  They also nicely forget to include the point that no children will be wretched out of the loving embrace of their biological parents.  Nope, no forced kid-reallocation going on here.

Of course there are a million ways this argument is made, but all of them avoid the real issue.  I would much prefer that we have a discourse about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children – at least then we’re being honest about what we’re discussing.  Allowing or not allowing couples to marry does not change the laws on whether or not they can adopt and raise children.  Let’s be intellectually honest about what the argument is.

Summary

Our country has a long history of allowing individuals the widest range of liberty.  The guiding principle has always been to allow the action unless it would infringe on the rights of another person.  Clearly, allowing same-sex marriage does nothing remotely close.  Two individuals who want to commit and formalize their love for each other aren’t a threat to anything or anyone – they are instead a shining example to which we should all strive.  I have written the Archbishop of Seattle with my extreme displeasure of his personal involvement in lobbying against equality.  Here you can read my letter to Archbishop Sartain.

Next Steps – Washington State and Ref 74

In November 2012, Washington State residents will vote statewide on whether to affirm a law granting marriage equality to all its citizens.  The legislature passed Marriage Equality in its most recent session and the law is on hold pending the statewide vote.  There is simply no rationale for upholding discrimination.  Nearly all people who oppose marriage equality say they oppose it based on religious beliefs.  That’s completely fine and no one is asking your religion to perform marriage ceremonies.  In fact, there are explicit exemptions written into the law to protect those religious traditions that choose not to support marriage equality.

So if this is all overwhelming and you can’t be bothered to think it through, I’ll save you the time – when November voting comes, vote YES on Referendum 74 in Washington State to uphold equality for all!

The actual text of Ref 74 on the ballot: “The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage  for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom,  and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.  This  bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only  for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to  refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.  Should this bill be APPROVED or REJECTED?”

The summary description for Ref 74 on the ballot: “This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard  to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and  wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are  converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or  religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or  accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious  organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.”

More links for your own research

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