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03/02/2009

The gavel vs. the cross, the temple garments, the kippah, or prayer mat

by Jeremy Hooper

Want an example of the problems that plague this country's same-sex marriage discussion? Well here, check out this little snippet from the AP and then we'll get back to ya:

A broad spectrum of civil rights groups, including the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Organization for Women, have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in the case, saying other minorities could have their rights put up for a vote if the measure is upheld.

Others, however, see just as much danger in limiting California's tradition of direct democracy.

Lynn Wardle, a Brigham Young University professor who submitted brief in support of Proposition 8, said, "Do you defer to the political establishment, which in this case supports same-sex marriage and wants Prop. 8 undone, or to California's history of being probably the most populist state in America?"
Deja new: Prop. 8 challenge reaches Calif. court [AP via Yahoo! News]

Okay, so this little chunk starts off by citing what they accurately call a "broad spectrum of civil rights groups." This is a selection of groups who are not bound by religion or ideology, but rather by their support of minority rights. Some might argue that they all bend leftward -- but that sinistral drift is organically born out of goals and desires, and the way those tend to match up in American politics. So what you have with these groups is a diverse coalition whose leadership is using their beliefs in constitutional freedoms guide their actions.

But then look at who the AP provides as the counterpoint to this point: A professor from the nation's most known Mormon university. A professor whose longtime gay rights opposition and inalienable LDS ties become apparent in the first seconds of a simple Google search. A professor who, even if motivated by legal training, is surely speaking at least partially from a place of religious conviction. It's no secret that the LDS church was a MAJOR financier of Proposition 8. So what you have in this "con" to the pro-gays' "pro" is a representative from the team that so fully helped put Prop 8 into unreasoned, unrighteous effect speaking out against the same measure's overturn.

Now, it's of course perfectly acceptable for Mr. Wardle to oppose Prop 8 on religious grounds, and perfectly valid for the AP to cite a BYU professor in this piece. In fact, we would agree that it's imperative for a mainstream news outfit to cite the religious opposition that both gave us Prop 8 and is now defending the same. But the problem here is one of context and presentation. The writer makes no note of BYU's Mormon connection. The writer gives no clues that Mr. Wardle is a major "pro-traditional family" advocate who gives speeches on the idea that marriage equality will harm society, has authored books on the same subject, has testified before congress in support of both DOMA and a federal constitutional marriage amendment, and has held prominent positions within LDS leadership. Instead, he is presented as a mere "other." The yin to the civil rights coalition's yang.

It's this sort of thing that keeps this marriage conversation so muddied. Far too many people, outlets, and politicians allow for the idea that religious motivation and civil reasoning are on the exact same playing field. There are few places beyond gay rights where you would see such a thing. You would never see a discussion on ham consumption in which an orthodox rabbi is presented as a mere "other" whose arguments are disconnected from religious context. You would never see the AP run a fashion piece on the resurgence of the mini skirt, wherein they present a mullah's religious opposition to the lady-revelaing garment in a way that fails to mention the root of the resistance. And you would never see anyone's personal religious convictions to just about any sort of hetero-centric civil contract presented without the faith basis being fully and clearly noted. But this gay marriage "culture war" is a different beast. It's one where the LGBT community can put out a thousand scholarly papers and present lock-solid legal arguments, only to have those same well-researched rationalizations shot down by someone's strict interpretation of Leviticus. It's one where a layman's "I'm a Christian and I think it's wrong" testimonial is considered an acceptable rebuttal to a top notch lawyer's studied case.

We find the situation to be frustrating as hell. But no, we don't think our belief that hell is frustrating is an acceptable legal argument either.

***

NOTE: To to be fair, there are other lawyers cited in the full AP piece. It's just this one juxtaposition, so common to the way gay rights matters are presented, that we find so annoying.

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Your thoughts

AAAHHHHH! It's going to be a LOOOOONG Week here in California!

Posted by: LOrion | Mar 2, 2009 1:41:40 PM

"Far too many people, outlets, and politicians allow for the idea that religious motivation and civil reasoning are on the exact same playing field."

Bravo! Bravo, good sir!

TRiG.

Posted by: Timothy (TRiG) | Mar 4, 2009 7:15:21 AM

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