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08/30/2011

Flier belier: Debunking MN For Marriage's latest handout

by Jeremy Hooper

MN For Marriage's latest, in two parts:

(highlighting/numbering = mine)

201108300731

1. No, nobody is seeking "two irreconcilable and conflicting definitions" of marriage. Equality activists are seeking *one* concrete definition that doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender. The ones creating two irreconcilable definitions are those who demand same-sex couples meet all the burden$ of citizenship, yet fail to provide equal protection and due process under the law.

2. The "31 of 31 states" canard: This is so intellectually dishonest. Yes, it's technically true. However, the vast majority of those states happened at a very different time, when marriage equality was much more untested, the public was much more apt to buy into fear lines, and those who might defend equality in these early states were completely blindsided by the conservative onslaught. We never had a chance then, whereas now we have nothing but opportunity. In fact, in many ways, the crude discrimination attached to this early wave helped us connect the dots for a previously unengaged public.

3. The "adopted by a bipartisan majority of Congress" thing: This is in reference to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act vote, and it is completely misleading. Sure, more than a few Congressional Democrats of a decade-and-a-half ago voted with the GOP majorities that controlled both chambers, many of them names (Biden, Mikulski) who would surely vote differently today. However, only one Republican -- ONLY ONE! -- voted against federal DOMA back in the day, an openly gay, retiring Congressman by the name of Steve Gunderson. Other than Gunderson, it was the Democratic party, even then, that put up the resistance to that decade's vast right-wing wave: A right-wing wave that voted for DOMA by a 277-1 margin!

So yes, again, one can technically call the 1996 vote bipartisan. But the facts are a little more complex than the talking point. More here.

4. President Clinton, like many of the aforementioned Democrats who voted for DOMA, now stands against both DOMA and marriage discrimination in general. If we're going to talk about the vote of 2012, then let's talk about 2012 and not a congressional vote held sixteen years before.

5. "Current times": Our current times includes six states and the nation's capital with civil marriage equality. Massachusetts has had marriage equality for seven years now. And guess what? NOT ONE OF THE FAR-RIGHT FEAR CLAIMS HAS COME TRUE! Conservatives who are pushing this form of discrimination are going to have to start owning what is real, instructive, and patently obvious!

6. "The people" get to decide: Well no, not on issues pertaining to minority rights they don't. Or at least they shouldn't. The "protect marriage" crowd of the here and now might think it's super fun to toss around the idea that minority rights should be up for a public vote, since they maintain a slight majority in most polling (and certainly rally their hyper-motivated base better on election day). But anyone who considers the implications, based on both a read of history and a consideration of a theoretical future, would hopefully think twice before so casually and carelessly tossing around "let the people vote" claims.

Oh, and it's pretty funny (read: super annoying) to hear MN For Marriage knocking the idea that politicians would get to decide on marriage, considering the earlier touting of 1996's Congressional vote on DOMA. Last time I checked, the U.S. Senate and House is also filled with politicians.

7. Judges do not "substitute their values." That's not the gig. Judges are tasked with ensuring that our policies are kosher, based on the prescriptions of our state and federal constitutions. Sure, it sounds all nice and scary to call judges "activist" and act as if our independent judiciary is some roving band of liberal foot soldiers out to rob rather than serve "the people." But doing so is dangerous to our nation, dangerous to "the people," and quite threatening to our way of life.

8. "Serves the interests of "men and women [and] children": No, marriage as it exists right now, in most states and on a federal level, DOES NOT serve the interests of all men, women, and children. Same-sex couples and their families are unfairly burdened by a civil marriage system that fails to protect and benefit all, equally. Pointing out the good of marriage is one thing. Pointing out said good while also working to deny it to some? Well that's just plain cruel!

Let's move on:

201108300753

1. "Redefine marriage or eliminate it altogether": In terms of "redefinition," see footnote one in the above section.

As for the charge of "elimination": Is that really what MN For Marriage thinks, that we equality activists are pausing our lives to fight this battle that was waged against us just so we can subvert and ultimately destroy the institution for which we are fighting? Seriously, what would be the point of that? What benefit would that bring us? Why would we fight so hard to achieve a goal, only to then say, "Ha, fooled you! We actually don't really want marriage! That whole last decade was just so we'd have an extracurricular activity!"

The truth: We are seeking to eliminate unfairness. To eliminate inequality. To eliminate heterosexism. To eliminate crap treatment. We are not fighting to eliminate marriage as we know it.

2. "Genderless institution": This charge always confounds me, considering that gender is the very thing that makes anyone's sexual orientation at all pertinent. What equality activists are seeking is a bias-less institution that doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender. Neutral does not equal genderless.

3. "for the benefit of adults -- not children": Equal marriage benefits everyone, young and old. From the same-sex couples who have children to the children who are LGBT (and everyone in between), a fair and just system provides a pathway that tells every couple, every family, every person that one's truth need not limit one's life.

4. How the "protect marriage" crowd will be treated under the law is not the sort of thing that is under any one person or group's power. History will define this fight based on the facts at hand, just as history has done with every other socio-political conversation to come before.

5. "religious groups…have lost their state tax exemption": This is in reference to the Ocean Grove, NJ, situation, and it is one of the "protect marriage" crowd's biggest whoppers. The truth: The Methodist church pavilion in question was receiving a *special* tax break under New Jersey's Green Acres tax-exemption -- a program which requires compliance with state non-discrimination laws in order to qualify. The pavilion agreed to this non-discrimination qualification upon signing up for the special break. So what the pavilion "lost" was a distinctive tax break on a public accommodation that they wanted to restrict to only the heterosexual public. This could've happened if they had denied gays and lesbians (or any minority) from holding any sort of ceremony, not just a civil union commitment! The Methodist organization that runs the pavilion didn't lose regular tax-exempt status on an actual church: They lost it on a piece of property that required this kind of accommodating access, under NJ state law, in order to get what was undeniably a *special right.*

6. No one has forced Catholic Charities to do *anything." The decision to shutter services rather than equally accommodate is a decision that Catholic Charities in certain jurisdictions have made on their own volition (and in conflict with many of their parishioners and staff members own wishes). This choice is on them, not us.

7. In the time since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, an entire generation of children have passed through the state's elementary schools. We're literally talking about hundreds of thousands of kids. Don't you think if there really was this big, bad, problematic bogeyman, that more than two sets of protesting parents (The Parkers and the Wirthlins) would've fallen out of the woodwork by now? I do.

8. "Wedding professionals…harassed": An easy thing to say, a tough thing to prove when it comes down to it. When it comes to wedding professionals (photogs, caterers, DJs, etc.), the issue, as in most instances, is not really same-sex marriage but non-discrimination. In fact, in many states where the "protect marriage" crowd has tried to work these claims, marriage equality is not even a civil reality. The issue arises whenever a business that contracts with members of the public decides that they won't perform their usual duties for a LGBT person or same-sex couple, citing sexual orientation or gender identity as the reason for the holdout. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a legal wedding, a non-binding ceremony, a family portrait independent of a union, or just an everyday matter of LGBT-initiated commerce. The burdens of doing business in a fair and just society will be in place regardless of legal marriage. It's just that when legal marriage becomes a state conversation, the "protect marriage" crowd chooses to turn this matter of business non-discrimination into a marriage talking point. Like most of these talking points, this one is disingenuous, at best.

9. "Licensed professionals risk their state licensure": Again, the issue is non-discrimination, not marriage. State licensing boards of just about any profession have certain qualifications. Qualifications pertaining to LGBT non-discrimination must be met, regardless of whether or not the state has legal marriage. If certain practitioners have problems with those qualifications, then they must challenge the non-discrimination policies within their professions. But this fight is really not about marriage and its civil recognition. Because let's get real: Does a counselor who refuses to offer therapy to a committed gay couple really care if said couple is bound together in law? No, of course not! This same theoretical therapist would have the same objections about a committed couple bound only by love. Those objections will need be dealt with by both the professional and his or her larger professional body, regardless of whether Minnesota does the right or wrong thing in regards to civil marriage law.

10. "Legal equivalent of bigots": All people must comply with laws. Those who wish to flout laws pertaining to LGBT equality (real or theoretical) will be labeled in the numerous and varied ways afforded by the trends of society at a given time. As of now, many folks would hand those object to LGBT peace and equality a "right on!" medal of heroism. Some would view them in a much less favorable light. But those different labels and outlooks are not what is up for debate here. What we are talking about is civil law, a nation and state's governing documents, a public that does quite tangibly include LGBT people, and the way we reconcile all that so that it serves the interest of a fair and free nation. How the sociology will ultimately play out is anyone's guess. As mentioned above: The longview will be determined by history, based on the facts at hand. Our job in this equality fight is to ensure compliance with what is right and fair under the constitution. We on the pro-equality side are doing that, despite the arrows and/or the accolades. Those who wish to deny us must also focus on the actual, concrete issues rather than the abstract view whose ultimate prevalence they fear.

11. The supposed shift of marriage from the interests on "children and society as a whole" and onto "the desires of adults in a same-sex relationship" exists only with the heads of those who'd deny marriage to same-sex couples. A few truths here: (a) Marriage is not neatly defined even now in the way that social conservative claim it is; (b) children are not a marital requirement for anyone nor is marriage a requirement for those who do have children; (c ) many same-sex couple do have children independent of whether or not they get the marriage contract; (d) equal marriage does not stop heterosexual couples from following whatever marital and family path they personally see best; and (e) if the current interest truly is protecting "society as a whole," then we must protect the whole of society, including those who happen to be LGBT!

MN For Marriage is only out to protect that limited society that its guiders (National Organization For Marriage, Minnesota Catholic Conference, Minnesota Family Council) deem proper. That is wrong.

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