A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 18, 2009

The March of States Towards Gay Marriage

A thoughtful and sane analyis, written by Froma Harrop, of current trends of states legalizing (or normalizing) marriage between gay partners appeared in the Providence Journal.

In this article she posted many of the changes which have occured recently. 

She reported:  “The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, providing a toehold in the heartland. And the Vermont Legislature legalized gay marriage, marking the first time that elected lawmakers, rather than state judges, initiated such change.”

This latter development is important and it is well that Harrop notes this.  While one may agree or disagree regarding gay marriage, the legislature making the move, rather than judges making a decision is an important step in this process.  Legislators are elected and can be held accountable.  The move towards democratization of the process is a positive step as the representatives of the people are in fact, doing their job.

She later wrote:
“There’s much to be said for letting states settle the question of gay marriage, one step and one jurisdiction at a time. This pragmatic approach does not always sit well with gay rights activists. They consider marriage a basic human right that should not be honored in one place and abridged in another.”

This is also true.  There is a deep divide whether marriage is a right, and one that the need for licensure seems to give weight that it is not an inherent right.  While one has a right say to free speech, they would have to obtain a license to exercise that free speech in certain conditions.  The same is true for heterosexual couples as for homosexual couples.  The states have statutory authority to restrict or grant licenses, and the people have a right via the legislature to express their voice.  Granting the rights of legal status are not analogous of limiting exercise of property rights, visitation rights, and expansion of benefits of employment, public housing and services etc. to homosexual couples.  Many gay activists understandably wish for the process to be expedited, but this is not in their long term interests.  Roe v Wade is still not accepted by large parts of the nation, and as Harrop reports, is still looked on unfavorably from a Constitutional vantage point by many “Pro-Choice” legal experts.   In the end states will make this decision, and for all parties this is the best remedy.  States are closer to the people and in that view are more democratic than federal interventions. 

Harrop also reports on the changing of cultural norms:

In a poll done shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the ban on same-sex marriages, over half those residents surveyed said they wanted a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between one man and one woman. But a poll taken three years later found that 56 percent of the Massachusetts respondents would oppose such an amendment.

What happened in Massachusetts? Gay marriage had become legal, and the sky hadn’t fallen in.  People got used to the idea.

The strongest ally for homosexual partners who wish to become legally married is the changing of cultural perspectives on the norms of human relationships and sexuality.  Harrop does not report about another factor that leads to shifts in cultural norms and mores, the role of the media.  Right or wrong the media has framed homosexual relationships in positive light or at the very least in neutral lights.  This along with homosexuals become more visible and vocal in society has lead to the formation of new cultural perspectives regarding this aspect of human sexuality.  Younger people are more attuned to viewing homosexuality as an alternate form of human sexuality and not an aberrant or discrepant form of sexual expression.  The media has played a large part in this normalization process, and an occlusion of the old paradigm has coalesced with the formation of a newer paradigm. 

There is also the perception among many that this issue is a human rights issue.  Once that perception becomes the reality, in a democracy the outcome is inevitably going to side with the group that is seeking a rise in their status to acceptance.  This is not inherently a bad thing; while for some it may be emotionally painful.  It is merely the reshaping of the norms of a society and has happened throughout history.  Of course many will reply that homosexuality is the bane of a powerful culture and a sure sign its demise is imminent.  That is a ludicrous proposition based on emotion and not fact.  Homosexuality was practiced by segments of society that were rather formidable in history.  Cultures decline for other reasons, usually economic and military, apart from the practices of people regarding their sexual choices.

Harrop correctly concludes that the “straight path” to change is often not as beneficial as the slow steady road that this issue seems to be taking in American society.

May 11, 2007

Cuba: Michael Moore a Victim of Censorship

From the Seattle Times

HAVANA — Cuba characterized American filmmaker Michael Moore as a victim of censorship and the U.S. trade embargo as it reported Friday on a U.S. Treasury Department probe of his March visit here for his upcoming health-care documentary, “Sicko.”

Now that is an endorsement that only someone who is a bit out of the mainstream could take pride in. Ahh, Michael, Michael, Michael, one can only hope that this gets much more exposure. If Karl Rove were giving you advice this couldn’t have been planned better for the RNC.

“Any resemblance to McCarthyism is no coincidence,” the newspaper opined, referring to the political witch hunt that U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy carried out against suspected American communists in the 1950s.

The U.S. government’s targeting of Moore “confirms the imperial philosophy of censorship” by American officials, it added.

“I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me – I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help,” Moore wrote in the letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. “But until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide.

We shall see, hopefully there is a long trial so you and your friends of the fringe can get LOTS of press coverage, because I honestly feel the best chance for the GOP is for you, who represent the DNC base is to speak. Loudly, clearly, and frequently.

Rudy in Texas: “I support a woman’s right to choose”

From Newsday.com

HOUSTON — After a week of criticism over his ambiguous views on abortion, Republican presidential contender Rudolph Giuliani Friday directly addressed his views on abortion, gay rights and gun control, and forthrightly supported a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Okay, are you all ready for the drum roll? Are any surprises about to come forth?

Giuliani, a New York Catholic who once considered becoming a priest, chose to make his stand before a conservative, anti-abortion audience at Houston Baptist University here, in an address that was arranged just last Wednesday.

Giuliani told the audience that the two most important issues in the presidential campaign were fighting terrorism and preserving the tax cuts, deregulation and privatization of the economy, and that the social issues were secondary.

Amen, though I guess my Evangelical upbringing is coming forth, as that is not typical interaction with Catholics, then again, he was speaking to Baptists, so perhaps I am covered.

He also downplayed his differences with conservatives on gay rights — saying marriage should be only between a man and a woman — and guns — saying the Constitution protects an individual’s right to having a gun.

But I want a bazooka! I NEED a gun capable of throwing 600 rds/minute downrange for “personal security”. Sheesh, I hope that this quiets up two of the nervous Nellies of the right of the GOP.

But he acknowledged many conservatives might disagree with his stand on abortion, which he described as supporting a woman’s right to have one, but also allows restrictions such as the late-term abortion ban upheld by the high court recently and restrictions on federal funding of abortions.

Don’t worry, because most Conservatives these days can’t even agree on what a Conservative is anymore. The
current ilk of Conservatives wouldn’t like Barry Goldwater’s (AKA the Founder of Modern Conservativism) views.

Seeking to clearly define his views on abortion after blurring them a week ago in a Republican debate, Giuliani described what he called “two pillars” of core belief.

“One, I believe abortion is wrong,” he said, adding he would counsel a pregnant woman to keep the child and put him or her up for adoption rather than abort.

And secondly, he said abortion supporters, especially women, are “equally moral, equally decent, and equally religious” and fervent in their beliefs as abortion foes, yet have come to a different conclusion.

“So therefore,” Giuliani said, “I would grant to women the right to make that choice.”

But he also stressed that he, like most thinking people, also had an evolving view of abortion, and proceeded to lay out a more nuanced position.

What heresy! You mean you dare to be conflicted about a moral issue and government’s involvement in a moral issue. Why, we “want” government snooping into ALL areas of our private life and choices, isn’t that what “Conservativism” is all about?!?! Furthermore, the heresy that YOUR beliefs shouldn’t always be translated into Federal law, why Mr. Giuliani, don’t you support the idea of ruling by caveat and the fiat of your will (to borrow a quote from John Calvin about – GOD). That people could actually see “shades of grey” in an ethical decision, why that’s just plain out too reasonable!

His belief in those two principles will guide his decision-making on abortion, he said.

“It means I am open to considering ways to limit abortion,” he said. “It means I’m open to seeking ways to reduce the number of abortions.

Afterward, some members of the audience conceded they admired his principled stand, even if they disagreed with it.

Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University, afterward agreed that Giuliani’s appearance was a little bit like entering the lion’s den, both because he is Catholic and because of his views on social issues.

The last quote highlighted says it all, it’s called principaled LEADERSHIP. Now, I happen to share similar views to Mr. Giuliani, although they also have shifted, as once I was rabidly anti-abortion. While I still don’t like the practice, I realize that my likes and dislikes often are not best translated into national policy. I am more likely than ever to vote for Mr. Giuliani because of his reasonable position on a complex issue, and the guts he has to speak out about it.

That he is likely the only GOP contender who can win nationally, is just a bonus.

May 5, 2007

A Most Unusual Caucas of Christians Marches In

From the Baltimore Sun

This most unusual Christian coalition is between Evangelicals, fundamentalists, and many African American clergyman. Though there is often a wide gap between them, this and in some instances NCLB and/or vouchers really do make “The Saints Come Marching In!”

Proponents say the bill – similar to one the Senate is expected to pass in the next few weeks – is a moral imperative. But some Christians are depicting it as a “thought crimes” bill attacking 1st Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. A coalition of evangelical, fundamentalist and black religious leaders is mounting a furious assault on the bill, airing television ads and mobilizing members to stop its progress. President Bush has said he might veto the measure.

This is a tough one to call as it has equally compelling arguements for its passage and its rejection. I’m already using my legal eye on this bill, because I can’t see this one not eventually becoming a tune for the Supremes to sing. The level of support would make a veto interesting as this is a bill does cut across party lines, and enjoys broader support than the recent, and only second veto of the Bush Administration. Is this bill worth the political exchange of coin, must be on the President’s mind.

“This legislation strikes at the heart of free speech and freedom of religious expression,” said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition. “Statements critical of sexual orientation or gender identity can be prosecuted if those statements were part of the motivation of a person committing a crime against a homosexual or cross-dresser.”

The bill’s supporters say that such an assertion is nonsense, and that a sermon could never be considered an inducement to violence unless it explicitly advocated it.

While to a reasonable mind, it is hard to imagine that any sermon would advocate hurting a person based on sexual preference, or any other factor, one must remember that there are many voices of hate using the guise of religion to score points. This is in no way to state that anywhere near a majority or plurality of the members of this crusade are of such view, but having been raised within the Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Charasmatic culture, I have heard a few interesting things in my time. I also have little faith in the statement made by proponents that they would go after free speech. Someone stating a position such as “homosexuals are condemned to hell” could be construed in the minds of some prosecuting a case, as a an intent to give spiritual license to promote giving such people a head start to that destination. As little as I trust the capacity of people to arrive to false conclusions based upon what “they heard”, I hold an equally distrustful view of giving the state license to link criminal intent to words of one party to actions of another party. I have great faith in the creativity of lawyers to create crime and intent, particularly prosecutors, as it is in their interest to do so.

Hoyer, House majority leader, said before the vote that the bill was necessary “because brutal hate crimes motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and identity or disability not only injure individual victims, but also terrorize entire segments of our population and tear at our nation’s social fabric.”

Again, one must look at some of the crimes being committed, and happily the number of crimes such as those brought horrifically upon Matthew Sheppard and other victims, may not qualify as “entire segments” of the population, as asserted by Rep. Hoyer.

Opponents argue that the bill is un-American, in that it effectively creates a two-tiered justice system. In defining only certain groups as legal victims of hate, many argued, the law’s supporters were leaving out other categories of people deserving of protection, such as members of the military, pregnant women and the elderly. An amendment to add these groups to the hate crimes law failed in the House shortly before the bill’s passage.

Onemust wonder why these groups are excluded. Wouldn’t rape if a man said, I’d like to have a piece of that, or the attacking of American servicemen, after calling them slurs or spitting upon them, which has happened, in the former far too frequently, and in the latter, at a shockinginly rising rate, qualify as hatred based upon another factor?

“All violent crime is tied to hate in some way,”said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, another conservative group opposing the measure. “The Virginia Tech shooter said in his diatribe that he hated rich kids. Well, rich kids aren’t protected in this hate crime bill. If we’re going to start choosing categories of people for additional penalties when they’re victimized, where does the list end?”

This assertion, perhaps the best summation of the case against this law, and a case will come if it is signed into Federal law.

All violent crime should be punished harshly. The aspect of retribution is an inherent part of any legal system dating back to Hamurabbi. The right of the state to mete out punishment to show its collective ire at those who would dispense harm or other felonious acts towards “any” member of society must be restated. In a perfect world, Federal assets would be applied to all victims of violent felonies.

However, that doesn’t mean this legislation is not without merit, or unreasonable. If signed, and I don’t forsee doomsday for Free Speech if it does, I do see a very long and possibly negative Judicial Review forthcoming. Those Supremes tend to take the First Amendment pretty seriously, and if you remember your history, the Founding Fathers didn’t mind to let the fur fly, at least with regards to speech.

May 4, 2007

Pro Life, Pro Choice: Symbol Over Substance

One of the more controversial instances in a rather ho hum “debate”, which was really trying to squeeze talking points between questions that sometimes lacked great meaning, may have been former NYC Mayor and front runner, Rudy Giuliani hedging a pro-choice political position in a very pro-life atmosphere. Did the former mayor handle the matter deftly, the consensus seems to be probably not, but was his answer the wrong answer is another issue entirely.

The GOP has made it a point to put a pro-life face on the party since Ronald Reagan’s stance in 1976. This was used to contrast against GOP apparatus candidate the then unelected, President Ford. Reagan’s bold campaign, which did benefit slightly from the pro-life movement’s involvement in his campaign. By 1980, the pro-life movement was a force in the GOP and played a role in Ronald Reagan, who had governed California with policies which were anything but “pro-life”, but publicly stated the lingo that the movement wanted to hear, and propelled the issue to prominence within the party. Pitted against this, oh Lord forgive me for invoking this with the name of Reagan with this term, flip-flop, George Bush who was not as ardently pro-life, but had never cast a pro-abortion rights vote or signed pro-abortion rights legislation, was seen as “soft” on the issue, simply because he didn’t run it up a flagpole, and inferred there was room for reasonable disagreement.

Now while I don’t doubt that President Reagan may indeed have had a turning moment in his life, and I would argue that Mit Romney deserves the same benefit of the doubt, the actual impact of his support of the pro-life agenda – and that is not inherently a perjurative, since “everyone” has an agenda – was little of substance and a lot on symbol. You have to hand it to President Reagan, he knew how to get mileage on an issue, and nobody expected him to come out of California, home of the most progressive abortion rights laws, many signed by him, and overturn Roe v Wade. Talking the talk was enough, and has remained so for the past 27 years. This is not to say that the sincerity of GOP candidate’s opposition to abortion on demand is disingenuous, it is to say that despite their sincerity and placing it as a bona fides to be a “true Republican”, very little has been accomplished towards ending this practice despite it being a rallying cry for the political party that has held the executive office for nearly 20 of the past 28 years, and has had control of Congress for approximately 12 of those years. Simply put, there appears to be a lack of political will to push the symbol into substance.

One can look to the steps that have been made towards restricting or to at least stemming the tide of abortions taking place, although they still run about one million or more a year. Although the raw numbers are going up, the percentage rates seem to be decreasing, partly because of shifts in public sentiment towards unwed mothers raising children. However, abortion remains a relatively common practice in the nation, and despite gains such as the Hyde Amendment – which is very good legislation from the pro-life vantage point, and the recent SCOTUS affirming of a ban on partial birth abortions, which is the epitome of symbol over substance when one considers the miniscule numbers of abortions performed in this admittedly disturbing manner, and even the wrapping of nine of the GOP candidates firmly in the mantle of symbolicly being pro-life there is little to hope that much substance will be reaped from this act.

Which leads us to Roe v Wade, or the decision that fires the hearts of the pro-life movement much in the same way that the number 666 makes a old fashioned tent revival preacher tone up the occilation in his voice with the mandatory appearance of veins bulging from the neck. The real point is that Roe v Wade is symbol, and not really much in substance. If the decision is overturned, and the best path for the pro-life advocates is via the judiciary making decisions pushed forward by state legislatures which will take away the reach of the law, there is no reason to believe that abortion will be outlawed in the vast majority of states, nor that the number of abortions performed in the nation will go down in a drastic manner. Just as Roe v Wade served as a symbol for the women’s movement, rather than giving much substantive relief, as abortion was readily available in most areas, its overturning will be a symbol without much substance. If this issue were cereal, it would have snap and crackle, but lack pop.

So what is the big deal about having the pro-life mantle and wearing it proudly? What is so heretical about saying, as Rudy Giuliani did last night, that this is a highly personal decision that is ultimately up to the woman? If a woman wants to end a pregnancy, she will do so. Should the state make it easy by funding her desire, well the law says no, however, should the state governments “put obstacles” in the path in the exercise of this decision, would be fully in line with Federalism. However, the role of the Federal government advancing or putting up obstacles remains the area that will likely be debated. Perhaps this is just the instance the the 9th Amendment was framed, let the states fight it out, and keep it out of the pervue of the Feds. Although it is the “dream of dreams” that abortion will be nationally outlawed by the of the pro-life movement, and conversely the “sum of all fears” of the pro-abortion rights crowd, both sides need to face reality, that like it or not, abortion is a reality and an option that whether Federally deemed as woman’s right, or given protection by the states, is likely to remain among us. It would also be the reciprocal of a bad decision that allowed Roe v Wade, and if you understand math reciprocals have the exact qualities of their counterpart. It would likely be just as bad from a Constitutional framework as the 1973 decision.

A reasonable position is that probably both poles don’t have a monopoly on the truth. To assert this position as a human right, although it is the law, is hard to imagine to be the intent of the framers of the Constitution, but rest assured, women were having abortions, lots of them in colonial days. They just didn’t get Federal funds for it, nor have Congress stopping production of whatever plant women used in a “tea” to end an unwanted child, and this disinterest is likely the best position. Funny how the middle of the road, although hated by the poles, is where the vast majority of the public, and in this case,  Constitutional ground.

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