Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Letter to the Editor from the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council on the Need for Vigilance to Guard Against Anti-Semitism and Hatred

This morning, The Indianapolis Star printed a letter to the editor written by Greg Maurer (co-chair of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Committee), Lindsey Mintz (Executive Director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council), and me (in my capacity as past-president of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council). I’m reprinting it here (in case it should, at some point, be taken offline or wind up behind a paywall):

As Jewish families sat down to their Passover Seder this week to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, our hearts once again were heavy with the sadness of yet another senseless act of violence. As Jewish communities around the world celebrate our freedom from slavery, we know too well that we are still not free from the hatred and violence that require our constant vigilance.

Sunday’s shooting outside two Jewish communal institutions in Overland Park, Kan., by a white supremacist with a long history of promoting violence against Jews has demonstrated once again that anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past, and its putrid effects extend beyond the Jewish community.

Intolerance, hatred and violent acts against Jews are significant realities today. The Jewish community, like other minority communities, remains a target for the disaffected and for those to whom conspiracy theories have the ring of truth; but as we bear witness to this violence, we must recognize that it becomes incumbent upon all of us to help make sure that hatred is not allowed to take hold or force us to live in fear.

On the evening of April 27, we will mark the beginning of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Indianapolis, the Jewish community organizes several ways for people to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and many millions of non-Jews who perished through a week of remembrance programming, including the State of Indiana’s 16th Annual Observance & Names Reading Ceremony April 30 in the Statehouse Rotunda.

But simply remembering the Holocaust is not enough. Although the mandate of “never again” has proven difficult to realize, the lessons of the Holocaust are more urgent than ever. The dangers of prejudice and racism, the consequences of indifference and silence, and the need to protect the vulnerable should command us to action.

We need to work together — all of us — to be sure that the hatred that fueled the Holocaust, the hatred that fuels genocides around the world, and the hatred that fueled the murders at two Jewish facilities in Kansas has no home here or anywhere.

When our children are young, we can help prevent the development of prejudice from taking root by seeking out books, programs and teachers that promote respect for diversity, address bias and encourage social action. As our children grow up, we need to maintain open lines of communication that will help us identify if — and when — our kids are grappling with bullying or cyber-bullying in school. And every day we can model behavior worth emulating: when you see intolerance or hatred directed toward anyone, make your voice for peace and respect echo loudly over the voices of hatred and the silence of indifference.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.”

This year during Passover, the bitter memory of Egyptian slavery will mix with the bitterness of Sunday’s act of terror, hatred and anti-Semitism. As the Indianapolis Jewish community stands in solidarity with the families of the victims, and the entire Kansas City community, we will pray for the redemption of all humankind, as we do each Passover season.

One of the best parts of being involved with an organization like the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (of which I served as president from 2008-2010) is the opportunity to collaborate with other (usually) like-minded people to address important issues. This letter is a perfect example of just such a collaboration. I’m pleased that I was able to lend my voice and name to this letter and I’m thankful for the input of Greg Maurer, Lindsey Mintz, and others in the drafting process.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sen. Mike Delph Lashes Out … Again

Earlier this year, when the Marriage Discrimination Amendment (HJR-3) passed the Indiana Senate but without the controversial second sentence (prohibiting things substantially similar to marriage), Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel), took to Twitter to unleash a hours’ long, overnight rant. A few weeks later, he was at it again. In his tweets, Sen. Delph not only showed a profound misunderstanding of how the Federal judicial system works (going so far, if I recall, as to argue that Federal Courts don’t have the power to find laws to be unconstitutional) but he also attacked a number of local journalists (by name), a prominent local businessman and philanthropist, and several prominent local churches (who, apparently, weren’t acting Christian enough for Sen. Delph).

Now that the legislative session has ended and the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage and the Marriage Discrimination Amendment has subsided (at least for the moment), Sen. Delph has apparently decided that the time was ripe to dive back into the subject matter by penning an accusatory and error-riddled screed that was published in yesterday’s issue of The Indianapolis Star. I’m going to reprint Sen. Delph’s column in its entirety below in order to respond to some of the claims that he makes. But go ahead and click on the link so that The Indianapolis Star gets the benefit of traffic to their website.

Opponents of Christian values don’t fight fair

With the flurry of federal litigation regarding Indiana’s marriage statute, a law that has been on the books since 1986, it appears that our Hoosier society is on the verge of walking through a door never negotiated. Homosexuality is probably the most discussed sin in a sea of hundreds. This Christian certainly stands in the front of the line of those in need of mercy and grace. But what the litigation suggests is indeed profound in terms of how our society orients itself and more important governs itself.

“Homosexuality is the most discussed sin”? Really? Not, oh, I don’t know, murder? Theft? Adultery? In my house, it’s probably shrimp. Or haircuts. And, before I go any further, it’s worth noting that we’re only, it appears, talking about sin as defined by certain religious traditions. Oh, and we’re talking “sin” as opposed to “law”.

You see principles of self-government were always predicated on a strong moral foundation usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Back then, it’s hard to imagine these rights included gay marriage or civil unions. Especially when the Creator referenced is the same Creator from the Bible, the same Bible that references homosexuality as “an abomination in the sight of God.”

I agree that it is difficult to imagine that Thomas Jefferson thought of gay marriage as one of the rights that he was addressing in the Declaration of Independence. Then again, it’s also hard to imagine that Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, meant “all men” and not just “white men”. And clearly, when Jefferson wrote “all men” he meant men and not women (who, of course, didn’t get the right to vote until 1920). Or think of it this way: The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 1967 that a state could not ban interracial marriage came from a lawsuit in which the defendant was Thomas Jefferson’s very own Commonwealth of Virginia. So, I wonder whether Jefferson’s view of the right to the “pursuit of happiness” was meant to exclude just gay couples, or gay and interracial couples. I guess that his list of people who were exempted from the right to the pursuit of happiness got edited out of the final draft. On the other hand, if we believe that Jefferson was making a broad, hopeful statement about equality and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, then it’s hard to understand how he would have objected to treating two people, who want nothing more than to share their love and happiness with one another as being equal to “all men”.

Sen. Delph also makes the claim that the “Creator” referenced by Jefferson “is the same Creator from the Bible”. Maybe. Or maybe not. Historians and theologians are quite divided on this subject. I don’t want to go too far astray here, but Jefferson, like many of the Founding Fathers, was a deist who rejected the notion of a deity with direct influence over the affairs of man. And Jefferson, in particular, rejected all supernatural elements of the Bible (going so far as to edit his Bible to remove all supernatural elements!). Thus, it is no coincidence that the Declaration of Independence refers to a “Creator” and to “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” but never directly references G-d or Jesus or even Judeo-Christian principles. However, in their zeal to convince others that America is, indeed, a “Christian Nation”, people like Sen. Delph have tried to co-opt the Declaration and the Founding Fathers for their purpose. (For more on this subject, I recommend both Liars for Jesus and Alan Dershowitz’s Blasphemy: How the Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence.)

One other thing worth noting here: Sen. Delph talks about self-government being “predicated on a strong moral foundation usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible.” Um, no. Not really. Our self-government and laws have very little to do with the Bible, notwithstanding the efforts of folks like Sen. Delph and other members of the religious right and Christian nationalist movement. When Sen. Delph went on his first Twitter rant, he seriously claimed that our legal system was based on the Ten Commandments:

Our penal code comes in part from the 10 Commandments. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not murder….

To which I replied:

Oh, so that explains why we prohibit other religions and other gods, right?

Sen. Delph didn’t understand the snark that I was throwing his way:

Not sure where you got that from but whatever

So I tried to help him understand:

You said penal code was based on 10 Commandments. In fact, that’s false. Penal code has some …

… similarity to many civilizations’ laws. But our penal code omits many elements of 10 Commandments…

… because of their religious elements. Our penal code has as much to do with the Code of …

… Hammurabi as the 10 Commandments.

Sen. Delph then pointed, once again, to the two Commandments that are a part of our penal code:

Thou Shall Not Steal, Thou Shall Not Murder….penal code is heavily infl. by the OT.

In response to Sen. Delph’s tweet about the influence of the Old Testament on our penal code, I tweeted:

Penal code outlaws shrimp, mixed fabrics, haircuts, and other religions?

Penal code permits slavery, stoning, and so forth? Do we punish those who don’t tithe? Do we …

… prohibit women from speaking in churches? No. Our penal code has very little do with the Bible.

And then others on Twitter started having some fun, too (reformatted for readability):

  • Kyle Thompson: So stealing and murder are legal in countries without a Christian majority population?
  • Juli: Prohibitions for theft/murder transcend Christianity & even humanity. Laws not from OT.
  • Dr. Merkwürdigliebe: I take you have never studied non-Christian cultures and history.
  • nathanframpton: those laws wouldn’t exist outside the OT??? Common sense laws.
  • Steph Mineart: But the OT cribbed heavily from earlier Hindu ten commandments theft, murder, most of ten commandments were laws before OT existed
  • talmun: Right. Steal and murder. What else you got? Is it illegal to covet? or say “Goddamn”?
  • Brian Stovall: Or perhaps it’s based on common sense/humanitarianism. Christians didn’t invent kindness.
  • Andrew Blejde: THEOCRACY- like Iran. Let’s gooooooo.
  • Doug Masson: Treaty of Tripoli ratified by an early Senate states US wasn’t founded on the Christian religion.
  • Eric Fudd: Yeah, no society ever came up with forbidding theft and murder before the 10 Commandments. What? You mean we can eat shellfish and don’t have to stone disobedient children? Rats. Which 10 Commandments? The one forbidding cooking kids in mothers milk?
  • Jackola: those are basic human ethics practiced by all religions&ppl. Don’t claim so much credit.

I responded:

Better question is whether it’s the version that prohibits graven images, like a man on a crucifix.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Delph didn’t respond (at least not directly) to this thread or reply to any of the further queries and criticisms of his claim. (That was actually par for the course during his Twitter rants; he’d make an unsupported claim or allegation and, when challenged with facts or by someone who knew what they were talking about, he’d either ignore that particular conversation thread or just block the person who was getting the better of him.)

Anyway, I hope you see my point regarding Sen. Delph’s claim that our “strong moral foundation” is “usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible”. And I hope you recognize how offensive that claim is to those who come from different religious or faith backgrounds (or none) because, in essence, Sen. Delph is implicitly suggesting those who don’t have a value system anchored in the Bible don’t have a strong moral foundation. So take note, Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, Mormons, and everyone else who isn’t a Christian or Jew: It appears that Sen. Delph is questioning your “strong moral foundation”. I’d also note that America was really the first modern nation without a state church to tell us what’s wrong and what’s right. And we seem to have done OK.

Rights come from God and are inalienable, meaning they cannot be taken away by man, or more important, by government. Governments are instituted among men to protect those rights. Not even courts have the power to create or remove rights. So how can a right exist that does not come from our Creator and what modern rights do we honestly believe are divinely inspired as opposed to invented and imposed by a left-wing orthodoxy?

No, Sen. Delph, rights don’t come from G-d (or at least not all rights). Even Jefferson only said that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (emphasis added). Thus, for example, I don’t see any reference to the right to bear assault rifles but I do note that marriage is pretty close to that core principle of happiness (at least I hope it is!). Moreover, the Declaration may have made that point about rights being inalienable but the Declaration of Independence is not a governing document of the United States. For that we have to look to the Constitution which, guess what, sets out rights (and limits others). Thus, for example, while the Bible may have condoned slavery, the Constitution specifically took away the right to own slaves. And how are rights added and subtracted from the Constitution? By the governed, who have the right to amend the Constitution. Also, don’t forget all of the other sorts of ways in which men and government do take away rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, on a daily basis. We imprison — and sometimes execute — felons. We tax people. We prohibit them from doing all sorts of things that might be seen to be infringements of their liberty or pursuit of happiness (why can’t you take a gun on an airplane, have sex with your neighbor’s toddler, stone your disobedient child, or light up a marijuana cigarette?).

Sen. Delph also regurgitates a common right-wing talking point that demonstrates his fundamental misunderstanding of how our system works: “Not even courts have the power to create or remove rights.” You see, those on the right complain when courts (especially Federal courts) “create” new rights. But that isn’t what courts are doing at all; rather, courts are examining the Constitution and our other laws and determining whether something is included within an articulated right. Thus, when the Supreme Court decided that states couldn’t ban interracial marriage, the Supreme Court wasn’t creating a new right for blacks and whites to marry one another, but was simply articulating that the right to a choice in marriage was already a right guaranteed by the Constitution. And that is the core argument being made by those challenging statutes banning same-sex marriage. They’re not looking for a new right; rather, they’re asking for courts to recognize that marriage equality is already a right guaranteed by the Constitution and that existing right is being violated.

Sen. Delph asks “how can a right exist that does not come from our Creator”? Hmm. I’d suggest that slavery fits into this pretty well. We have a right to be free from slavery even though G-d gave specific instructions on who could be enslaved and how to care for a slave. Reading the Bible seems to suggest that G-d gave some people the right to own slaves and the right to take and enslave others in certain situations. So which is it? The right to own slaves or the right to be free of slavery? Or let’s take something closer to our political system: Voting. Remind me where G-d talks about the right to vote. I must have missed that chapter (you know, with all of the kings letting their subjects vote on the proper way to venerate G-d…; what? that chapter was deleted?). And it took about 75 years for non-whites to get the right to vote, another 55 years before women got the right to vote, and still 50 more years before suffrage was extended to 18 year olds. Did those rights come from the Creator or from our system of government? For that matter, are democracies and republics inherently Judeo-Christian formulations or are they, in fact, counter the historical “truths” of both Judaism and Christianity?

Finally, Sen. Delph asks “what modern rights do we honestly believe are divinely inspired as opposed to invented and imposed by a left-wing orthodoxy”. I’m not sure what he means by “left-wing orthodoxy” other than using that as a simple term to embody all of those with whom he disagrees (which, given how far to the right he’s tacked on many issues, would seem to include a huge swath of Hoosiers). As to the first part of his question, I disagree with the basic premise. “Divinely inspired”? Where does that notion even come from. Even if we assume that there is a “Creator” who has endowed “all men” with “certain inalienable rights”, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other rights that weren’t similarly “endowed,” that don’t come from the mere fact of human existence, or that don’t flow from the consent of the people. For example, women have a right to be treated equally in terms of the financial benefits made available by colleges and universities for athletic programs (Title IX). I don’t think that was “divinely inspired”. Nor do I think that there was any divine inspiration in the notion that those with disabilities should have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. What about the “right” to quality, affordable healthcare? Is that “divinely inspired” (and if so, why do Republicans oppose it so strongly…)? And it certainly isn’t “divinely inspired” to suggest that people have a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when the Bible specifically calls for an “eye for an eye”. And perhaps someone can explain how the G-d of the Bible has “divinely inspired” the right of people who worship another deity or no deity at all to do so freely and without the sort of divinely inspired punishments described throughout the Bible. I mean, the beginning of the Ten Commandments is all about not worshipping other gods yet here in America were give all people the right to the free exercise of their religion!

Probably the biggest mess of all was when the government started involving itself in marriage. Tax benefits, estate planning benefits, societal legitimacy are all things traditional marriage brings participants. Even so the stability of society from traditional two parent families has served our state and nation well for years. This is what we are walking away from in our unquenchable thirst for political correctness and false tolerance.

Here we go again. “This is what we are walking away from in our unquenchable thirst for political correctness and false tolerance”. Wow. Just … wow. No, Sen. Delph. Nobody is asking you to walk away from traditional marriage. You don’t have to divorce your wife and find a drag queen to marry (though one has to wonder after his Twitter rant and this column whether … no … sorry … not going there; no reason to get personal, as tempting as the joke was). Yes, traditional marriage brings benefits. To some. And those benefits aren’t going away! But why shouldn’t others be entitled to similar benefits (you know, the pursuit of happiness and whatnot)? But we do have families that don’t look like traditional marriages. Are those families lacking in “social legitimacy”? Really? Is society really less stable because not all families look like the Cleaver family? Perhaps Sen. Delph should spend more time worrying about the growing number of Americans who aren’t getting married or who are divorcing and stop worrying so much about people who want to get married.

Sen. Delph also forgets that governments started getting involved in marriage … well, not long after marriages started. After all, for much of history, many marriages weren’t about love at all. They were about economic decisions tying families or even nations together. How many European wars were fought or ended with political marriages and important factors?

Oh, and “false tolerance”? What the hell does that even mean? It’s “false” for me to think that consenting adults should be allowed to marry the person that they love? It’s “false” for me to believe that we should respect diversity and shun bigotry? It’s “false” for me to respect your religious beliefs even if I disagree with them? It’s “false” for me to think that I should judge you by the quality of your character rather than the color of your skin, the deity you worship, or the person you love? No. “False tolerance” is claiming to be tolerant while doing what you can to enact laws that will harm people who are different than you, something Sen. Delph knows a lot about (for those new to this blog, he was one of the prime proponents of harsh anti-immigrant bills here in Indiana).

Now there is evidence that not only will businesses be sued for operating according to their own faith traditions, but churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects. Social order has been inverted and no one knows the impact, not even the staunchest advocates for this hard turn to the left. I recall a lecture in Bloomington when I was in college by William F. Buckley. He was answering a question regarding the legalization of marijuana, something to which he seemed sympathetic. He said that until societies truly understand the social costs and benefits of public policy and know that the benefit outweighs the cost, they should tread carefully. No one knows the end of the path we now walk.

And here we come to the point where Sen. Delph leaves the realm of sane dialogue and enters the bizarre conspiracy world premised on bullshit. Let’s take the simple part first: “Churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects”. No. They can’t. Period. End of story. But the lie is good to scare people with a worldview like Sen. Delph’s. Think of it this way: When was the last time that you heard of a Catholic church being sued for refusing to marry a divorced woman? When was the last time you heard of a Jewish synagogue being sued for refusing to perform an interreligious marriage? When was the last time you heard of any church being sued for what it teaches or believes? Remind me again how many members of the Westboro Baptist Church are in jail for picketing soldiers’ funerals while holding up signs that say “God Hates Fags” or “God Hates America”. The First Amendment protects churches from being forced to conduct any sort of ceremony that isn’t within the framework of its views. And the First Amendment gives people the right to say pretty much any stupid, idiotic, or hateful thing that they want. So when Sen. Delph says that “churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects” he is simply making shit up. But it’s an scary idea that has resonance among the religious right, even if it’s completely wrong.

As to his point that businesses can be “sued for operating according to their own faith traditions” he is, once again, generally wrong. Now, that being said, I will acknowledge that some businesses have been sued for refusing to provide services to same-sex weddings. However, in each of those cases, the business isn’t being sued for “operating according to their own faith traditions”; rather the businesses have been sued for violating a democratically adopted law against discrimination in public accommodation. In other words, the communities where those businesses operate adopted laws that say not only can you not discriminate against people on the basis of color or religion, you also can’t discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation. Moreover, I’d be curious to know whether Sen. Delph would raise the same concern about a business that didn’t want to serve blacks or Muslims and claimed that the refusal was in accordance with their faith traditions. I’ve written extensively on that issue, so I won’t rehash it here.

I’m really not sure what Sen. Delph means when he claims that “[s]ocial order has been inverted”. Is he arguing that the wealthy no longer have as much power within the social structure as they once did? Or perhaps his complaint is that whites are making up a decreasing percentage of the overall population while minority communities continue to grow. Or perhaps he’s just upset that so many once disadvantage communities (e.g., homosexuals) are now widely tolerated instead of shunned.

I do appreciate the concern that Sen. Delph raises (citing William F. Buckley, Jr.) that we should tread carefully when we make societal changes. So query, then, just how much longer we should have waited before deciding that slavery was bad. We certainly didn’t know what the economy of the South would look like without slavery or how the electoral system might be impacted with newly freed slaves being the right to vote (of course, Jim Crow laws that kept those slaves from voting helped give us time to see what those impacts might be…). We didn’t have a lot of empirical evidence to determine how our electoral system would change with the adoption of women’s suffrage; perhaps we should have “studied” the issue for longer. Maybe we should have taken a few more decades to determine whether allowing blacks to sit in the front of our busses or attend public universities would lead to societal decay. A societal change like the legalization of marijuana is one thing; but getting stoned isn’t a “right” in the same way that being able to marry the person you love is. Treading carefully is one thing, but not when that care and “go slow” approach is a burden to the pursuit of happiness of a disadvantaged minority.

Perhaps we should consider this in the case of opening the floodgates to traditional marriage. No one with a soul wants someone harmed or discriminated against for being gay. But they also don’t want more than 200 years of social norms flushed down the drain without knowing the impact on the world. This is our dilemma. We are becoming a society and world without boundaries. Anything goes if it has a market.

If I’m not mistaken, Sen. Delph has just acknowledged that he doesn’t have a soul. After all, isn’t his advocacy in favor of the Marriage Discrimination Amendment a form of discrimination against people for being gay? And again with the changes to society? We flushed thousands of years of societal norms down the drain when we rebelled against Britain and formed a democratic republic in which “all men” were (at least in theory) said be have been created equal. We flushed thousands of years of societal norms down the drain when we outlawed slavery. We flushed 150 years of societal norms down the drain when we gave women the right to vote. We flushed norms down the drain by allowing interracial marriages. We flushed norms down the drain when we let blacks drink from the same water fountains and swim in the same pools as whites. For that matter, we flushed thousands of years of norms down the drain when we stopped killing people for blasphemy, when we stopped using firing squads, when … oh, you get the picture. But same-sex marriage? Well, that’s apparently just too extreme.

Our world and our society change. But a “society and world without boundaries”? Really? Of course not. But it’s another sound bite that sounds good ’n’ scary! How bout this: We keep as boundaries those things that will hurt other people? And no, it’s not “anything goes”. There is a market for child porn but because children are children and therefore not capable of consent, there is a boundary that prohibits child porn. I hope that you can see by now that Sen. Delph is simply flailing, looking for anything or anyone to lash out against in his overwhelming fear that gay couples might, rather than be shunned or ostracized, be viewed with tolerance and treated with equality. Oh, wait. that’s “false tolerance” isn’t it?

The liberal indoctrination is endless as we watch cultural elitists attack traditional values and bedrock American social norms. Mickey Maurer, owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, and John Krull, journalism director at Franklin College and publisher of The Statehouse File (and former head of the ICLU), have used their positions and media outlets to promote intolerance of traditional social norms, including long held Judeo-Christian views. Political reporters Brian Howey and Jim Shella reinvent the chic diet of false entitlement, false rights and false fairness while attacking proponents of traditional values suggesting a seemliness and dirtiness for those who cling to their guns and Bibles. And they are all supposed to be friends of the American experience, friends of freedom when it agrees with their perverted worldview.

“Liberal indoctrination”. Right. Suggesting that people be allowed to love is “liberal indoctrination”. I guess anything short of Benghazi!, Repeal Obamacare!, Fast & Furious!, plus efforts to restrict access to abortion and birth control or efforts to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation fall into Sen. Delph’s view of “liberal indoctrination”. I’m curious who these “cultural elitists” are? Educated people? People who think discrimination is bad? Anyone who doesn’t listen to Fox News, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh? People who are tolerant (well of people who are aren’t complaining about being prevented from being intolerant…)? I’m curious to know what “traditional values and bedrock American social norms” are being “attacked”. Marriage? Once again, Sen. Delph seems to be arguing that allowing same-sex marriage will somehow harm traditional marriage. Yet I’ve still never seen a coherent argument explaining just how a same-sex marriage will harm traditional marriages. For that matter, I have to wonder if Sen. Delph considers people like Britney Spears (she of the 58-hour marriage) to be “cultural elitists” attacking “traditional values and bedrock American social norms”.

And then Sen. Delph decides to just go for it and continues the attacks on Mickey Maurer, John Krull, Brian Howey, and Jim Shella that he started during his Twitter rant (where he went after several other local journalists and radio personalities, too). Personally, I just love that Christian Mike Delph is going to lecture Jewish Mickey Maurer on “long held Judeo-Christian views”. I’m guessing that Sen. Delph doesn’t think much of the fact the Jewish views on — well, just about everything! — have undergone near constant evaluation, re-evaluation, and modification for millennia (since long before Jesus…). The Jewish Bible says that homosexuality (like shrimp, cheeseburgers, haircuts, and mixed fabrics) is an abomination. But several thousand years after those words were written, huge majorities of American Jews have decided that tolerance is more important and more biblical than denigration. And even though I’m not a biblical expert, it seems to me that a core component of most all faiths in the notion of loving one another and not acting in a way that will harm others.

Note further how Sen. Delph frames things: To “promote intolerance of traditional social norms” and the “chic diet of false entitlement, false rights and false fairness”. Really? George Orwell would be proud. Think about it: The act of promoting tolerance toward disadvantaged minority communities is, to Sen. Delph, the promotion of intolerance toward those who want to remain intolerant! This is a view that we’ve seen more and more in recent months with the rise of the “religious freedom” cudgel being wielded against those advocating for the expansion of rights; that is, it’s intolerant to not allow me to be intolerant of whomever I want. Or, to put it another way, to people like Sen. Delph, rights, entitlements (you know, like equality), or fairness with which he disagrees is “false” and those who advocate for those entitlements, rights, or fairness are the bad guys. The abolitionists were the bad guys, while the slave owners were the good guys; the women suffragettes were the bad guys, while the men opposing expansion of suffrage were the good guys; blacks fighting to be allowed into colleges or to sit at a lunch counter were the bad guys, while the poor downtrodden “whites only” colleges or “no negroes allowed” businesses owners, standing up for their traditional values, were the good guys. That’s the topsy turvy, Alice in Wonderland world of Sen. Delph and his ilk.

As to “guns and Bibles”, all I can say is that if you thump your Bible as a basis for bigotry, then you really have no business thumping that Bible. When you put guns up against tolerance, I know which may win, but I also know which is right. Interesting, isn’t it, to note that those who cling to their guns are not the ones who’ve been fighting for years, decades, or even centuries to be entitled to basic equality. We didn’t see African-Americans rise up with guns; nor did we see women brandishing firearms demanding their right to vote. And we don’t see the LGBT community taking up arms to fight for their right to be treated fairly. Nope. But we see many members of the straight, white, Christian majority “clinging” to the their guns apparently out of fear of losing their majority status or being forced to allow “others” to share in the vision of an America where all men are created equal.

I’m not really sure how it’s going to help a local politician with his political career to attack well-known and well-respected business leaders and philanthropists like Mickey Maurer (I wonder if Sen. Delph recalls that Indiana has a law school named for Maurer…). But attacking several journalists who have a very wide and broad audience? I’m not sure that The Indianapolis Star did Sen. Delph any favors by failing to edit out that particular paragraph. Perhaps that was by design.

It’s past time that we consider removing marriage completely from the confines of government, and let the church and other faith-based institutions marry according to their own belief systems and traditions. If I have learned anything over the last months in the HJR-3 debate, opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values don’t fight fair or with honor. They fight to win, and to date have been very successful. I have to give the devil his due. But the issue is still unresolved and thinking members of faith still have time to engage. There is hope for an outcome where we all can win. By then we may have a better understanding of the net social cost or benefit from the path we march down.

I want to break this final paragraph down into two parts, one of which I actually agree with. Sen. Delph suggests that we remove marriage from the confines of government. I think that’s probably a very good idea. Allow the government to recognize contractual relationships between people (call it marriage or union or whatever) and allow religious institutions (or non-religious institutions) to recognize some joining of couples under the purview and rules of those institutions. Have one, have the other, have both. But there really isn’t a reason for the government to be involved in marriage, per se. The government doesn’t recognize communion, bar or bat mitzvah, or any of a host of other religious-based events; why should marriage be different? However, to try to remove from the law the literally thousands of rights or obligations attendant to marriage would, in all likelihood, be completely impossible.

But then Sen. Delph decides to really tell us that he lives in a totally alternate reality: “[O]pponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values don’t fight fair or with honor”. First of all: No. I started to offer a choice response, but then decided I’m a better person than that. So let me say this instead: I’m a supporter of same-sex marriage and I challenge you to show me how I haven’t fought fair or with honor. I’d suggest the same challenge with regard to any of the host of people who stood in the Statehouse to argue for their rights. How dare you tell them that they didn’t fight fair or with honor. I note that Sen. Delph makes the claim … but offers no basis to support it. Apparently, organizing with the business community, with churches, and with all sorts of other institutions and individuals is unfair. Apparently, refusing to sit idly by while you’re demonized is dishonorable. Apparently fighting back and standing up for equality and justice is wrong. At least it is in Sen. Delph’s inverted world. Now, I will acknowledge that in response to Sen. Delph’s Twitter rant, some people crossed a line and made personal attacks. That’s wrong. But those actions were in response to public statements by Sen. Delph; they weren’t a part of the organized effort to stop HJR-3.

You want to talk about not fighting fair? How about changing the number of a bill in order to confuse people? How about moving legislation out of a committee that was likely to kill it? Was that fair or honorable? How about lying to other legislators and Hoosier voters about what allowing same-sex marriage would do? How about lying about whether the second sentence of HJR-3 would ban civil unions or force universities to reconsider domestic partner benefit programs. Is that fair or honorable? Yet proponents of HJR-3 and opponents of same-sex marriage have done all of that (and much, much more). How about using your gay brother as a prop and then claiming that you don’t want to harm gay people? How about refuting nice things your brother said about you by telling a television station that he was on drugs? Is that fair or honorable? Accusing churches of not being Christian enough? Were you a supporter of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Sen. Delph? If so, how did that honor brave American soldiers who just happened to be gay? I could go on and on, but frankly I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it and about the tactics that homophobes have used to harm the gay community and to prevent our gay brethren from being treated with equality, not to mention fairness or honor. But I will suggest that calling supporters of same-sex marriage “the devil” is a bit like that proverbial pot and its kettle. I mean, it is satanic to argue that people be treated fairly, isn’t it?

Finally, your basic premise is, of course, flawed. You call those of us who support same-sex marriage (or who even simply oppose the Marriage Discrimination Amendment) “opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values”. I’m curious, to know Sen. Delph, whether you include in that grouping of “opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values” the numerous rabbis and cantors (including those from four of the six synagogues in the Indianapolis area) who opposed HJR-3? What about the clergy who stood up in the Statehouse to opposed HJR-3? Are they “opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values”? You see, for many of us, one of the core bedrock tenets of “traditional Judeo-Christian values” is the notion of fairness and equality. Perhaps, sir, you are the real opponent of “traditional Judeo-Christian values”; perhaps, sir, you don’t have a fucking clue what those values really are. But I can tell you one thing: Real Judeo-Christian values don’t include hate, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, spreading falsehoods, fear-mongering, and the like; you know, the sorts of things that you seem to support.

Over the years, I’ve engaged in many good, positive conversations with Sen. Delph. We’ve disagreed, but we’ve managed to engage civilly and in good faith. However, with the claims on his Twitter rants and those in his Star op-ed, it seems clear to me that Sen. Delph has decided that he is no longer interested in a good faith dialogue and would rather try to scare people, demonize others, and invert the very notions of tolerance and intolerance. It is time for the people of Indiana to recognize that Sen. Delph is an embarrassment to our state, our legislature, and the civil society to which we aspire. He and his views should be put into the closet that he’s tried to hard to keep others locked in. We need to make views like those expressed by Sen. Delph become mere relics of a bygone era as we fight to make Indiana a beacon of tolerance rather than a last bastion of bigotry.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Political Lie: Should There Be a Remedy?

I recently came across several articles (including a good blog post from Doug Masson) about a case involving a law in Ohio that makes it illegal to “[p]ost, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.” (The case will be argued in the Supreme Court in April.) I’m not interested in the Ohio law itself; rather, I want to sort of tease out some of the ideas around trying to eliminate lies from politics.

Now obviously, there is a big difference between a lie and an opinion. There’s nothing wrong with a candidate saying “I’m the better candidate” even if by whatever standard of measurement is used, that candidate isn’t. Nor is there a problem with a statement like “my opponent will be bad for the voters of our district”. Again, that’s really nothing more than opinion. Have at it. What do they say, “All’s fair in love, war, and politics?” Or something like that.

But let’s consider something different. Let’s say that a candidate says “my opponent was arrested for beating up the underage prostitute that he had tied to the wall in his basement while his pre-school children watched”. Obviously, the aggrieved candidate can deny the allegations, maybe even sue for defamation, but in the eyes of the voters, the damage may have been done (and that lawsuit won’t be resolved until long after the election). Should there be any sort of remedy for a statement like this?

Of course that sort of over-the-top, flat-out bullshit sort of claim is unlikely. But there is a huge gray area between that sort of claim and the type of opinion claim that I discussed above. Is there a line? And if so, where is it?

Our democratic system is supposed to work via the so-called “marketplace of ideas” where competing visions are debated and discussed so that voters can decide which vision and which candidate best reflects their ideals. But as we all know, in today’s political landscape, money plays an enormous role in campaigns. Without money, a candidate can barely get in the “game” to begin with. Perhaps more importantly, a well-funded campaign can literally drown out less well-funded opponents.

So let’s go back to my example above. What if the defamed candidate is wholly innocent of the charges leveled against him, but he doesn’t have enough money in his campaign war chest to air a television ad refuting the allegation? Should he just pack it in and walk away, leaving the world to presume that the claims against him are true? More importantly, should the well-funded candidate be permitted to use the airwaves to spread a falsehood to knock an opponent out of the race?

The problem is that few things rise to the level of demonstrable facts that can be proven to a certainty. And proving a negative (“I did not have sex with that women…”) can be nearly impossible. But there are some things that are empirically, demonstrably provable. Thus, again, the question is one of line drawing.

At the simplest (well, maybe) is the straight numbers-based claim: “The Congressional Budget Office estimates my opponent’s plan will cost $2.1 billion” when, in fact, the CBO actually said that the plan would save $2.1 billion. The claim has nothing to do with whether the plan being referenced is a good idea or not; rather, the issue is that one candidate claim a fact that is demonstrably false (and again, the question of whether it will save or cost is irrelevant; the claim was the CBO said “cost” when, in this scenario, the CBO said “save”).

Or consider the following scenario: Candidate X says “My opponent, Mr. Y, believes in man-made climate change, even though a majority of climatologists say that climate change isn’t real or, even if it is, it isn’t caused by man.” The problem with this statement isn’t that Mr. Y believes in man-made climate change or even whether climate change is real. The “lie” is the claim that “a majority of climatologists say…”. That is not true; we can count climatologists to see what a majority have said. Yet if Mr. Y doesn’t have the resources to blanket television, radio, and newspapers with facts to disprove the statement by Candidate X, then the public may be led, not only to believe in something that is incorrect, but also to vote against Mr. Y on that basis.

Or consider a statement like this: “My opponent believes that women should have the right to have an abortion at any time, for any reason, right up until the moment of birth.” But what if the opponent’s recorded position is that a woman should have the right to an abortion during the first trimester and thereafter only to save the life of the mother?

Or, to borrow (and expand) from a fairly recent episode in Houston, what if a candidate circulates flyers that appear to include a picture of the candidate but which is, in fact, not only not of the actual candidate but of someone of a different race (the idea being to convince people to vote for or against a candidate on the basis of race … the wrong race)? Or what if the flyer simply includes a fake endorsement?

In each of the preceding scenarios, the marketplace of ideas may not work or at least may not work if you think that the marketplace of ideas shouldn’t be solely dependent on which idea has more billionaires supporting it.

Think of it this way: If you buy a car because of the claims from the manufacturer that it will get 60 miles per gallon and has certain safety features but, it turns out, the car only gets 20 miles per gallon and doesn’t actually have those safety features, then you would probably have a claim against the manufacturer for fraud. If you ask your doctor to prescribe a certain medicine to help your condition after hearing an add that the medicine helps 95% of people with that condition but later learn that the medicine is actually only helpful for 5% of people and actually harms most others, then wouldn’t you feel aggrieved? In most all consumer transactions, the consumer has at least some sort of recourse against a seller who relies upon fraud to make the sale. But what happens when a politician engages in similar behavior to secure, not money, but votes?

Now I’m also sensitive to the notion that our political campaigns ought not be fought in the courts. Bush v. Gore was bad enough. But if every campaign statement or flyer was the subject of a possible lawsuit or criminal prosecution, elections could turn less on ideas and the quality of candidates and more on the political leanings of judges. Yet if politicians had to focus more on what they want to do (or not do) and less on trying to tear down the opposing candidate, then perhaps that would be a good thing.

So, on one hand I feel like we should be concerned about the use of outright falsehoods in the electoral process. Perhaps, though, that’s just the Pollyanna in me. Perhaps it’s just too difficult to set a standard of what is over the proverbial line or to find a way to decide precisely what qualifies as a demonstrable fact. Perhaps, even if we could find resolutions to those sorts of thorny questions, it would still be too difficult and have too much of a potential impact on our elections to be a workable solution. But until we find a way to even up the playing field and lesson the impact of money, especially outside money that isn’t accountable to a candidate or campaign, then I worry about the impact that outright falsehoods may play in determining who voters elect to represent them.

The only thing that I can think of that should operate as a remedy to these sorts of situations is the press. If reporters viewed it as their job to fact check claims of candidates and call out a lie when they hear it, then perhaps this all would be less of a worry. However, in today’s media, where there is so much fear of being perceived as biased, where there’s a need to tell “both sides” even if one side has no rational basis in fact or reality, and where it’s better to spend time speculating that aliens made a Malaysian airliner disappear or bemoaning the latest breakup of a celebrity couple, we can’t really expect reporters (or their editors) to engage in real journalism and report on what is and isn’t true.

Or, I suppose, we could rely on educated voters to ask hard questions of candidates and to really push them to defend their lies. But how many voters are educated enough to recognize the lie and ask the right question. More importantly, how many voters, other than in Iowa and New Hampshire I suppose, even get a chance to ask a question of a politician in the first place? And how often, when confronted by a difficult or a hostile question, do politicians even, you know, answer?

I wish that easily disproven lies weren’t a part of our politics. I wish that there was an easy and workable way to “punish” a candidate who resorts to a disprovable lie. I wish that we could simply make a politician defend a lie or answer questions about the claim. And I wish that political reporters would report on issues rather than just tell us which horse is winning. But, other than convincing reporters to engage in better journalism, I don’t know if there is a way to get there that doesn’t have unintended consequences far worse than the core problem.

I want our democracy to be the best that it can be. Perhaps “the best” has to include a few warts and problems. Perhaps it’s simply up to the electorate to become more involved and to be better consumers of political information. But there’s nothing wrong with wishing that the lie wasn’t such a useful tool.

Oh, and I can’t help but finish this post by including the text of the amicus brief filed by the CATO Institute (and called to my attention by Doug Masson):

After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular humanist professors of Chicano studies.

Anyway, I’m inclined to think that there’s not much that we can do from a legal framework to take lies out of politics. I think that we’d have a lot of trouble doing so and would probably unleash a flood of unintended consequences that might be worse than the problem. Might. So wishing that politics was free of the political lie as a useful tool is, in essence, nothing more than that. A wish.

But nothing says that we voters can’t do a better job of holding our candidates more accountable for what they say. We can form the punishment for those who lie to us by simply withholding our support, both financial and at the ballot box. And maybe that’s how the system is supposed to work.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thought Exercise on the Uses of the Cudgel of “Religious Freedom”

Lately, we’ve seen a number of states, most notably Arizona, consider or even pass legislation that would permit discrimination in order to “protect” the “religious freedom” of the person doing the discriminating (rather than protecting the person being discriminated against). Obviously, the impetus for these bills has been the “fear” that a baker, florist, or photographer might have to provide services for a same-sex marriage. But the sorts of bills that we’ve seen have gone far beyond addressing that seemingly narrow concern and have, instead, been far broader.

Take, for example the bill that was vetoed in Arizona last week, which provided that implementation of laws “shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the law is “in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and the “least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest”. The burden of proof appears to be on the person opposing the claim of religious freedom. Thus, even if Arizona had a law that prohibited discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation (which it doesn’t), a person could claim that baking a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding (which isn’t permitted in Arizona) placed a substantial burden on the exercise* of the baker’s religion and it would be up to the same-sex couple to prove either than the burden wasn’t substantial or that the law furthered a compelling government interest and was the least restrictive means. Not an easy burden of proof.

But let’s stop thinking just about gay couples wanting to get married and broaden our view to what else these sorts of “protections” of religious freedom might cover, and then see what we think about “religious freedom” in these alternate contexts. Thus, even if you believe that a religious business** should be able to decline to provide services to a same-sex wedding on religious grounds, which of the following would you also agree would be acceptable?

Could that baker also refuse to sell cookies to a gay couple that walks in off the street? What if it’s just a single gay guy or even someone who might be gay? What if it’s a gay guy who says that he doesn’t “engage in the homosexual lifestyle” anymore (love the sinner, hate the sin, so to speak…)? Can the baker simply refuse to do any business at all with homosexuals and cite his “religious freedom” as a sort of license to discriminate? Or is there some kind of line between homosexuality generally and same-sex marriage, in particular?

How about, instead of a gay couple, the prospective customer is a divorced woman and the baker is a devout Catholic who believes that marriage is eternal and that divorce is improper? Could the baker refuse to bake a cake for the woman’s remarriage? Or what if, instead of being divorced, she was a single mother who bore a child out of wedlock? Could the baker refuse her service on those grounds? What if the woman’s fiancé wasn’t Catholic? Could the baker refuse her service because he believes that interfaith marriages are prohibited by his religion?

What if the baker believes that the only way to salvation is through Jesus (isn’t that what the sign people are always holding up at football games means?). Could the baker refuse to sell cookies to anyone who hasn’t been “saved” by Jesus? Or, said differently, could the baker refuse to sell cookies to Jews, Muslims, and atheists because those prospective customers don’t have a relationship with the baker’s god (or at least not the sort of relationship that the baker deems requisite)? Could the baker adopt and enforce a “Christians only” policy for his bakery? What about Catholics only?

Now, let’s move away from the hypothetical baker and turn our attention, instead, to the lunch counter at the local diner. Do your answers to any of the preceding change with the change in locale or type of business? If so, why? If so, why would it be OK for a baker to decline to deliver a cake to a same-sex wedding but it wouldn’t be OK for the owner of a diner to turn away a honeymooning same-sex couple?

So what if the prospective customer is African-American or Latino and the owner of the diner is a fundamentalist Mormon who believes that dark-skinned people are somehow lesser (I don’t really understand Mormon philosophy, but from what I’ve read, The Book of Mormon places dark-skinned people in a lesser role of some kind; feel free to correct me if my understanding is in error)? What if the owner of the diner was a white, Christian segregationist that used the Bible to justify keeping blacks out of his store prior to the Civil Rights Act? Should he be able to return to the era of keeping a “whites only” lunch counter on the basis of his sincerely held religious belief that G-d created separate races and intended for them to be kept separate?

Should the Jewish owner of a deli be permitted to refuse to serve someone with a tattoo, someone who eats shrimp, someone who eats cheeseburgers, gets haircuts, wears garments made of mixed fabrics, or kneels in front of a cross? Should that Jewish deli owner be permitted to refuse to serve someone of Palestinian or German origin? Should a Jewish deli owner suddenly be allowed to violate the terms of his lease and close his restaurant on Saturday, even though the lease requires him to be open? Or, if the business in question was a auto dealership in Indiana, could its observant Jewish owner sell autos on Sunday notwithstanding the “blue law” prohibition against auto sales on Sunday; after all, the observant Jewish owner in question couldn’t sell cars on Saturday due to work being forbidden on his Sabbath, so wouldn’t prohibiting from selling autos on the Christian Sabbath violate his religious freedom?

And what about, say, hospitals? Should a Catholic hospital be permitted to refuse to treat gay patients? What about divorced patients? What about patients who support the death penalty or who use birth control or who voted for the candidate that the Bishop said wasn’t a good Catholic? Should a Catholic hospital be permitted to turn away patients who aren’t Catholic (or at least Christian)? Perhaps we should have separate (but equal, of course) hospitals for Catholics and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and … hmmm, just how many hospitals would we need? Are there enough Sikhs in Indianapolis to support their own hospital if “Christian” hospitals decide that Sikhs look a bit too much like Muslims to be treated?

Could a Muslim taxi driver refuse to pick up a woman who isn’t wearing a veil or isn’t accompanied by a man? Could that Muslim taxi driver refuse to pick up someone carrying alcohol? Could that Muslim taxi driver refuse to deliver a passenger to a restaurant that specializes in pork ribs?

And I suppose that Hindu florists could refuse to provide flowers to a wedding at which meat will be served, right? Maybe “religious” hotel owners could refuse to accept reservations from unmarried couples. Perhaps they could just require unmarried couples to sign a pledge not to engage in pre-marital sex in the hotel bed.

Obviously, if we start allowing people to operate their businesses with exceptions to anti-discrimination laws in order to protect “religious freedom”, then things are going to get very complicated, very quickly. Hopefully, businesses will start putting signs up in their windows to warn prospective customers that the business observes a “no gays allowed” or “whites only” or “Muslims not welcome” policy. After all, I’d hate to wait in line to buy some cookies only to learn that the baker didn’t serve Jews.

“But, but, but…” I hear you saying, “the only objection is to serving gays, because same-sex marriage is against the teachings of the Bible!” First, I’m not going to get back into the issue of what the Bible really says about homosexuals. I’ve talked about that plenty (and probably will so again). Rather, let me ask this question: The Bible demands many things and prohibits many other things; so why is it just same-sex marriage (or homosexuality, more generally) that triggers these claims of “religious freedom”? What is it about homosexuality that elevates that particular “prohibition” above all of the other requirements and prohibitions in the Bible? And if that prohibition is really so important, why aren’t we putting to death men who engage in homosexual behavior as the Bible also requires? You know, for religious freedom?

Um, wait a minute. Didn’t the use of the “religious freedom” argument get its first real airing with regard to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer-provided insurance include birth control? Yep. So obviously, it isn’t just homosexuality in play. Nope. It’s homosexuality and reproductive rights. Or perhaps it’s homosexuality and sexuality. Anything else? But of course, that doesn’t answer the question of why these two issues are trigger a “right” to religious freedom, but other Biblical commands and prohibitions don’t (yet).

One of the arguments that I’ve heard, is that homosexuality is different from the other sorts of protected classes, because homosexuality is not an “inherent characteristic” but is, rather, a “self-professed behavior” or a “choice”. And, thus, homosexuality should not be entitled to protection from discrimination in the same way that we protect race, religion, gender, national origin, and so forth. Um, wait. Religion? Isn’t that a choice, too? But we protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religion. How can it be that religious freedom can’t be a reason to discriminate on the basis of religion itself. You don’t suppose that the reason for discriminating might actually have little to do religion itself and more to do with basic attitudes toward homosexuality (icky!) or sexuality (slut!), do you?

There is another point that I hadn’t really considered until I came across the article How Religious-Freedom Laws Could Come Back to Hurt the Faithful published in The Atlantic:

Interestingly, the conservative Christians who support these bills also believe that America is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward members of their own faith. They have long decried the secularizing and pluralizing of America’s public square. They’ve argued that America is, in Robert Bork’s phrase, “slouching toward Gomorrah” and becoming post-Christian or even anti-Christian.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who supports these bills, also once wrote, “The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.”

If Christians really believe they are becoming a marginalized movement, why would they want to disempower marginalized people in the marketplace? It’s easy to codify your own biases when you’re part of the majority and get to be the one refusing services to others. But what if you’re the minority? What if others are turning you away because they think you are the abominable one?

Many Christians believe that the Book of Revelation predicts a coming time of persecution and evil. In the apocalyptic book’s 13th chapter, it is predicted that a time will come when Christians won’t be able to buy or sell in the marketplace. If Christians believe this time is coming, they must also ask, “How might such a reality be realized?” Could it be that they are unwittingly becoming the authors of their own demise?

Conservative Christian activists often argue that these bills put us on a ride down a slippery slope that could lead to the government forcing conservative Christian pastors to perform same-sex weddings against their wills. (Never mind that legal exemptions for houses of worship and pastors are woven deeply into American law or that there is no historical precedent for such predictions.)

But these prophets of doom only acknowledge one side of the slope. They fail to consider how these laws could be used against members of their own communities. If you are able to discriminate against others on the basis of religious conviction, others must be allowed to do the same when you are on the other side of the counter. You can’t have your wedding cake and eat it too.

The ancient King Solomon, a man Christians believe to be the wisest person ever to live, once wrote, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”

If this is the pit that Christians intend to dig, they better line the bottom with pillows.

Furthermore, if we can discriminate on the basis of “religious freedom”, why can’t we also act in other ways or ignore other laws that might impact our religious freedoms? Why can’t I smoke peyote if my religion requires it? Why can’t I sacrifice an animal in the public square if I need to do so to please my deity’s requirements? Why can’t I stone my disobedient child or rape your daughter and then pay you a few shekels for the right to marry her? Why can’t I have four wives is Allah says that’s acceptable?

If I don’t drive on shabbat, then shouldn’t I get a 1/7th discount on the portion of my taxes that pays for roads? If I’m opposed to the death penalty or to war, then shouldn’t my taxes be excluded from paying for those? If meat is forbidden to my religion, then why should my tax dollars pay for USDA meat inspections? If not, then isn’t my religious freedom being infringed by making me pay for things that I don’t or can’t use because of my religious beliefs?

Thus, the real question to ask is whether applying the “defense” of religious freedom (or is it an offensive weapon to be wielded like a cudgel against those who don’t share your religious beliefs?) is available to all people and all religious beliefs for all types of conduct, or if only those professing the right religious beliefs are entitled to their particular freedoms (and only for those religious obligations or prohibitions that they care about, hypocrisy be damned [yes, pun intended]).

Either we are a secular society that respects religions but recognizes that laws of general applicability can’t be trumped or vetoed by religious belief or we will become a highly fragmented realm made up of separate, and largely unequal, religious groups fighting over their respective place in a theocratic system. And based on human history, when religions come into conflict, especially when there is either money or power involved, the result tends to cause streets to run red with the blood of those killed in the name of deity or theology.

*This post isn’t really about the Arizona bill, so I don’t want to get too lost in the weeds. But it is probably worth noting how Arizona’s law defines “exercise of religion”: “‘Exercise of religion’ means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

**Businesses aren’t religious; people are. But that’s a discussion for another day. For the purpose of today’s discussion, I’ll pretend that a business has religious views. In the meantime, please let me know next time you see Hobby Lobby in the pews, a Catholic business in a confessional or taking communion, a Jewish business getting a bar mitzvah, or a Muslim business making the hajj.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slippery Slope or Religious Freedom? Mutually Exclusive Arguments

I want to undertake a very brief thought exercise.

One of the most common arguments against same-sex marriage is that allowing same-sex marriage would be the first step down a slippery slope that would lead, inevitably, to polygamy. Now, I don’t want to get into a discussion about why that argument is wrong, why there is no slippery slope, or why polygamy is fundamentally different than same-sex marriage. I’ll save those discussions for another day. For that matter, I’ll also leave for another day any discussion of polygamy itself.

Instead, I’d just like to compare that slippery slope argument with the new objection to same-sex marriage that has been getting lots of attention, lately: the infringement of the “religious freedom” of those who oppose homosexuality.

Do you see the problem?

On one hand, people are saying we can’t allow same-sex marriage because that will lead to polygamy. But at the same time, they’re saying, we can’t allow same-sex marriage because it infringes on their religious freedom. Yet doesn’t a prohibition on polygamy directly infringe upon the religious freedom of fundamentalist Mormons and Muslims (and any other groups with religious texts allowing or encouraging polygamy)? And isn’t that infringement upon the religious freedom of polygamists much more direct —and with a much greater impact — than the “impact” to a religious person of allowing a same-sex couple to marry?

It seems to my that same-sex marriage opponents have destroyed at least one of their own arguments here. Either they don’t really care about the so-called slippery slope to polygamy because they recognize that efforts to stop polygamy are infringements upon religious freedom or religious freedom isn’t really that meaningful if it involves a religious viewpoint with which they disagree (or someone else’s religious freedom).

If I’m missing something, let me know, but it appears that the argument based on polygamy and the argument based on religious freedom are mutually exclusive.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Old-Fashioned Anti-Semitism: Still on Public Display

Today’s post is a bit of a departure as it relates an anecdote rather that discussing a particular issue.

Let me set the scene: This past weekend, I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning at a bat mitzvah. In the meantime, my wife and kids drove to Atlanta so that my daughter could compete in a massive cheerleading competition (her team finished 3rd out of 11 or 5th out of 22, depending on how you want to categorize things…). I flew down to Atlanta after the bat mitzvah so that I could still see my daughter compete on the second day of her competition. We stayed at the Omni CNN Center which is adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center where the competition was held.

Anyway, I made it to the hotel around dinner time. We talked a little bit about the bat mitzvah. After dinner, the family decided to go up to the room and watch a movie (we don’t like to go out or do anything “active” when my daughter competes the next day). I, however, wasn’t in the mood to watch a movie. I was reading a good book (An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris, if you must know) and wanted to read instead. Trying to read a book in a small hotel room while the family is watching a movie is not really a great plan, so I decided to go down to the hotel lobby and see if I could find a quiet corner in which to read my book. Luckily, I found just such a place on one of the hotel’s mezzanine levels. And that’s when things got interesting.

While hunting for a place to sit, I walked by a couch and chair arrangement at which eight to ten women (obviously “cheer moms”) were sitting. I didn’t really pay any attention to them as I spotted the chair that I chose to sit in to read. Before picking up my book, though, I decided to catch up on my Twitter feed. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop on those women, but as their conversation got a bit louder it became almost impossible to not hear at least some of what was being talked about.

My ears really began to perk up when I heard one of the women say “Catholics” quite loudly and in a tone that could only be called sneering or even angry. At that point I began to actually try to listen to see if I could hear more of what was being said (and without turning around to be obvious; they were about 20-30 feet away from me). I think that I was actually a bit shocked to be hearing someone so loudly denigrating Catholics. The next thing that I was able to hear was the same woman make several statements to another explaining why Catholicism was bad and why the target of her statement should consider leaving the Catholic church. At one point in this relatively brief diatribe, the speaker said that the Catholic church was “of the devil” and I also heard a reference to Satan. She also claimed that her evangelical church was “closer to G-d”.

I found this all rather interesting and so I posted several tweets. (You do follow me on Twitter, right?)

I’m in hotel lounge eavesdropping on woman explaining to another why Catholic Church is “of the devil” & evangelical church closer to G-d.

Catholic woman being proselytized has way, way more patience than I would. Patience of a saint perhaps? But I do expect eventual fireworks.

This is way more entertaining than my book about the Dreyfus affair. I just wish I could hear better.

I guess it would be bad to go sit with them or ask them to talk louder so that I could listen in more easily.

(Note that for some reason, I remain unable to embed tweets directly on this blog; I’m working on the problem, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out…)

Now perhaps I was just tired. Perhaps I was in a somewhat hyper-sensitive mood. Perhaps I was just feeling sort of “hyper-Jewish” after having spent time at a bat mitzvah and given that I was reading a book about the Dreyfus Affair. In any event, I found myself almost in a state of alert or vigilance, waiting to see what was going to happen. And the conversation did quiet down for a moment or two until I heard, quite loudly, “No, of course you wouldn’t hear that on the news. Jews control the media!”

One of the women then said, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

My tweet:

And score! We just had our first “Jews control…” comment. “You don’t really believe that, do you?” says Ms. Catholic.

I didn’t hear what immediately followed, but after a very few quiet moments, the real anti-Semitism started flying (and not just from the woman who had been making statements about Catholicism; even the woman that I took to be Catholic offered some thoughts on Jews…). Included in what I could hear, were the following:

  • “Some Jews moved in near us. I went over to wish them a Merry Christmas and they said ‘Happy Holidays’ to me. You see, they really do want to take away Christmas.
  • “There were some Jews on our street, too. I went over one time to meet them. I thought I’d be nice. So I asked to borrow a Christmas tree cookie cutter. The lady said that she was Jewish and didn’t have a Christmas tree cookie cutter. I mean, how rude was that? What did her religion have to do with anything?”
  • In response to that statement, another woman said something like “Yeah, Jews are always throwing their religion in your face because they think they’re better than us.
  • Yet another voice claimed that Jews were “hateful” and seemed to link hate to the use of “Happy Holidays”.
  • Another woman sneered the term “chosen people” loudly, but the rest of her comment was too quiet to hear.
  • And, of course, one of the women, had to talk about Jews only caring about money (it sounded like she was linking money to friendship, but I couldn’t make out the details).

There was more, but it was hard to get the full content of most of the other statements, other than hearing the word “Jews” tossed about in the tone that one might hear men in white hoods use when talking about “niggers”. I tried to tweet what I was hearing, but it was hard to capture the full flavor and context in 140 characters and it was even harder to keep up with the rapid-fire delivery of the anti-Semitic statements. Thus, all I managed was:

Ms. Evangelical now explaining how hateful it is to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that each voice in this discussion had a pronounced southern accent. Make of that what you will.

And the bigoted statements continued, for several minutes at least. It was almost like each woman, in sharing her “experiences” with Jews, was trying to outdo the last. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a bunch of women bragging about their kids and trying to top the achievements of their friends’ children; rather this group of women was trying to top each other with stories of just how bad Jews are.

Finally, I’d enough. I’m not sure exactly which statement it was that set me off or whether it was just overhearing so many anti-Semitic stereotypes being repeated ad nauseum. So, as I said on Twitter:

Now we’ve launched into a full blown anti-Semitic diatribe. I’ve had enough.

Walked over & said, “As the Jew in the room, I want you to know that I don't appreciate the anti-Semitic comments I can’t help overhearing.”

Told them it was wrong to judge or stereotype people on the basis of their religion, national origin, sexuality, or skin color.

As I mentioned skin color I looked straight at the African-American & Southeast Asian women in the group.

And then I walked away.

Eventually, I found another quiet place to sit and from there I tweeted about the incident (the tweets above plus those that follow):

To say that they appeared to be stunned would be an understatement. Jaws on floor.

I suspect several of these women are unrepentant bigots who’ve never been called out for their bigotry.

I further suspect that the two women of color, who had been silent during the entire exchange, are too cowed to speak up for themselves.

Or it could be that they don’t object to bigotry so long as they’re not the target.

But if we don’t call out overt bigotry - publicly shame those who express bigotry like that - then we’ll never rid society of this evil.

I wonder what these charming ladies have to say about the large contingent of gay cheerleaders, cheer coaches, and cheer judges.

I’m not sure if I shamed them or if they think there was nothing wrong with the views they were expressing and that I was the “bad guy”.

It just sickens me that in this day & age people are still comfortable spouting off that sort of bigoted, hateful speech loudly in public.

It makes you wonder how much worse their private comments are. More troubling: What are they teaching their children?

There were also a number of other tweets as I interacted with others who were following along and asked me questions about what had happened.

After asking my rhetorical question about what the women are teaching their children, I thought of (and tweeted) a stanza from the song “We’re Not in Kansas” by Big Country:

What did you learn at home today?
Did you learn to hate in the proper way?
Did your liberated parents patronize your friends
Cos they had enough money cos they had the right skin?

I’m not really sure that I have much to add at this point. I guess I’m still a bit shocked, not that people still harbor these sorts of sentiments, but rather that they feel comfortable displaying their anti-Semitism in public. I’m a bit shocked that the Catholic woman (at least I presume that the woman to whom the proselytization seemed to be directed was Catholic) didn’t stand up for herself more vocally (or perhaps she did and I couldn’t hear her). And I guess I’m a bit shocked that the two women of color (one was African-American and the other appeared to be Indian or Pakistani) remained silent during the exchange … at least as far as I can tell. Of course, perhaps I’m stereotyping those women by presuming that people of color are more sensitive to overt bigotry.

We still hear racism from many different sources, directed primarily at African Americans and Latinos. We still hear nativism and xenophobia. We still see religious bigotry directed at Muslims and others. And I continue to see lots of anti-Semitism expressed across the web, sometimes related to Israel, but oftentimes not. However, it has been a while since I’ve heard this sort of anti-Semitic drivel (or anti-Catholic for that matter) expressed so publicly, so vehemently, and by so many people (instead of just a lone bigot).

I don’t know that I’m able draw any conclusions from any of this other than to note that bigotry remains alive and well and that it remains the obligation of society when confronted with these sorts of statements to stand up and call out those who continue to harbor and share such bigoted ideas. To quote myself:

But if we don’t call out overt bigotry - publicly shame those who express bigotry like that - then we’ll never rid society of this evil.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

But the Children!

If you happened to listen to the testimony offered to the Senate Rules Committee on Monday by proponents of HRJ3 (the proposal to add a ban on same-sex marriage into Indiana’s Constitution), you might have thought that the issue before the Senate was whether to adopt laws to protect Hoosier children and/or encourage married Hoosiers to procreate rather than deciding whether to incorporate a ban on same-sex marriage (and civil unions) into the Indiana Constitution. Speaker after speaker after speaker talked about the alleged harm to children from same-sex marriages or discussed the State’s interest in procreation. But these arguments are red herrings, shiny objects designed to catch the attention of those who haven’t paid close attention to the real issues or, perhaps, to offer a thin veneer of “reason” behind which to hide their bigotry.

Now, for the sake of argument (and only for the sake of argument!), I’m going to assume as true the proposition set forth by the proponents of HJR3 that children do better in two-parent heterosexual marriages. I don’t think that’s precisely what the empirical data or scientific literature demonstrates, but I’m going to accept it for purposes of this discussion. And I’m going to assume that the State does have an interest in procreation (though I don’t think that I agree with that proposition either). I want to analyze the proponents’ arguments as they relate to children assuming all of the facts (well, lies might be closer to the … um … truth…) that the proponents used to support their arguments. And I want to show why, even assuming the “truth” of those propositions, opposition to same-sex marriage on the basis of those arguments is wrong (let alone a desire simply to “double ban” what is already illegal and enshrine discrimination into the Constitution).

I can certainly see how the argument might, at least at first blush, sound appealing: We shouldn’t let homosexuals get married because their children won’t do as well as children raised in heterosexual “traditional” marriages. But let’s dig a bit deeper than that overly simplistic argument. For one thing, not all marriages are about children. Many couples marry and never have children. Other couples marry long after children have been raised and moved out to live their own lives (whether following divorce or the death of a first spouse). So the “concern” with how children will fare should have no bearing on deciding whether couples who don’t want or can’t have children should be permitted to marry. Obviously, HJR3 doesn’t include an exception for same-sex couples who don’t plan on having children, but if the motivating issue for proponents of HJR3 is “the children”, then shouldn’t such an exception exist? And doesn’t the omission of an exception for childless couples serve to demonstrate that the real goal has little to do with children and more to do, simply, with opposition to homosexuality?

Similarly, whether a same-sex couple can marry is completely divorced (sorry, pun intended) from whether an unmarried same-sex couple can adopt a child. Are proponents of HJR3 suggesting that homosexual couples be prohibited from adopting a child, too? Because if a primary reason to prohibit them marrying is the “adverse” effect on the child, then shouldn’t the adoption itself be prohibited? If not, then it would seem that the “concern” for the child’s well-being isn’t really all that sincere.

Moreover, what do proponents of HJR3 say about the natural child of one member of a same-sex relationship? Should that child be taken out of the home? Should the other member of the same-sex relationship be prohibited from adopting the child? Most importantly, are we expected to believe that the child will fare worse if the couple are married than if they simply cohabitate?

After all, what is the difference between a child raised in a household with same-sex parents and one raised in a household with same-sex married parents? I’d suggest that the stability of marriage would be better for the child. Moreover, I’d further suggest that children raised in same-sex households will be better off knowing that the state and its citizens are welcoming of that child’s family structure rather than denigrating the status of the child’s parents to the point of wanting to explicitly prohibit the recognition of the relationship of the child’s parents. I mean, just think about it. Will little Johnny do better in school if his same-sex parents are welcomed as a part of the community or if the community points fingers at them and says “you’re not wanted here?” Let there be no mistake: HJR3 is nothing more than the State of Indiana saying “fuck you” and “get out” to gay Hoosiers (and “don’t even think of coming here” to prospective new Hoosiers).

You know what, though? It’s not just same-sex marriages that are (allegedly) bad for children. If I’m not mistaken, studies also show that children raised in single-parent households fare less well than children raised in two-parent households (again, I think that is what the current research shows, and I don’t know if that research shows a causal effect or if it is the reasons for the existence of single-parent family that are the real factors determining the child’s well-being [such as poverty]). So why don’t we require unwed pregnant mothers to marry? Why don’t we require unwed women to be on birth control? Why don’t we require teenage males to obtain reversible vasectomies (reversible upon marriage, of course)? After all, those sorts of requirements might help alleviate the “problem” of having children raised outside the optimal “traditional” family unit. Or I guess we could just have the state come along and take children away from single mothers and put them in “traditional” state foster care facilities (at least until the slut single woman marries).

I am, however, not sure what to do in the case of a two-parent family when one of the parents dies. It seems that forcing the surviving parent to immediately remarry would be a bit harsh (though, if the woman is the surviving parent and the deceased husband has brothers, than it would at least be a traditional Biblical arrangement…). Then again, forcing the surviving spouse to remarry would probably not be as harsh as taking the children away to “protect” them.

Which of course leads to the question of how to protect children from other sorts of situations that might prove detrimental to their upbringing. You, know, things like poverty, homelessness, lack of access to affordable, high quality medicine, and so forth. I’d certainly argue that all of those problems are going to be far, far worse for children that having two dads. Or what about things like interracial marriages or interreligious marriages? Obviously, those sorts of things may cause some degree of hardship for children (“are you white or black?” and “so do you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah?”). But we wouldn’t think of stopping those marriages because of any perceived harm to children, would we?

And, as I wrote just a few weeks ago:

We permit alcoholics to marry. We permit people who’ve been convicted of crimes, including spousal or child abuse, to marry. We permit people living in poverty to marry. We even allow some minors to marry if their parents consent. And we “allow” people to have children even if the environment into which those children are born is suboptimal. We don’t stop convicted abusers or felons from having children, we don’t stop alcoholics or those with multiple DUIs from having children, and we don’t stop the poor from having children. Ah, but gays… Oh, that sort of “suboptimal” environment is just too … um … icky?

The focus of many of the proponents was the well-being of children. And yet so little attention is being paid to other factors that have adverse impacts on families. When they’re not advocating to stop same-sex marriage, are the proponents of HJR3 also working to end childhood hunger, to help with housing and heat for children living in poverty, to ensure that all children have access to affordable, high quality medical care, to be sure that children attending unlicensed religious daycare facilities are safe, or any of the other things that our system demands for the well-being of our children? No. They’re not. In fact, some of them are the same people actively working against keeping children safe and who oppose efforts to simply provide needed help to our working poor.

Feeding hungry children, being sure that they have access to medicine, and just keeping them safe haven’t brought these “advocates” to the State House to demand action. Nope. But a pair of lesbians getting married? Now that is worth protesting. Constitutional amendments to provide access to healthcare? No, way! Constitutional amendments to discriminate against gays? For the children, of course!

And what about the State of Indiana’s alleged interest in procreation (and again, remember that I’m going to presume that the Indiana actually has such an interest…)? If we need to stop homosexual couples from getting married because allowing them to do so will somehow have an adverse effect upon the state’s interest in procreation, then don’t we need to stop the marriages of all couples who might marry but not procreate? Clearly infertile people ought not to be allowed to marry; their marriage does nothing to advance the state’s interest in procreation. And I suppose that, in order to advance the state’s interest in procreation, those seeking a marriage license should probably have to both provide medical evidence of the capacity to procreate and sign a certification of intent to procreate (do we jail those who expressed an interest in procreation but who later change their minds?). Seems reasonable, no? After all, if the State wants to keep some people from marrying because of the interest in procreation, then shouldn’t that interest apply to all Hoosiers whose marriages might not advance the interest of procreation? Or should we be discriminating against just some Hoosiers who might not procreate?

Now obviously, given the state’s interest in procreation, we should ban all forms of birth control as well as vasectomies. Oops. Access to birth control is a right under the United States Constitution. But we should still probably be able to ban vasectomies, right? Or at least highly regulate doctors performing vasectomies (admitting privileges and tight controls on facilities) and require men seeking a vasectomy to undergo a waiting period, get a penile ultrasound, and look at an ultrasound of a fetus. Of course things get a bit more complicated when we think about post-menopausal women. I mean, just think of all the viable sperm still swimming around in men married to women who can no longer conceive. How does the continuation of that marriage further the Indiana’s interest in procreation? I don’t know if we should require couples to divorce so that the man can marry a woman still capable of ovulating. Perhaps we should simply require the man to donate sperm regularly.

And what do we do with people who don’t want to have children? They are making a decision not to act in a way that advances the interests of the State of Indiana (sort of like rooting for Kentucky, perhaps). I mean, think about it. We have some people who want to get married and who might even want to have children (or at least adopt), but the State of Indiana wants to crawl into their bedroom and say, “no, no, no” just because the people are gay. In other words, with HJR3, some Hoosiers have no problem letting straight people decide not to have kids and say, “fuck you” to the State of Indiana and its interest in procreation while not giving gay Hoosiers who might want children the right to act in accordance with the so-called procreation interest of the state.

Which of course brings me to nuns, monks, and priests. I mean, seriously, how can a state with an interest in procreation, tolerate a whole class of people who choose to never marry and never procreate on the basis of religion?

Allow me to quote something I wrote on this same topic just a few weeks ago:

So tell me why allowing two men who love each other to marry (instead of just “living in sin”) will cause birthrates to go down? … Are gay men currently having babies but if the Constitution isn’t amended, they’ll stop? And I’ve read about plenty of lesbians who do have babies. Are we to believe that if they can get married to one another, they’ll stop having those babies? Um, why? [Do HJR3 proponents] have empirical evidence from any of the states that presently allow same-sex marriage to show that birth rates have declined (and that such decline can be fairly attributable to same-sex marriages)? And why would allowing a same-sex marriage have any impact on whether children will be raised by their natural parents? Will the Child Catcher come around and demand that children be ripped from their homes and given to gay couples. Seems farfetched. If we presume that homosexuals aren’t procreating (which seems to be one of the more common arguments against same-sex marriage), then how will marriage impact the procreation in “traditional” families? If the concern is that some children might be raised by a parent in a same-sex relationship, isn’t that child still being raised by a natural parent? No, not by both natural parents, but then how many children are raised by both natural parents when one of them is gay anyway?

OK. Deep breath.

How does the interest in procreation really have any bearing on same-sex marriages? Do proponents of HJR3 really think that there will be fewer children born in Indiana if gay couples are allowed to marry? Really? What do they expect to happen? Masses of closeted gays will suddenly divorce their straight partners in order to have a same-sex marriage? And even that sort of nonsense presumes that same-sex marriages won’t produce children or won’t provide homes for children via adoption. For that matter, why is it that marriage is so critical to the issue of procreation? First, how many children are being born out of wedlock anyway? And how many children are being born to (or adopted) by same-sex couples who cohabitate (and who just might get married, if permitted)?

There may be reasons to oppose same-sex marriage. However, neither “for the children” nor procreation are viable reasons to keep two people who want to be treated the same as all others from marrying.

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