Blog Debate: Question 1 Answered

Question: The debate and conflict over the gay marriage amendment is based on the effect it will have on Wisconsin. Describe what this effect will be, in your opinion, including relevant societal, legal, and moral factors. Make sure to include your analysis of the effect of the infamous "second sentence."

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Before I dig in, two things.

First, thanks to Owen for graciously participating.

Second, as my anonymous heckler notes, calling this the “gay marriage amendment” misinforms voters.

This amendment would add two equally weighted sentences to our Constitution. The first restates existing marriage law. The second bans anything “identical or substantially similar” to marriage, like civil unions—something polls show a majority of Wisconsinites favor.

It’s more accurate to refer to the amendment as the “civil unions and marriage ban.”

Now, to the question. It’s a big one, and I’ll give a broad answer, knowing I’ll be able to fill in details during the coming weeks.

The effect on society

According to the 2000 census, gay couples live in every county of Wisconsin and many are raising children. Thousands of families like mine are minding their business, paying taxes, abiding laws, and sharing the same responsibilities and concern for our families and for Wisconsin as anyone else. We certainly do not intend to attack anybody’s beliefs or marriages.

Strong families--including ours--are the bedrock of strong societies.

This is not an abstract debate about the "institution of marriage"; it's about real people, people like Ray and his partner, Richard, a World War II combat veteran who recently passed away. From Josh's post last week:
Their story brings into sharp relief the unfairness of treating people differently--even people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for others--simply because they’re gay.

The question is: should people like Richard and Ray, committed for 49 years, be singled out for discrimination? Should Ray not have the right to be recognized as Richard's next of kin after a lifetime together, after caring for him through sickness and now death?
By foreclosing the possibility of civil unions--or civil marriage--this ban would make life harder for thousands of our Wisconsin families. And the ban would tie the legislature’s hands, severely limiting its ability to provide Wisconsin’s tens of thousands of gay families with any of the protections and obligations that keep families and our society stable.

Legal effects

Lawyers cannot draft a document that comes close to providing all of the protections of civil unions or a marriage license. Gay families who can afford it, often cobble together a few basic protections like wills and powers of attorney. Some couples are fortunate to work for employers who offer domestic partner health insurance. For example, the cities of Madison and Milwaukee, and the La Crosse School District offer these benefits.

But if the ban passes, those existing legal documents are in serious jeopardy. A legal status “substantially similar” to marriage is extremely vague, and will no doubt be challenged in court--often at taxpayers’ expense.

Other states provide the evidence to back that up.

Upon the passage of a civil unions and marriage ban in Michigan, the City of Kalamazoo decided to stop offering benefits to gay families. From an April 2005 news report:
The city of Kalamazoo has decided to stop offering benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.

But, the city will spend thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to go to court and fight the Attorney General's decision.
In Ohio, judges have even dismissed domestic violence cases involving unmarried heterosexual couples because the victims were not married to their alleged abusers. Judges ruled that the state's ban prohibits legal recognition for any unmarried couples--even when it comes to domestic violence.

Ohio’s Supreme Court will be ruling on whether the domestic violence law can apply to any unmarried couple.

Because of these concerns, 347 Wisconsin legal experts wrote letters to lawmakers urging them to stop the ban, and groups like the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence strongly oppose it.

Moral effects

Many ban supporters are conflicted. They understand it's not the government's role to interfere in private family matters, they know it’s wrong to single out a minority group, and they generally don’t want to hurt their fellow Wisconsinites.

This is why so many religious bodies are on our side. While most of them do not support marriage for gay couples, they do believe that our moral foundation calls upon us to treat gay families with respect, compassion, and dignity. To show their opposition to the ban, they often quote the two greatest commandments, "You shall love the Lord your God" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Gay and lesbian people are our neighbors.

And I believe reason and compassion are on our side.


8/8 UPDATE: For those of you just joining the debate, the first question and rules are here at the moderator's site. Owen over at Boots and Sabers posted his response to the question here.

18 Comments:

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

Beautiful summary, Ingrid. This amendment will have HUGE effects. Your words are true: "This is not an abstract debate about the institution of marriage; it's about real people."

Your challenge, Owen, is to tell us why these effects are a good thing. Can it be true that adding hardship to real people, and using our own tax dollar to do it, is a good thing?

 
At 8:50 AM, Anonymous k2aggie07 said...

Personal thoughts:

The thing that bugs me about this whole thing is that no one is preventing them from living together, or being happy, or doing what they want. Why do they need/want/demand societal approval of their actions?

I don't think not calling an apple a pear is discrimination against the apple. Even if the apple wants to be a pear, it isn't. A union between a man and a man is not a marriage.

How is life going to be harder for these "families"? At the very worst, they'll be back to the status quo.

I think that corporations can be pressured into doing pretty much anything through supply and demand. If people aren't receiving the healthcare they want/need, they can leave. Employment at will works both ways.

There is a difference between love, tolerance, and acceptance. I will love and tolerate my neighbors as myself for my life; its my job as a Christian. However, I will not tolerate or accept actions that I view to be harmful to their souls or themselves or those around them. Take alchohol, anger, domestic abuse, etc. as examples. To quote the old adage, "love the sinner, hate the sin".

To answer scripture with scripture, "...Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. " - 1 Cor 6:9-10

 
At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Keith said...

Your thoughts, k2aggie07, are an excellent refutation of the FIRST sentence. There are many gay and lesbian people who want marriage as "societal approval" for our families.

You have every right as a Christian to try to convince me, another Christian, that I should leave my home and take up a life of celibacy, that I should not even try to find love and happiness in a relationship with another person, and to rely on Jesus alone to get me through life.

However, as a citizen and a Christian, how do you reconcile the cruelty of the SECOND sentence? It isn't about societal approval for anything. It's about SURVIVAL!

Do you really think that it is a good thing to require gay and lebian families to go without insurance, without pensions, without inheritance rights? The SECOND sentence removes the power of the State of Wisconsin to protect any of these contracts.

I answer your Scripture with another. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me." This amendment has the effect of taking food and shelter away from widows and orphans and the sick and the dying.

 
At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Rose said...

This isn't a debate about whether or not gay couples should be allowed to marry. It's about whether or not they should be denied the family strengthening protections and obligations that come with civil marriage.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous richard said...

Why do they need/want/demand societal approval of their actions?

Why shouldn't the government provide some range of the protections and obligations of marriage to the tens of thousands of gay families in Wisconsin?

Of course they want that recognition. Of course they don't want to be taxed when "inheriting" jointly owned property. Of course they want their children to have all the protections of legally bound parents. Of course they don't want to be singled out in the state's founding document.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger David Schowengerdt said...

k2aggie07, regarding the marriage part of the equation, I return the question to you. Why is marriage important to you and why do (or did you want) you want to get married? For those of us who do want to get (or did get) married, it's almost certainly for the same reasons you do. It's about us wanting to make a lifelong, spiritual commitment to the person we want to spend our lives with - a commitment that was glorified and engrained in us as children as one of the greatest and most wonderful goals in life. It's not about acceptance of a relationship, it's about respecting and understanding a commitment made before family and friends. And most importantly, it's about strengthening and securing a couple's life together, both emotionally and legally.

Nobody is asking you to accept or approve of it. I'm sure you've known couples who have gotten married you didn't necessarily approve of or think it was a good idea, but that wasn't your choice to make.

As for the second sentence, keith is right - it's about survival and the ability to take care of one another and our families. Just because we haven't had that ability before doesn't mean there hasn't been a lot of suffering and that we can't do better in terms of basic treatment for our fellow human beings. After 6 years together and over 2 years of marriage to my spouse, I shouldn't have to lay in bed at night worrying about neither of us being each other's next of kin in times of crisis. I shouldn't have to worry that I will have to ask his parents, or god forbid, his brother, that they respect that I am the one with intimate knowledge of his wishes, and that even if they do agree with them, that they're the ones who have the final say.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger Clint said...

As a strong conservative, I am against the amendment based on conservative (not Religous) ideals.

It isn't the job of the gov't to regulate marriage. How much longer until they regulate if married people want a divorce?

 
At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Dan Ross said...

What's a "homosexual offender"? Are adulterers, thieves, and drunkards not offenders?

Why don't we have a constitutional amendment against being "greedy" or being a "drunkard"?

How is losing the right to petition the legislature for a legal status called "civil union" not a hardship?

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

There are two things that struck me most about k2aggie07's comments:

1. The use of "family" is quotation marks when describing gay families; and

2. The belief that it's all a choice--the choice to be gay, the choice to practice the lifestyle, the choice of where to work, etc. etc.

How do we educate people about these huge misconceptions about gay people--that being gay is NOT a choice, it's who we are; and a gay family IS a real family, just like anyone else's; and that hiring a lawyer to draw up papers will NOT EVEN COME CLOSE to the protections a civil union or marriage would provide?

As I see it, people will continue to vote "yes" if they continue to carry around these fundamental beliefs.

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Other Side said...

I agree with Clint (can you believe it, Clint?). But, I would like to add that it is an affront to the people of Wisconsin that some wish to insert discrimination into our constitution.

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Conservative Guy said...

Unlike my blog, this is actually very thoughtful...

Ultimately the fact that we're even debating this demonstrates the very sad fact that our own apathy and decadence as a culture is well under way. In many ways we have already lost. The sad fact is that with the advent of easy sex among singles, hetero divorce rates between 40% and 50%, and marriages being delayed longer and longer (if there even attempted), and immaturity moving well into one's 30's, there really is little credibility left to argue against "marriage" or whatever other fascinating language you want to use to describe what is on the one hand a fairly reasonable request for legal rights, yet... on the other hand really does have a psychological element of a need for approval in.

Be cheered gay "marriage" advocates, you'll eventually wear us out and get your "marriage" and everything else that comes with it - divorce, confused kids, and so much more. And who am I to say no to the polygamists, the child fornicators and anybody else who wants to name and claim a new right. Maybe the Mormons will have a rennaisance and "go back to their roots towards a more pure observance" but then again maybe they won't. Yes, I know, I am arguing slippery slope and I also know that once a culture is lost it is not easy to regain.

Whoever quoted Jesus with the "Whatever you do unto the least of my brothers..." really needs to understand how to read the Bible as a whole as well as how to understand Biblical context before you willy-nilly pick verses to support your position. That goes for the previous commenter as well. Clearly, using this verse in the context of supporting gay marriage is surely making a mockery of the entire reason God sent His Son to earth. If you can use the Bible like that you might as well just get up and throw it in the trash right now.

 
At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

One conservative guy to another...

I agree with you on the point that marriage has a heck of an uphill battle. As a pretty hard-right social conservative, I am all about outlawing no-fault divorce. Marriage is a vow, and couples should take it more seriously than they do.

As for my Biblical credentials, you would find them impeccable. There are surely Biblical arguments to be made on either side of this debate, and many grey areas in between. But may I remind you that in Jesus' own words, the only folks that really angered him were those who were in positions of religious leadership who used that power to oppress rather than to save.

Seven vague references to sundry pagan practices involving same-sex prostitution and idolatry hardly outweigh the hundreds of references to protecting widows and orphans.

The 1st sentence of this ban may be easy to justify Biblically.

But the 2nd sentence? Woe to those who would prevent us from feeding our hungry, visiting our prisoners, and burying our dead!

 
At 11:57 PM, Blogger georgia said...

k2aggie07, you say, and I quote "The thing that bugs me about this whole thing is that no one is preventing them from living together, or being happy, or doing what they want. Why do they need/want/demand societal approval of their actions?" You need to walk a mile in my son’s shoes...or any other gay person’s shoes. Only then will you have an inkling of the discrimination he and others face on a daily basis on every level, always keeping an eye on your back to make sure that you are not going to be attacked either physically or verbally. There are countless daily situations that prevent “them from living together, being happy or doing what they want” because they are not able to live a life of freedom with the same rights you have – no more but also no less. That is why it is so important not to vote discrimination into our Constitution.

They do not want anything more than what you want…to protect their spouse and family and to be happy. Pretty basic as I see it and not anything more than what any loving couple would want – straight or gay. There are over 200 state rights that come with marriage – and a lot of responsibility. If they are willing to take on the responsibilities, why should they not get the rights also? And yes, societal approval is a huge part of it – no matter who you are – gay or straight.

I too am a Christian but my Christian beliefs are not to judge and to accept people as they are. And…if you think that homosexuality is a choice, as I said, walk a mile in their shoes and you will soon see that they could not change who they love any more than you can change who you love. Love is Love, no matter if you love the same sex or the opposite sex. Why is that so wrong for anyone?

 
At 8:34 AM, Anonymous k2aggie07 said...

You say that we should protect widows and orphans...but gay families have niether. Homosexuals can't have kids short of adoption.

No one in Wisconsin is going hungry, starving, or dying because they're gay. That is huge hyperbole.

Why don't we have a constitutional amendment against being "greedy" or being a "drunkard"?
There may not be constitutional amendments against it, but there are laws. Why are you willing to take a legal stance on what someone drinks or smokes (public intoxication, inability to smoke in public places) but not on other psuedo-moral issues? Why is there not a huge push for a change in the laws to allow people to drink in peace?

Georgia, why could I not marry my sister? Who are you to tell me who I can and can't fall in love with? Incestual families want nothing more than to live a life of freedom under the same rights as you! Or how about bestiality? Or a daughter marrying her father? Love is love, no matter if you love the same species or the opposite, right? But surely you shy away from the idea. Why are your standards acceptable to enforce, but not my own?

As my comments have been entirely misconstrued, I will reiterate. I accept homosexuals, drunkards, idolaters, liars, cheaters, sinners, friends and family for who they are. I don't find fault with any person for their actions; to do so would be hypocritical as I have been drunk, lied, cheated, stolen, etc myself. That does not mean I have to tolerate or accept their faults, any more than I should accept the faults I see in myself. To reiterate, I am not judging people. I am judging actions.

 
At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

k2aggie07, I admire your convictions. And I am glad that you profess to caring for gay folks, as you care for all others who fall a bit short of grace.

But it seems that Georgia is correct that you are not aware of the true hardship faced by gay families. I encourage you to get to know a few.

Over 30% of gay couples do, indeed, have children. And 100% of gay folk can be considered widows/widowers if their partners pass to heaven.

You do not need to marry your sister, because you are already "next of kin" in the eyes of the State of Wisconsin.

However, gay folks face a legal construct in which their true "next of kin," namely their parents, children, and partners, may be legally strangers to them.

Burying our dead is the most tragic time for anyone in life. But for gay folks, the tragedy is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING. When we die, if the amendment passes, the State of Wisconsin will be required to abandon the widow and the orphan we leave behind.

 
At 1:02 AM, Anonymous jkendr5 said...

I can't even believe we are having this discussion. Why are people so invested in denying gays and lesbians the right to form a legally recognized union? It is not approval from society that we so desperately want? It is the ability to have my partner (of ten plus years) on my health insurance plan should she be unemployed. To be her next of kin. For her to have rights to my retirement after I die.
What is all of this talk of incest and polygamy? I have never met anyone fighting for the right to marry their sister.

 
At 7:01 AM, Blogger Hunter said...

Interesting and thoughtful post, and even more interesting comments.

Comments by k2aggie07 and others point up one aspect of the proposed amendment (and all such statutes and amendments) that no one is admitting: it is an establishment of religion. The arguments are all Biblical, and appeals to "tradition" merely act as smokescreens. (If tradition were such an overriding force in American intellectual history, this country would not exist.) There are a number of denominations that not only do not proscribe same-sex marriage, but in some cases actively encourage it for the same reasons that they encourage opposite-sex marriage: family stability, social reinforcement, legal protections of spouses and children, and confirmation of the unique spiritual bond between two people that leads to lifelong commitment. Those religions are being told to take a back seat. Other denominations, struggling to reconcile the conflicts in their teachings on this issue, are being told not to bother -- the government will have the right and obligation to make that decision for them.

The question is not whether you as a Christian can countenance government recognition of same-sex relationships, but whether you as an American can legitimately force your beliefs on others.

 
At 3:09 PM, Anonymous kittyiv said...

I think part of the current trend across the country to ban gay marriage and civil unions is due in part to backlash caused by the media. When I listen to people express some of the reasons they are in favor of the ammendment I sense a bit of desperation. They say things like "They are everywhere now. I can't turn on my television without some sitcom or talk show host dragging a gay person or couple out and making it the theme of the show." I here sentiments like that frequently. I think what is hurting the GLBT community is over exposure! People are tired of having the GLBT culture "forced" upon them in what they see as a constant barrage of accepting diversity. You take that sentiment, put it in a pot and let it simmer over medium heat for 15 years and then you bring up a gay marriage ban and what do you expect to happen? Your giving people that have had enough "gay exposure" one place to vent how they feel - the ballot box. I'm not professing what is the right stance or wrong stance on the issue. I am simply expressing what I view as the current climate on gay issues in general.

Also, for those of you who think this is discrimination being entered into State law, it's already been done. About two years ago Gov. Doyle signed a law that allows businesses that make more than 50% of their profits selling "physical fitness" can discriminate based on gender. It was the Curves Bill and has allowed Curves to successfully continue to deny male applicants from having a membership to their facilities. So, discrimination has already been written into state law and we all know that once the can is opened.........

 

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