Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spoofing Marriage Equality

How stupid do the anti-marriage equality folk think lawmakers and voters are? As a corollary, how stupid are some of each group?

Logic would have it that after dozens or maybe hundreds of lies and false alarms spanning many years, that that the anti folk would have no listeners or other support. One huge test of that was in the repeal of the out-of-state marriage restrictions here in Massachusetts. Another, much more significant one, will be in November on California's Proposition 8 to halt and forbid same-sex marriage there.

Clueless Cassandra

The most common recurrent theme from the anti forces is chaos. They seem to love the concept and expect it to sway the intellectually and emotionally weak — in court filings and arguments, in legislative lobbying, and most of all in fund-raising and public debate.

Wherever SSM is up for discussion or vote, we hear that legalizing or not illegalizing it will result in governmental paralysis and huge new expenses. From town clerks to civil courts, the flack and fallout from lawsuits will cripple all governing and processes.

This seems to relate in general terms to the claim that expanding the normal civil contract that is legal marriage will disrupt the religious rituals that many couples also have. The anti folk have claimed both in the strongest terms for years.

Had I been suckered into contributing to their groups or voting their way, I'd be pretty angry and insulted now. At every turn, their panicked predictions have proven to be fantasy and deceit.

In Vermont, the original civil-unions state, there was a whiff of that fear mongering. Then after the 2003 Goodridge decision mandating SSM here and before the first SS marriages, the klaxons rang non-stop. Homosexual couples would be the end of us all in the Bay State. Like an Ayn Rand tome, the predictions included that the powerful and wealthy would flee the state, leaving a desolate economy (the Bush administration was doing that just fine, needing no help, here and elsewhere). Judges would spend all their bench time adjudicating SS cases. Something terrible but unknowable would happen to different-gendered marriages...real bad and real soon.

None of that has happened. Only good has come of broadening civil contract marriage — the obvious pro-marriage stance.

So, you'd think that all the supporters of the dishonest and dishonorable anti groups would realize they'd been had. Here that seems to be largely, but not entirely, true. Instead, cynics can revel in the minority failure of their fellow humans. It also appears that such groups as Mass Family Institute and that ragtag duo over at MassResistance will continue to milk the gullible as long as they can. They've been reduced to chanting, "Just you wait!," in response to their failures of prediction and related assertions.

For the few, the foolish, their dislike or fear of homosexuals seems to overpower their observation. Perhaps they cling to this sinking little raft because they cannot accept that they had been fooled that many times for that long.

Deny, Deny

Even after the stomping solid defeats in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature, MFI holds to the pretext that repealing the set of laws that limited out-of-state couples from marrying here would "redefine marriage in other states...With that protective barrier removed, out-of-state same-sex couples who marry here will sue to seek recognition in their home states-creating a flood of costly lawsuits and further eroding the people's right to define marriage democratically."

As much as I like and am proud of Boston specifically and Massachusetts more broadly, we are at the moment insignificant in this equality process. Let us keep in mind that the big state, that one with all the people, as well as no limits on out-of-staters marrying there has legal SSM. Any fantasy that we'd impact the 48 states without SSM has to go way, way down the list of the possible.

Moreover, legally:
  1. One state's definition of marriage does not affect any others'. We may think we're swell, but we don't define marriage laws or regulations anywhere else.
  2. The smoke has long been in the air. As well as from Massachusetts, legally married SS couples from Canada and elsewhere are visiting, moving to, and working in states with laws and/or amendments forbidding SSM. There's no way to suck that smoke back into the fire. Despite the anti forces' druthers, they can't quarantine SS marrieds with big fences around Massachusetts and California.

Everybody Panic!

Here, the anti folk were unable to convince the legislature either that SSM would end life as we knew it or even that a pro-marriage structure including out-of-state couples would end life as those in other states know it. As their similar national and California groups turn to west coast voters, what are their tacks and prospects?

For one, just when you think they couldn't be more insulting and patronizing to their supporters, news comes about the Pacific Justice Institute. They are taking a path that failed miserably in Canada when wingers tried to overturn SSM there — claiming that fundamentalist and conservative clerics will find the the government forcing them to solemnize SSMs.

The Sacramento-based legal group specializes in suing left-wingers. Since the middle of June, they have been doing a scare tour for ministers around California. Even though legal experts at the state and national levels clearly assert there is no risk of any clergy being required to perform either civil marriage (signing the state license) or the religious ritual (not legal marriage at all) for any couple, that failed argument seems to be the order of the day again.

In his own circular argument, PJI President Brad Dacus told the Press-Enterprise reporter, "We wouldn't be spending time and resources on this if there was no substantive threat."

The meetings are billed as workshops, telling the ministers that they have to "take proper preemptive measures and adhere to them, they should be able to withstand a lawsuit. Most churches have not taken preemptive measures." Truth be told, that amounts to checking the church's written policy on marriages, facilities use and such. If they are so disorganized as not to have policies, they should do that immediately for any use of the church.

With Pro. 8 in four months, other agenda at the workshops will include related politicking and appeals. Specifically:
Dacus said his workshops also guide pastors who are unsure how strongly they can advocate for Prop. 8, the anti-same-sex marriage initiative. Although pastors cannot endorse political candidates from the pulpit, they can support ballot initiatives and pass out leaflets in favor of initiatives, he said. But they cannot devote a "substantial amount of church resources or facilities" to a political cause, he said.
Underlying the workshops is the marketing aspect too.

The institute is using the specter of pastors being forced to perform same-sex weddings in its fundraising appeals. If you believe, as I do, that no government should be allowed to force churches to perform marriage ceremonies that contradict God's Word, I'm asking you to say 'I do' by offering PJI a one-time, tax-deductible gift," a June 25 letter says.
Of course, that's cynical, but interest groups on all sides are always fund-raising. In fact, their best argument to the clergy might be that it would be a lot cheaper for them to kick in a few optional bucks and get what they can from the workshops. If they haven't done the reasonable groundwork for facilities use, they're in trouble anyway. For a wide variety of the public, they have to be very clear and consistent on their non-religious use policies or open themselves to legal enforcement or suits. If the PJI tells them specifically what their board has to do, it would likely be a lot cheaper than hiring an attorney to do the same.

I confess that I can't ascribe such eleemosynary motives to this group. However, they could be useful to the least well administrated churches. Over the years, quite a few ministers I have known have said they are pretty ignorant about administration and management. Those have not been key in their calling or training. Most church boards largely or entirely comprise a set of well-intentioned amateurs.

Next Windmill

The scare tactics eventually failed with Massachusetts lawmakers and voters. Out-of-thin-air assertions created a stir, but did not hold sway.

Now turning to California, we keep in mind that eight years ago, the voters made a highly emotionally charged vote changing family code to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The current argument for those favoring Prop. 8, like Protect Marriage, is that this is all voters need to know and do to pass the initiative.

Of course, quite a lot has changed:
  1. Massachusetts marriages did not produce the lawsuits, scattering of militant married SS couples looking for fights, or any of the chaos promised.
  2. Many thousands, perhaps millions, of gay individuals and couples have come out and are just plain, unscary folk.
  3. The state's highest court legalized SSM.
  4. Prop. 8 would be a constitutional amendment, not a simple and easily reversible law change.
  5. Prop. 8 would strip fellow citizens of existing rights, rights fundamental to society.
It looks good for 8 going down in flames. If the best the anti forces can do is say uphold the 2000 vote with this one, they are doomed. If their threats are ones that no one in the legal community gives any support to, far too few will buy the argument.

The two main groups fighting Prop. 8 are local — Equality for All and Equality California. There's is the good fight right now. They are up against a lot of national-level winger money and could use some more checkbook liberals on-board.

California often surprises the nation. I have long held that their initiative system is the worst and most impulsive around. So, I could be surprised. Yet, I've looked at the anti folks' literature and websites. They don't have the goods.

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2 comments:

Bill Baar said...

In 1991 my future wife and I went to my UU minister to talk about marriage. He talked with us a bit, had us take a meyers-brigg test, and then on the return visit told us to wait a year. Basically he refused to marry us... at least at the moment.

We went to a UCC minister instead, who married us, but with a strong suggestion I join his financially struggling Church... which I did, leaving my UU Church...

I always get a chuckle with this marriage-equality frame because UU ministers certainly reserve the right to not marry folks.

I think that's appropriate but it does imply I think that marriage is not an absolute right for all. The law, the Church, our culture, are all going to establish criteria for just what marriage is all about.

massminuteman said...

I dunno about Massachusetts being so irrelevant nationally. The next states to legalize SSM are probably New Jersey and New York with Connecticut unclear. That's not California's doing.

I think NY/NJ is when SSM legalization tips to inevitable in the popular mind. It becomes too big and real to deny anymore.

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