Monday, November 17, 2008

SSM Morality Play at Suffolk Law

Skeletor, Walter Mitty, Fred Flintstone, the hungover grad student and Aged Smurfette took the podium in turn today at The Future of Marriage: Five Years After Goodridge session. They are also known as:
It's not polite to comment on other's features. However, short, round Gallagher started the main address by noting that she was too short to use the podium. All in all, it was a motley appearing crew, or perhaps we should say it a distractingly physically diverse table.

Raggedy further were their comments. Each spoke for 10 to 20 minutes on a specialty. I had not heard Moran before, just seen his name on numerous law suits and amicus briefs; he sues lefties for almost anything to do with women's reproductive choice. The others all have standard raps and they hardly varied what they said.

Yet, a few tidbits emerged during the Q&A that followed. The event was in a lent hall at Suffolk Law. Among the roughly 100 attendants, maybe 30 were student age. They held their hands straight up when Gallagher asked who favored same-sex marriage. They also asked related questions. Nearly everyone else was middle-aged or older, with lots of gray hair, many thick-soled sensible shoes, bald or thinning hair on men and women, and the couple in front of me even brought their own seat cushions to use on the padded chairs.

Gallagher uses very unconvincing shtick. You can see it in detail at her FAQ on SSM. Read the whole thing. For a taste, consider the first:
1. Are you a bigot? “Why do you want to take away people’s rights?” Isn’t it wrong to write discrimination into the constitution?”

A: “Do you really believe people like me who believe mothers and fathers both matter to kids are like bigots and racists? I think that’s pretty offensive, don’t you? Particularly to the 60 percent of African-Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t new; it’s not taking away anyone’s rights. It’s common sense.”

That kind of circular reasoning, with the added smoke screen of extraneous material, is fairly comical. To her credit, she returns to it relentlessly. She smiles, thanks the questioner for bringing up what a decent human would be embarrassed to confront, and then rephrases the I'm-not-a-bigot-and-SSM-is-not-a-civil-rights-issue routine, with a big grin.

She even knows how to bait the net for this. She fed the question about whether anyone thought they had heard anything bigoted during the presentations. Numerous students played into her hands and provided the examples she requested. One pretty articulate student, Josh, she was valuing same-sex relationships less and that was bigoted.

She thanked him for his sincerity (a feature she seems to lack entirely) and returned to the one-man/one-woman theme. The two key variants are:
  • Marriage must be that way for procreation, the continuation of the species
  • Children absolutely need a dad and a mom to thrive
Each of these is laden with irony and contradiction, as the panelists blissfully blurted out repeatedly. For the criticality of a mom and a dad, even Gallagher put the lie to it. She admitted in passing that she was an unwed mother for a decade, that it was hard, but she did a good job. Moreover, she said that homosexuals could be good parents. None of the panelists or audience drilled into physically and sexually abusive different-sex parents, the myriad research showing that homosexual couples produce homes and kids at least as stable and smart, or that having no dad around is almost certainly better than a bad one.

The procreation one is even more loaded and has failed in debate countless times. Of course, a solid plurality or depending on your time horizon, majority of couples could not marry if that was a limit. Those who cannot, can no longer, or choose not to have children would be out of luck. Moreover, gay couples can use the same surrogate and IVF techniques straight ones do to have biological children. They can and do adopt, rescuing kids of institutions and foster care. These anti-marriage-equality sorts must really offend the millions of adoptive parents by devaluing their marriages with such slurs.

Several of the panel engaged in logical fallacies, even Jacoby, who is a lawyer and loves to parse phrases and pick nits. Again, Gallagher offers the strongest examples. In particular, she was very smug in saying there are dire consequences of SSM. That's rather amusing in a state with five years of history and nothing but good results — higher marriage, low and lessening divorce, more married couple available to adopt, more stable homes for children conceived or adopted.

Gallagher kept returning in her lecture and answers to red herrings about severe oppression of religious freedom and First Amendment rights of those of her ilk. In fact, she had not U.S. examples, but referred to one Swedish and one Canadian case of prosecution for hate speech. Even without any American examples, she was positive they were coming. Don't tell her that there is no harm. She just knows there will be, in the form of government mandated re-education camps for those to SSM, revoked or denied licenses and tax exemptions, which would result in unemployment and devastation for good-hearted folk, and parents such as Parker forced to flee public schools in disgrace.

Even with Parker there dragging out his tired and half-true tale, the victimhood of parents who have to tell their young kids that gays exist and can legally marry here is a tissue-thin garment. (By the bye, Parker likes to be called Doctor nowadays, saying he has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. ) His school battle was one he picked stupidly and clumsily, one he lost repeatedly.

At its center are parents rights a key winger term to listen out for, along with its counterpart adjective Judeo-Christian. Boiled down, Parker and his wife didn't want any mention, even in early-reader and picture books of same-sex couples. That to them, they claim, is sex education (you see, homosexuals have sex, therefore...). The underlying legal assertion is that if schools include such in diversity education this removes the parents as primary moral teachers for their own children.

Of course, the courts found again and again in this case alone that the parents had the kids much more and vastly more in terms of moral teaching. In fact, it is the parents' duty to provide such training by word and deed. They remain the primary moral teachers, but that also includes answering questions about the real world and in places like Massachusetts, where SSM is legal, saying that mommy and daddy don't approve of this. Now, how hard is that? Aren't there dozens or instances where parents should differentiate what they believe from what other kids and parents do?

Parker feigns oppression, as Gallagher imagines what possibly could happen, adding that therefore, it surely shall.

Another of her repeated logical fallacies is that SSM and one-man/one-woman marriage cannot co-exist. The latter "has to be rules of the table to make room for same-sex marriage." She made no attempt to justify that irrational and unjustifiable statement, although she repeated it in small variations many times. Not only can it, it does here.

Many marriage equality folk have noted that the folk at today's session want to redefine marriage from the civil contract it has been for centuries into its religious ritual ancillary form only. They note that SSM advocates do not want to change one-man/one-woman marriage, rather expand it. Meanwhile, the other side wants to limit marriage, and therefore the couples and their children who would benefit.

Jacoby had his own indefensible arguments, which readers of his columns have already seen. At its worst was his support for courts being ineffective in expanding civil rights (therefore, rely on ballot initiatives, even though only half of states have them). He cites 1883 and 1896 decisions form a reactionary U.S. Supreme Court that limited civil rights for blacks. Thus, he risibly expounded, later laws and court decisions giving black folk rights was real civil right because it was returning that they had lost (even though it was never realized until the 1960s). As homosexuals have not had marriage rights, their cases do not qualify as civil right, he holds. I would love to see the reaction of even a conservative court if he tried that crap there.

Back to the tidbits:
  • Jacoby admitted in the Q&A that if California voters reverse Prop. 8 in two or fours years on another ballot initiative, he'll affirm that SSM would become a civil-right in California. That's typical amoral lawyer talk of course. He was certain to qualify it with California as well as noting that voter approval would make it a civil right. Meanwhile, he has no qualms about dragging out marriage equality until each state in its own time beats that process to death and skins it to get there.
  • The most trivial was a little giggle from Mineau. He introduced himself at the podium by dragging out his last name's pronunciation. He apparently doesn't like the French-ish tone many of us ignorantly use and said slowly and clearly that his name is mean'-oh. Sorry, but that sounds too much like mean-ole, as in mean ole man. He should stick with minnow or men-eau.
  • Probably the most fun was when an elderly winger MassResistance hanger-on called MFI's director of public policy, Evelyn Reilly over. They stood right beside me while South Boston's Bill Grant identified himself and wanted to talk about the 2,000 to 3,000 who protested Prop. 8 at City Hall on Saturday. (The Globe reports about 4,000. Meh.) He said the MR folk numbered about 15 and started on how they were roughed up by the GLBT folk. She interrupted him. He went on to ask if MFI would work with them to get a show of 6,000 or 7,000. Evelyn lost it on that and said, "If Brian Camenker would stop attacking public groups, maybe we could get together. (Brian promises full coverage with pix and video of "Enraged activists swarmed MassResistance counter-protest. Police protection needed to stop violence".)
  • At the end of the questions, Gallagher apparently had forgotten that she foretold dreadful suppression if SSM advances. She said "I'm not worried that I'll be arrested for speaking publicly."
  • Parker made people a little quesy with his repeated insistence that he "deeply loved men." The point was that homosexual men were sexual with each other, descending in Eros as he put it. Two older guys sitting near me looked painfully at their wives and one kept shuffling his feet as Parker returned to his man-love theme. Too much information, David...
  • The only real response from the audience came during a question. There were tiny bursts of applause at expected times. However, when one law student said that following five years of SSM here, "there has been no moral decay in Massachusetts, " the audience in their way went for it. The majority moaned, one hooted, and quite a few put their fingers to their glabellae in outrage-like reaction.
I have digital recording of the two hours. They also filmed it. Perhaps MFI doesn't and won't realize how this represents the worst of the inadequate arguments against SSM. A series of film clips would make great comic history in a decade or two after this all settles.

Follow-up: Shucks, Bud from MassResistanceWatch was there. I've never met him. We've just swapped electrons.

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Ryan said...

I really, really enjoyed this tale. They're so sad, it's comical. The Reilly bit was a hoot.

I don't know how you manage this kind of citizen journalism. I'd be furious listening to those nuts.

Boston Bud said...

Great take on the forum. I wish I had known someone else there I felt like I was walking into the lion's den.

I had almost forgot about Mad Dad's bizarre moment, at least I wasn't the only one who felt it.

Kris Mineau also talked about the other threats to marriage yet MFI wasn't planning on attacking them any time soon. They never talked about the low divorce rate in Mass either. Some much for their future of marriage

massmarrier said...

Just so, Bud. Their ideas for strengthening the family aren't for that at all. They seem overwhelmed or oblivious to divorce, lack of childcare and on and on. Manufacturing a straw man and trying to knock it down is soooooo much easier.

Anonymous said...

You write-"Parker made people a little quesy with his repeated insistence that he "deeply loved men."

I expect your order-of-the-day fastuous analysis of the forum and fastidious critique of my "story", but your comment above really struck me with intrigue. I mentioned love for those of the same gender when a gay man from the audience asserted--"why are we against his "love" of men". But the billion-day-question is- why does it make you feel quesy. Seriously- I want to know. I assume your "gay'- I just can't understand your reaction. Enlighten me.

(if you prefer a private E-mail for discussion; I can provide one)

David Parker

massmarrier said...

Well, Dr. P, I was not queasy, but the fellow to my right and the one in front of me were. They exhibited the body language — shifting repeatedly, looking down, whispering to their wives and so forth. They had not moved at all until your use of those terms several times, but did with each. I think it was reasonable to judge that your remark was a bit much for them.

I am accustomed to such agape/eros talk and was not bothered at all by it. From my experience, that's more standard in evangelical churches, not R.C. or mainline Protestant ones.

The two neighboring guys who seemed so uncomfortable were in their mid- to late 60s from their appearance. Perhaps they need more exposure to such fora.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply--can you explain Boston Bud's comment:"I had almost forgot about Mad Dad's bizarre moment, at least I wasn't the only one who felt it." What did Bud feel? And why was it a bizarre moment?
And you did state" Parker returned to his man-love theme. Too much information, David..."

Interesting-very interesting.

We both understand that being "gay" is a self identification of sexual attraction to the same gender-- self identification primarily about human sexuality. No? But we both agree that it is possible to bond deeply with someone of the same gender and not want to be sexually involved. Right? Why is that bizarre to communicate it?

David Parker

massmarrier said...

In definition terms, I tend to use sexual orientation, not self-identification, for gay, straight or whatever. I also don't use quotes around any of the common identification terms. That's small beer though.

I can't speak for Bud. For me, what was remarkable at the panel was your repeated, pointed mentions, and secondarily what I perceived as the reaction among some of the older men in the audience. From the conversations I overheard before and even during the panel, some of these people have some pretty harsh judgments of homosexuals. I don't think that even in as lofty a context as yours that such sentiments were ones they were likely to have ever uttered.

I recognized your lingo and intent to appear open-minded and even transcendent in describing your ability to love. I am not so sure everyone in the audience was so attuned.

It did seem a bit prideful, but, hey, we all have our little shtick.

I find absolutely nothing wrong with your saying you can love men as well as women, with the clear implication that you were not looking to pick up any male lovers. This particular audience, on the other hand, might have been content to hear that only once and only in passing.