Friday, December 19, 2008

Re: Live And Let Hate

Responding to my column for today, readers left the following comments at the DI's main site:
Once again I ask and have yet to be answered, where in the federal or state constituion [sic] does it protect this "right of marriage"?

In the spirit of open and civil discourse could somone [sic] PLEASE tell me in polite and rational terms without the emotion and invective what exactly the goal of gay marriage is trying to achieve (and not the vagaries of "we want to be just like everyone else"), is it property rights, is it tax benefit, is it matching rings? What is the benefit of the word "marriage" opposed to the word "civil union" that seems to be at stake here?

- Miles Bennell

And...
This is an appropriately titled editorial. The labeling of another individual as an "idiotic asshole", or "corpulant [sic] poisonous toad" will go a long way to mending any perceived differences of viewpoint concerning either the gay rights issues or the fact that Chris Patton is an atheist.

I have yet to see an editorial by Chris that wasn't permeated with some sort of name calling or hate filled posturing. Must be really fun to hang with him around this time of year, with all this religious stuff being flaunted everywhere.

Merry Christmas Chris!

- Lookin4fun

Answering Miles, I have never asserted that any constitution protects a "right of marriage." If legislators wanted to, they could pass laws ending the government issuance of marriage licenses altogether. The problem with allowing opposite-sex couples to marry while prohibiting same-sex couples from doing the same is that it violates the right to equal protection under the law. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that right in all 50 states.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court's case law on equal protection issues is quite complicated, I would argue that denying same-sex couples the same rights afforded to opposite-sex couples fails to even live up to a rational basis standard of review if that standard is taken seriously. There just aren't any legitimate reasons for doing so. Satisfying the demands of particular religious groups is not a permissible justification, as that would violate the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion. In any case, even if such differential treatment is found to satisfy the watered-down rational basis standard, the U.S. Supreme Court has been gradually moving in the direction of applying a higher level of scrutiny in cases involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Using a higher level of scrutiny is certainly justified in the case of sexual orientation, just as it is with regard to race and sex. All of those categories have been used historically to discriminate against vulnerable groups of people.

The goal is not "to be just like everyone else." Being gay means recognizing that at least in terms of one's sexuality, one is not like everyone else. Gays are a small and distinct minority. However, the goal is to be treated equally under the law. That's only fair. And it's also the only truly constitutional option.

Purely as a matter of pragmatism, I think civil unions are better than nothing. If they're all we can achieve right now, then so be it. I've made this clear in the past. However, we know from experience that separate but equal is never truly equal. New Jersey officials have determined this to be the case in that state.

The Star-Ledger has reported:
New Jersey should enact a law allowing gay marriage and waste no time passing it because the state's civil unions law fails to adequately protect same-sex couples, a report to be released today concludes.

The final report of the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission says it gathered "overwhelming evidence" that the civil union law not only fails to provide the same protections as marriage, it also has created economic, medical and emotional hardships for gay couples.

The commission concluded that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is as unjust as government imposing racial segregation laws against African-Americans.

Continue reading.

So which rights is this really about? All of them, obviously. It's just not acceptable to deny same-sex couples any of the legal rights afforded to opposite-sex couples.

Finally, regarding what "Lookin4fun" had to say, I'd suggest that he or she go to the DI's main site and search for "Christopher Patton"--or just click here. I've written over 100 articles in which I didn't call anyone any names. But that doesn't mean I don't think I'm justified in occasionally doing so. I've even written about why I think it's sometimes necessary--click here to check it out.

6 comments:

Nate said...

Don't let the online crazies occupy more than five seconds of your attention, Chris. 90% of those people could be admitted into an institution.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

I still don't understand what "protections" that you are seeking, but if it relates to property rights (including but not limited to real property, healthcare benefits, retirement benefits etc.) I would agree with you and that the rights of individual property are protected under the constitution. Let's end the inheritance tax for everyone (what could be more equal)and make transferring personal property as the individual wishes as easy as possible instead of making the government the easiest beneficiary. As far as taxes go, I am for equality in taxes as well, repeal the progressive tax code end this marriage tax break and create a flat tax system where everyone pays say ten percent of their income in taxes. Now we have a truly equal system and we don't don't need government involvement in our lives. Are you with me???

Miles Bennell

Christopher Patton said...

Miles,

I'm a libertarian, so I'm with you at least in principle on most of that stuff. However, you still seem to be missing the point. If the government is going to issue licenses to opposite-sex couples and given them a large bundle of legal benefits (property, tax, child custody, etc.), then it has to offer the same licenses to same-sex couples.

Do you know much about how marriage works? How about the legal system more generally? Sure, there are a bunch of special contracts that a gay couple could have drawn up that could offer most (but not all--particularly in the realm of child custody) of the legal benefits of a marriage license. However, doing so would be substantially more expensive than obtaining a marriage license. You've probably never had to consider these issues--and gay people shouldn't need to, either.

As long as the state is in the business of handing out special legal certificates called marriage licenses that automatically and cheaply grant enormous legal benefits, it has to hand them out equally. Withholding them from same-sex couples only because they are same-sex couples runs counter the core liberties on which this country is founded.

Chris

Anonymous said...

Chris,

You don't get more libertarian than me, and in answer to your question I know PLENTY about marriage and the legal system and as far as marriage goes I am pretty indifferent to the whole system whether it be straight, gay or otherwise. The bottom line though is that the government can and does give preferential treatment to some behaviors while penalizing others i.e. giving tax breaks to a company that locates a factory in a state and provides jobs.
That being said, wouldn't it be more beneficial to advocate some type of civil union that would give gay couples the same property rights and tax benefits as a "marriage" license and leave marriage as quasi religious entity? It would seem to me to be a more "palatable" option for the majority and therefore a more attainable goal. On your point of child custody I am not sure what benefits a marriage license gives as it would seem that child custody would come into play only at the dissolution of the marriage.

Miles

Fairly Hetero said...

Seems to be a case of denial here Miles.

You said: "You don't get more libertarian than me, and in answer to your question I know PLENTY about marriage and the legal system and as far as marriage goes I am pretty indifferent to the whole system whether it be straight, gay or otherwise."

Miles, if you were truly libertarian, you would be, opposed to – not indifferent to, the entire concept of government doled 'privilege' in its entirety.

Further, your statement: "The bottom line though is that the government can and does give preferential treatment to some behaviors while penalizing others i.e. giving tax breaks to a company that locates a factory in a state and provides jobs." - Relates corporate (small "c") ‘citizen’ businesses as equal to private (flesh and blood – large “C”) Citizens in regard to what is essentially a civil rights matter as opposed to a legal (right to exist) matter.

These do not mix well and is an inappropriate analogy to use for this subject.

Then, you go on to state: "That being said, wouldn't it be more beneficial to advocate some type of civil union that would give gay couples the same property rights and tax benefits as a "marriage" license and leave marriage as quasi religious entity?"

A "Quasi-Religious Entity"? - Come on, man! Think about what you just said. A "Marriage License" has NOTHING at all to do with religion! It is a permit for two people to combine their affairs by law and become a general partnership in civil terms. Any person (not clergy of any ‘brand’) can join them as long as they are legally, sanctioned to do so. In most states – signing a contract before a Notary Public will do. Whether that Notary is a devout Christian, a Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, or prays on the half-hour to Ned the Three-eyed, Wonder Turtle matters not one whit in the eyes of the law – once the contract, is filed with the State, they are legally ‘Married’.

It is a simple (legal) permit for two people to 'merge' as a unit (legally speaking) and when broken down to its component parts, is no more than a partnership agreement between two private individuals entering into a non-profit, non-commercial albeit legally binding venture we commonly refer to as 'marriage'.

As Chris has correctly pointed out many times, the government is, forbidden from condoning, promulgating or promoting any religious activity or agenda by the US Constitution as well as the State Constitution of Iowa.

You continue by saying: "It would seem to me to be a more "palatable" option for the majority and therefore a more attainable goal." - Sorry for the breaking of the bad news here but the 'majority's palate' has no place in this issue. Quite the contrary - because the majority is attempting to repress and is causing provable harm to the minority in this case (by some 97 to 3 if Chris' figures are correct), the needs of the minority must be brought up to the same standards as the 97 per-centers enjoy.

A "Libertarian" such as you can have no doubt about this. A major tenet of Libertarianism is promoting the strict lack of government involvement about what any individual wants to or can do with his/her life. Whether this is His and His Life, Her and Her Life or His and Her Life – government intervention and unbalanced allowance between groups is off limits under the strict interpretation of the Constitution and even more plainly by simply looking at the issue and using common sense. For you to disagree with this statement would be to self-prove beyond a doubt your claim of being a libertarian as a false one.

Your last statement: "On your point of child custody I am not sure what benefits a marriage license gives as it would seem that child custody would come into play only at the dissolution of the marriage." - Can you really be serious about this? The record on Gay adoption 'standards' being exponentially harder than those 'normal' couples are held to is beyond questioning on any level. Of those gay couples fortunate enough (or wealthy enough) to have run that gauntlet and still been 'allowed' to become adoptive parents, the percentage of dissolutions is almost nil compared to those of their straight counterparts (now running at higher than 50/50). Further, the cases of abuse, neglect and abandonment are almost non-existent in the gay parent culture in comparison with the type of hetero union the “moral majority’ (which cannot factually claim to be either) espouses.

You obviously feel that gays should not be legally married Miles, this is your right to disagree with on personal moral or religious grounds, but to base your opposition to this on the erroneous assumption that ‘legal marriage’ is religion based in direct contravention of both the US and the Iowa Constitutions, bears reconsideration by you. “Marriage” is a legal privilege – not a religious right (pardon the pun) – as such, it is most definitely, covered under equal protection and if you cannot oppose the marriage of gays by a (valid) standard, you owe it to yourself to change your mindset if for no other reason than that of personal intellectual honesty.

Christopher Patton said...

You've got it exactly right, Fairly Hetero.

Miles also simply decided to ignore the finding by the New Jersey investigative panel that civil unions actually didn't provide the full protections of marriage. That's why I stopped responding.