Three weeks ago, Miguel Angel Calefato, 65, and Jose Luis Navarro, 54, who had lived together unwed for 27 years, became the first same-sex couple to marry legally in South America, after Argentina lifted the ban on same-sex couples marrying. (BBC)
Two weeks ago, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, said “Anyone who can marry a couple currently should be able to marry same sex-couples. This is about justice for everyone. Civil partnerships have been a wonderful thing, but they are not equal; being separate isn’t being equal and the Government would be wise to move towards equality as soon as possible.” He said the argument that allowing gay marriage could threaten the institution of marriage, was “a silly idea”. “I don’t think any gay couple have ever made a married couple feel less married.” (Herald) The cause of equal marriage in the UK has been boosted by the government’s decision to consult on a change in the law. On the Monday after Miguel Angel Calefato and Jose Luis Navarro got married, the deputy LibDem leader Simon Hughes predicted that same-sex couples would have the right to civil marriage in the UK before the next General Election is due in 2014. (Pink News, with video clip)
And today in the US, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 — the 2008 ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California — in a 136-page ruling. The lawsuit against Prop 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, marked the first federal court challenge of a state law banning same-sex marriage. The case is expected to eventually wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Dallas Voice)
Further, Judge Walker struck Prop8 down with great clarity about its unConstitutional nature (Queerty) – when this case reaches the US Supreme Court, as seems likely, the judges would have to be literally dishonest to attempt to overturn these:
• “Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as ‘the right to same-sex marriage’ would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.”
• “The evidence supports two points which together show Proposition 8 does not advance any of the identified interests: (1) same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents are of equal quality, FF
69-73, and (2) Proposition 8 does not make it more likely that opposite-sex couples will marry and raise offspring biologically related to both parents
• “Because the evidence shows same-sex marriage has and will have no adverse effects on society or the institution of marriage, California has no interest in waiting and no practical need to wait to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Proposition 8 is thus not rationally related to proponents’ purported interests in proceeding with caution when implementing social change.”
• “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”
• Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, as excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. One example of a legitimate state interest in not issuing marriage licenses to a particular group might be a scarcity of marriage licenses or county officials to issue them. But marriage licenses in California are not a limited commodity, and the existence of 18,000 same-sex married couples in California shows that the state has the resources to allow both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to wed.
• “A PRIVATE MORAL VIEW THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES ARE INFERIOR TO OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES IS NOT A PROPER BASIS FOR LEGISLATION. In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. FF 78-80. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate. See Romer, 517 US at 633; Moreno, 413 US at 534; Palmore v Sidoti, 466 US 429, 433 (1984) (‘[T]he Constitution cannot control [private biases] but neither can it tolerate them.’).”
The author, Eric Pavlat, wants people to know that
1. Focus on the Words ‘Right’ and ‘Marriage’
Pavlat asserts that “the freedom to marry is not a right”. Unfortunately for this argument in the US, SCOTUS ruled unanimously on June 12, 1967, that, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” a “basic civil right.” (from “the 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement” by Mildred Loving ) This argument is similarly overthrown by the European Convention on Human Rights, where recognized, which asserts in Article 8 that Everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and correspondence. So in fact, in the US, in the EU, the freedom to marry is a right. So much for that.
2. At this point, gay-rights supporters will often say that it is heterosexual couples who have damaged marriage. They are right, and we need to agree.
Fine. Move along. If Pavlat thinks the institution of marriage is “damaged” by being made equal (where a man and a woman have equal rights, obligations, and responsibilities in marriage, lifting the ban on same-sex couples marrying follows at a glacier’s inevitable pace) well, too bad for Pavlat.
3. Talk about Children’s Rights – There are some people who often don’t come up in discussions about gay marriage, but should: children.
Definitely! Given that same-sex couples can and do have children, there are only two questions remaining:
a. Do you believe that having married parents is beneficial to children?
If the answer to (a) is Yes, then:
b. What’s your motivation for arguing that the children of same-sex couples ought to be denied that benefit?
Pavlat argues that it’s reasonable to deny the children of same-sex couples the benefit of having married parents because, he claims, “It isn’t that gay people are necessarily bad parents, but that children thrive most fully when raised by a mother and a father.” There is no evidence for this view, but even granted for the sake of argument, it’s hard to see why Pavlat would think that children whom he regards as being already in the “inferior” situation of having same-sex parents, ought to be further discriminated against by having those children denied even the benefit of having married parents. Unless he thinks that it’s right to treat children unjustly because of the sexual orientation of their parents, of course.
4. Show that the Slippery Slope Is Real . . . and Happening Now
Pavlat offers as examples of the “slippery slope” which he claims is happening now, because of same-sex marriages, support of the marriage of computer avatars in Japan, a marriage between man and body pillow in Korea, and a marriage between man and horse in Missouri in 1999. Since all three incidents happened in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is not legal, any evidence for the “slippery slope” is actually the other way: but the “slippery slope” is an argument that people ought to be denied civil rights – caused, real, actual, measurable harm right now (For example, see Clay Greene and Harold Scull, together for 27 years until they were forcibly separated by Sonoma County, ironically just a month before the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in California.) to prevent an unspecified, predicted, unproven harm that might happen because of the “slippery slope” in future years. FWIW, people argued against “allowing” interracial marriage, for the same reason. Pavlat bounces right into the assertion that if the ban on same-sex couples is lifted, this will somehow lead directly to the massive alteration of marriage legislation that would be required to bring polygamous marriage into the framework of Western equal marriage. Pavlat is unable to show any actual instance of this happening, in any country in which same-sex marriage has been made legal: unsurprisingly, since polygamy tends to be legally recognized only in countries where marriage is unequal. Equal marriage leads to same-sex couples marrying: equal marriage and poly marriage do not go together.
5. Show that Gay Marriage is Harmful
At this point Pavlat just dives into insanity. He asserts that if same-sex couples are able to marry legally, this will lead to an increased risk of domestic violence (he doesn’t explain how).
He notes (correctly) that if same-sex couples can marry, children will tend to grow up learning from their schools, if not their parents, that it’s okay to be gay. He claims that since in a society where gay people tend to be discriminated against and ostracized, gay people are at more risk of suicide, this means it’s bad to create a society where gay people are less likely to be discriminated against and ostracized. (He also cites various physical diseases which can be shown to be statistically more prevalent among lesbians and gays than heterosexual women and men: he does not cite the various physical diseases which can be shown to be statistically more prevalent among heterosexual women and men than among lesbians and gay men, but, to quote a Christian friend, if we believe that AIDS is God’s punishment for being gay, cervical cancer is God’s punishment for being straight.) Young Catholic lesbian and gay kids are at high risk for suicide, not directly because of their sexual orientation, but because they live in a hatefilled environment which teaches them sincerely that God hates them and wants them to be unhappy. If Pavlat actually cared about gay kids committing suicide, he would want their schools to teach them that it’s okay to be gay, particularly if their parents and priests are busy teaching them that they don’t deserve to live.
He moves on to assert that Same-sex marriage has already hurt a number of private citizens and social institutions in the United States and Canada as well:
The examples he offers are odd, though. He cites Catholic Charities deciding that it’s more important to promote homophobia than to provide health insurance to employee spouses. He cites Catholic Charities in Boston being forced by the Massachusetts Bishops to discontinue placing children with same-sex couples, because the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts were required by doctrine to regard promoting homophobic beliefs about same-sex parents as more important than finding homes for children who desperately need them. These are a clear example of Catholic homophobia hurting people: to blame gay marriage for Catholic homophobic actions would be like blaming Martin Luther King for the KKK.
He cites a Knights of Columbus organization being fined because they rented out their hall to non-Catholic couples to celebrate non-Catholic weddings – but refused to allow a lesbian couple to celebrate their wedding. Again, an example of an organization being harmed by Catholic homophobia. Not the fault of the lesbian couple that they didn’t realize in advance that the Knights of Columbus were so bigoted they’d rather be fined than obey the law: if a Mormon organization refused to rent a Mormon-owned hall to an interracial couple, they too would be fined. Discrimination is illegal.
He cites the case of Chris Kempling, who was employed by a local school and who was professionally disciplined by the B.C. College of Teachers for writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper denouncing the school’s teaching on homosexuality. Unfortunately for Pavlat’s claim that the damage Kempling did to his career was “caused” by same-sex marriage, Kempling wrote his letters denouncing his employer in 1997 – some years before British Columbia lifted the ban on same-sex couples marrying.
He cites, as an example of damage, that kids in kindergarten are taught not to denigrate or abuse other kids in kindergarten: that whether the kids have mixed-sex parents, same-sex parents, married parents, unmarried parents, they’re taught that all of their families are equally valid. Why he wants some kindergarten-age kids to be taught that their parents are inferior and their families invalid, he doesn’t say: why he thinks it’s “damaging” for kindergarten-age kids to be taught to respect everyone’s families, everyone’s parents, he doesn’t say.
He cites, as an example of damage, that marriage commissioners and justices of the peace, who are obliged as a function of their jobs to wed any couple legally free to marry, are not allowed to refuse to marry a couple because of their personal religious prejudices. This is particularly odd. Does Pavlat think that a marriage commissioner prejudiced against black people ought to be allowed to refuse to wed an interracial couple? Or that a justice of the peace who hates Catholics ought to be allowed to refuse to wed any couple who identify as Catholic?
He cites, as an example of damage, a bed & breakfast business on Prince Edward Island in 2001, who wanted the right to discriminate against who could book their room and stay in the bed, based on their personal prejudices against gay men and a specific Montreal couple. Unfortunately for this argument, the basic civil rights principle is well-established that if you are running a business such as a hotel, a guesthouse, or a b&b, you are not allowed to deny your business to any legitimate guest based on your personal prejudices against them – whether because they are black, gay, Jewish, Catholic, or for any other reason. Still more unfortunately for Pavlat’s argument that this “damage” was caused by gay marriage this incident took place in 2001 – several years before gay marriage was legal in Prince Edward Island or in Montreal.
He cites, as an example of damage, several Canadian mayors apparently being fined because they thought the right to free assembly did not apply to LGBT people and so they could refuse applications for a Pride celebration. Again unfortunately for his case that this is “caused” by gay marriage, the right to free assembly actually predates gay marriage and has no connection with it, except that both are regarded as basic civil rights.
He cites, as an example of damage, an educator in a Illinois college, Kenneth Howell, who lost his job earlier this year because his employer determined that he had gone over the line from explaining what the Catholic Church believes about homosexuality, to preaching to his students that the doctrine of the Catholic Church is the truth. Contrary to Pavlat’s argument that this was “caused” by gay marriage, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act prohibits “marriages between two members of the same sex” in Illinois, and same-sex marriages from out of state are not recognized in Illinois. There is not even any provision made for registering same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships. Pavlat doesn’t appear to be aware of this: he claims that “gay marriage does have an impact on society at large” – even, apparently, in states where it’s banned.
Pavlat moves on to examples of logical argument in support of the freedom to marry, which he calls “Don’t Get Derailed”.
He suggests that a counterargument to the point that “If they say that marriage isn’t about children, since we don’t forbid sterile people from getting married” is that “in the case of a sterile union, the sterility is not sought and is not an integral part of the act” – he doesn’t appear to notice that this is irrelevant to the point. Civil marriage does not require either or both of the partners marrying to be fertile. Quibbly points about even if a man with a vasectomy marries a woman with a hysterectomy this is still not an “integral part of the act” and “their sexual union is still the kind of union that God has intended for the procreation of children” – are just quibbly derailing. Civil marriage makes no demand that the couple be fertile, let alone that they must be interfertile with each other.
A standard Catholic argument is that gay behavior is “against natural law”, to which the obvious counter is that since animals engage in homosexual behavior, it fairly obviously isn’t. Pavlat’s preferred goal-post move is to claim that “animals engage in many behaviors we wouldn’t want to copy; we have the capacity to operate on more than animal instinct” – which is, one may point out, an assertion that people should not follow “natural law”.
I don’t actually believe that sexual orientation is genetically determined (it could be, but it remains unproven) but Pavlat argues that to anyone who points out that being gay is genetic, the anti-marriage advocate can always then compare being gay to being an alcoholic. (Understandably, Pavlat begins this article speculating artlessly why when he argues against gay marriage to complete strangers, they won’t just take his word for it that he’s not homophobic. Indeed, how odd…)
Pavlat then wants to argue that the Catholic Church doesn’t actually say that being lesbian or gay or bisexual is a sin, just that if you’re lesbian or gay and you’re not celibate, you’re sinning. He compares denying lesbians and gays sexual love and legal marriage, to arguing that heterosexual people are sinning if they have sex outside marriage. He doesn’t appear to realize that Catholic views on sin do not, and should not, govern the basic civil right to marriage. (The Catholic Church has obviously an absolute legal right to deny religious marriage in church to whatever couples it pleases to refuse, on any religious grounds whatsoever.) This is really not a secular problem: Pavlat wants to promote the idea that God hates gays and wants all LGBT people to lead miserable, frustrated lives, and that’s entirely Pavlat’s business. The notion that he can do so in this way without clearly promoting the Catholic Church as a font of homophobic religion, seems to be muddled thinking on his part.
His final words compare human and civil rights for lesbian and gay people to poison, and he asserts “Only a false compassion permits another person to drink the poison he wishes”.
In his opening paragraphs Pavlat says “To most supporters, opposing gay marriage is a hallmark of the homophobia and bigotry that they, in their caricatured view of the Right, believe all conservatives hold. They’ll need help seeing that one can oppose gay marriage and not hate gay people.”
That “help” has not been forthcoming from Pavlat. Let me suggest he quit writing these homophobic essays and learn to knit. Giant woolly rainbow scarves are love.