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Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: an okie gardener
I think it maybe was me who stared the extensive discussion we have had on same-sex marriage. A discussion so extensive that Farmer has had to add a new category for it. In this first post I praised a Study Guide on the issue written by the Theology Commission of the Reformed Church in America and submitted to the General Synod (national meeting) this month for approval to be sent to the churches.

We voted to refer the Study Guide back to the Commission (mostly pastors) for the purpose of incorporating more specifically Reformed theology in their reasoning. The revised document is to come before the Synod of 07. I think it is a great document as is; and will only become better through mining the richness of our own tradition.

The full-text of the Study Guide is still available on the RCA website here though you will need to scroll a few pages to find it.
Last week I criticized Charles Krauthammer in the comments section of my post, Same-Sex Marriage: What I Believe, which is not a comfortable or familiar position for me. I disputed his claim that state courts were on the verge of nationalizing "gay marriage--like quickie Nevada divorces--will have to be recognized "under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution" throughout the rest of the U.S." (in full here).

I missed his subsequent column (June 9), A Ban We Don't (Yet) Need, which clarified his position:

"[I]t turns out that the Massachusetts experiment has not been forced on other states. No courts have required other states to recognize gay marriages performed in Massachusetts. Gay activists have not pushed it, wisely calculating that it would lead to a huge backlash. Moreover, Congress's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) explicitly prevents the state-to-state export of gay marriage."

He went on to say that DOMA would need to be overturned by a federal court for state-sanctioned same-sex marriage to pose a national threat, which he (like me) sees as unlikely considering the composition of the Supreme Court at this point.

Krauthammer also pointed out the irony of removing the question from local sovereignty in order to promote popular sovereignty:

"The amendment actually ends up defeating the principle it sets out to uphold. The solution to judicial overreaching is to change the judiciary, not to undo every act of judicial arrogance with a policy-specific constitutional amendment. Where does it end? Yesterday it was school busing and abortion. Today it is flag burning and gay marriage."

Finally, I mention an obvious but important point (which Krauthammer made early on in the above essay) speaking to the question of same-sex marriage as a "divisive issue":

"As for dividing Americans, who came up with the idea of radically altering the most ancient of all social institutions in the first place? Until the past few years, every civilization known to man has defined marriage as between people of opposite sex. To charge with "divisiveness" those who would do nothing more than resist a radical overturning of that norm is a sign of either gross partisanship or serious dimwittedness."

Well done, Charles Krauthammer
A round-up of highlights on the Federal Marriage Amendment, FMA (for those of you who may have missed some of these in the comments section).

1. The Text of the President's proposed Amendment:

"SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

2. Many conservatives have noted that the media's coverage of this story is from the poltical angle (that is, "here are the political reasons why the President is advancing this proposal") rather than a discussion of the issue in question.

Rod Dreher commenting on his blog yesterday, agreed with the President in principle (in this post ), but took GOP strategists to task for cynically "appealing to anti-gay prejudice [and] stoking an emotional issue transparently for political gain." Today, Dreher expertly points out how cynical the Democrats are in their rhetoric (in this post).

Dennis Prager had a great piece on Real Clear Politics today, in which he offered an extremely cogent analysis of the question, the division and the issue:

In part:
"Some of those who want a constitutional amendment to define marriage as man-woman are indeed bigoted against gays, regarding them as something less than fully human. But most people who want to maintain marriage as male-female consider homosexuals to be just as much created in the image of God as anyone else. But though it is painful for us to see a perfectly decent homosexual unable to marry a person of the same sex, we are nevertheless more preoccupied with:

"(1) Giving every child the opportunity to at least begin life with a mother and father; (2) Honoring the will of the great majority of Americans, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, to preserve the man-woman marital ideal, and not allow a judge to single-handedly destroy that ideal; (3) Preserving the ability of teachers and clergy to tell the story of marriage to young children in terms of a man and woman and not confuse the vast majority of kids who are forming their vision of marriage and sexuality.

"These preoccupations are neither bigoted nor radical. They are, in our view, civilization-saving.

"As for the liberals' view that gas prices are more important than society's definition of marriage, it is so self-incriminating that no response is needed."

The full Prager article.

3. Is this conservative? The RCP Blog roundup featured this from Charles Krauthammer, who appeared on FOX News with Britt Hume last night:

"But I think the answer is not a constitutional amendment, which would be in the name of the popular sovereignty, but ironically, it takes it away, because if you ever had a state in which a majority wanted to institute gay marriage, it would not be allowed to under this constitution. So it's a little bit contradictory, to act in the name of popular sovereignty and to pass a law which would extinguish.

"The way you do it is change the ethos of the judiciary so that if you get the Defense of Marriage Act, which he spoke about earlier, at the Supreme Court, it's upheld and that it keeps it in one state and doesn't spread it all over the country. And having a president who nominates a guy like Sam Alito is a way in which we change that culture rather than changing the constitution."

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In response to "Tocqueville's" challenge to articulate a systematic point of view in regard to same-sex marriage, I have composed the following (which also appears in the comment section of the previous post):

1. The facts on the ground have changed. Same-sex "rights" are here to stay. I am still waiting to hear who agrees with Sommerville's premise that same-sex persons are entitled to all rights short of marriage, including civil unions. Are you ready for that?

No matter, we are going to have that much, at least. Perhaps that is a way station toward the redefinition of marriage. Only time will tell. But we are going to give away legal recognition as part of the negotiation to "protect marriage." That is what is ahead of us.

2. What does it mean? As a fairly traditional Baptist, I agree with my previously quoted friend: "homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not part of God's plan for our lives" (although I am troubled with what to do with persons whom I believe to be genuinely "wired" toward that form of self expression).

I intend to attend churches that uphold my traditional view of marriage. I intend to raise my children in accord with my beliefs.

However, I do not think legal recognition, or even same-sex marriages alone, will fundamentally alter what marriage is. Marriage will continue to be what mainstream, heterosexual and religious marriage partners make of it.

Marriage is in trouble--but not because of a homosexual assault. Marriage is in trouble because we have ceased to value marriage.

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I think the Same-Sex Marriage threads have been instructive.

Just a few quibbles:

An Okie Gardener characterized my position as in favor of societal recognition of same-sex marriage. While I admit that is a reasonable inference, I would argue that it is, nevertheless, imprecise. I have, in fact, asked a series of questions exploring the logic of denying recognition of same-sex marriage.

Tocqueville wrote: "I keep hearing conservatives criticized for "trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system." I am not sure who Tocqueville was quoting, but it followed closely (in time and proximity) my quote: "...religion should inform all your political view points, but at what point in the public debate is it necessary to differentiate between what is right for you and your church and what is fair to impose on the community as a whole?" The phrasing of which I regretted almost immediately because I used "impose," which is a word that is often used to evoke emotionally soaked accusations of "intolerance." I apologize for my poor judgment in re that particular word choice.

On the other hand, I want to make clear that my sentence can in no reasonable way be interpretted as "criticizing conservatives for trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system."

Back to the idea of questions:

Breaking News: Conservatives are losing this debate. Last night my wife and I sat down for dinner with a very nice, well-educated, God-fearing, socially conservative couple, who are pillars of a big Baptist church in the heart of the reddest of all Red States. When the subject of educating children about homosexuality emerged in our dinner conversation, this mother of four, who spends one week out of the year doing missionary work in Guatemala, offered that homosexuality is not part of God's plan for our lives (like divorce or infidelity). Beautiful. But there was also recognition that tolerance of homosexuality is now part of our cultural landscape.

This is where we are in America today. American Christians can sit in a restaurant and affirm that homosexuality is a less-favored choice (at this point without fear of public recrimination: I cannot remember if our friend lowered her voice; I think I looked around to see who was within ear-shot).

My point: homosexual "rights" are now a part of our cultural fabric.

Exhibit B: Ms. Sommerville's article assumes equality under the law for persons of homo- or hetero-sexual orientation, and she advocates civil partnerships for same-sex couples, legally recognized and entitled to the same benefits and protection of the law.

By the way: Are all of you willing to go that far?

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Here at Bosqueboys we have had extended discussion of the issue of society recognition of same-sex marriage. On this issue, A Waco Farmer and I disagree. He taking the affirmative, and I the negative position. To continue discussion, I submit the following essay.

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University's Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. She is the author of: The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit and Death Talk: The Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
A few years ago she made a well-reasoned argument against recognizing same-sex marriage based on secular reasoning. Although the immediate context was Canadian law, the argument applies to the US as well, I think. Here is her first paragraph.

Establishing context
I want, first, to outline briefly the context in which my comments on same-sex marriage are grounded, because in this debate context is definitely not neutral and is not the same for everyone. As this committee has heard, many people who oppose extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples do so on religious grounds or because of moral objections to homosexuality. They are not the bases of my arguments. Rather, my arguments against same-sex marriage are secularly based and, to the extent that they involve morals and values, these are grounded in ethics not religion. To summarize:

I oppose discrimination on basis of sexual orientation, whether against homosexuals or heterosexuals.

I believe that civil partnerships open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples should be legally recognized and that the partners, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, are entitled to the same benefits and protection of the law.

But I do not believe that we should change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. My reasons go to the nature of marriage as the societal institution that represents, symbolizes and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship. I believe that society needs such an institution.

To read the entire presentation.