I’ve lost track

I’ve lost track of how many states have gained more freedom over the past year. Idaho is one of the latest:

A federal judge who struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional denied a bid by the conservative state’s governor on Wednesday for a stay of the decision while Idaho pursues an appeal of the case.

The governor, Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter, called the ruling “regrettable” and vowed to petition a higher court to keep the state’s gay marriage prohibition intact until the case has run its course through the judicial system.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex matrimony on Tuesday, saying it relegated gay and lesbian couples to second-class status in violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

Her decision was the latest in a recent flurry of opinions by federal judges striking down restrictions on same-sex marriage in states across the country – from Utah to Virginia.

It’s only a matter of time.

Should polygamy be legal?

A judge in Utah recently ruled Utah’s anti-polygamy laws unconstitutional:

Advocacy groups for polygamy and individual liberties on Saturday hailed a federal judge’s ruling that key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional, saying it will remove the threat of arrest for those families.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said in the decision handed down Friday that a provision in Utah law forbidding cohabitation with another person violated the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

The ruling was a victory for Kody Brown and his four wives who star in the hit TLC reality show ‘‘Sister Wives’’ and other fundamentalist Mormons who believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

This ruling doesn’t legalize polygamy, but if upheld it would decriminalize it. I have no doubt that is the correct ruling, whether due to religious freedom or individual liberty. In either case, I see no reason why any government can tell people with whom they can and cannot live. (Utah didn’t even stop at that rights violation: the state went so far as to say people couldn’t claim to be married to multiple people.) However, the question of legalization is a different one.

It’s hard to see a reason why one should care about the lifestyle choice of consenting adults. I don’t. It doesn’t affect anyone else in any way whatsoever. However, that doesn’t mean the government should necessarily go about endorsing contractual agreements that bestow various rights, privileges, and tax conditions.

The fundamental question concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage is one of equality: the government can’t invent/endorse a practice that it limits on the basis of an inherent human condition like race or sexual orientation – at least not since the 14th Amendment. That’s exactly what it has been doing (and in many states is still doing) by barring same-sex couples from marrying. With polygamy, however, that is not what’s happening. The basis for barring polygamous marriages is rooted, right or wrong, entirely in a moral stance which passes judgement on the preferences, not orientation, of individuals. Polygamous marriages and same-sex marriages are apples and oranges.

None of this – to this point – is to say one way or another whether or not I’m in favor of legalizing polygamous marriages. Up until now I’ve only discussed what it is. So with that said, let me state: I don’t think it should be legal. I have two primary reasons for my position.

First, I believe one of the most important rights bestowed upon couples who get married is one of spousal privilege where a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against another spouse in a court. Aside from the fact that any right which prevents the government from gaining any evidence against a person for any reason is a fundamentally good thing for freedom, spousal privilege is necessary to fostering healthy relationships. Allowing the government to force a spouse to turn on another spouse can only serve to prevent married couples from free discussion, thus weakening their marriages. This right is to marriages as the ecclesiastical privilege is to religious freedom. Just as forcing clergy to divulge information told to them by penitents would weaken a person’s ability to freely practice his religion, forcing a spouse to divulge information gained via marriage would weaken a couple’s marital bonds. Now, the reason I bring this up is that there is absolutely no circumstance in which I believe this right should be destroyed, yet that is exactly what would be necessary if polygamy was legalized. If any number of individuals could marry, there is nothing stopping a criminal enterprise from conducting a mass marriage, thus gaining spousal privilege for any number of thugs. This would be great for their freedom, but it would be very bad for everyone else’s safety. (In a weeks-old discussion from Facebook someone made the point that if just one person wanted a divorce, it would become necessary for all the other spouses to divulge all financial information, which no crime organization would want. I was asked if I really thought such people would expose themselves that way. The answer, of course, is yes. First, it’s a risk, to say the least, to divorce one’s self from a crime organization, whether in a symbolic sense or in this fictional legal world. Second, crime organizations aren’t exactly known for their well reconciled check books.)

Second, it’s hard to fathom how the tax code would cope with this change in law. A fundamental overhaul would be necessary, which could be done I suppose, but no doubt people would take advantage of it for the sake of saving a few bucks, no matter how careful the changes were. I know I would. This isn’t an insurmountable objection to polygamy (hence why it’s my second, not my first, point), but it’s definitely a huge issue.

At any rate, criminalizing polygamy is just making up a crime. And being against polygamy on moral grounds is some pretty weak sauce. However, simply due to a single, fundamental right bestowed upon married couples, I can’t possibly support legalized polygamous marriages. I imagine there are actually a host of rights to be considered here, but I see no need to go beyond just the one given its importance. We can’t get rid of it – that weakens marriage and individual freedom – and we can’t grant it to everyone – the exploitation would be insane – and we can’t grant it to one group of married couples while denying it to another – that’s no different from what we’re seeing now with the non-legalization of same-sex marriage. The only solution is to keep legal marriage defined to two individuals.

Congratulations, Minnesota and Rhode Island

Equality is happening in two more states right now and no one is worse off for it. No one:

Dozens of Minnesota gay couples made last-minute preparations Wednesday for midnight marriages, determined to exchange vows at the earliest possible moment under a new state law legalizing same-sex marriage…

“It feels historic. It’s an honor to be a part of it,” said Tim Roberts, the Stearns County court administrator, who planned to perform a 12:01 a.m. wedding at the courthouse in St. Cloud.

Rhode Island was joining Minnesota on Thursday in becoming the 12th and 13th U.S. states to allow gay marriage, along with the District of Columbia. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that about 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal. The first gay weddings in Rhode Island were planned for later Thursday morning.

Don’t worry, bigots. You’ll be okay. Your parents and grandparents were fine when interracial marriage became legal. You can make it through this.

Equality in Minnesota

I find this one particularly satisfying given the interactions I’ve had with some bigots from Minnesota:

Minnesota is poised to become the second Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage after the state House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would allow the practice.

The House had been considered the measure’s toughest hurdle. The bill passed 75 to 59 and heads to the state’s Democratic-majority Senate, which is expected to consider it Monday.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has said he will sign the measure.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest objection to equality came from the religious quarter. Denouncing that they were bigots, many appealed to the fact that their misgiving were premised not in hatred, but rather deep belief. As if the sincerity of the bigotry changes that it is, in stark fact, bigotry.

And down go the dominoes

As more and more Americans begin to realize that sexual orientation and morality have zero connection, more and more states keep making marriage equal:

In the past week, Rhode Island and Delaware became the 10th and 11th states to approve gay marriage. But so far, only legislatures in coastal or New England states have voted affirmatively for gay marriage. Except for Iowa, which allows gay marriage due to a 2009 judicial ruling, same-sex couples can’t get married in flyover country.

Minnesota might go first, but Illinois could be close behind. The state Senate there voted in February to allow same-sex marriage, and supporters think they’re close to securing the votes needed to get it through the House and on to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who says he’ll sign it.

Officially, Maine was the first state to make marriage equal by way of the ballot box, but it soon became officially legal in Maryland and Washington the same night. Not long after, Rhode Island caught up with the rest of New England through the legislative process, and, to the surprise of many, did it with very strong Republican support. Now the states that value liberty the most eagerly await the next moves in the mid-west and west.

People become Republicans because of religion

At least for the vast majority, that is. See here:

With no debate, Republicans at the party’s spring meeting here on Friday unanimously approved a number of resolutions, including one that reaffirmed the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

“The Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America,” the resolution read. The 157 RNC members present approved it in a voice vote.

I’ve made the claim in the past that the reason people turn to the GOP is out of their conservative Christianity. To me, this is a very tiny, very obvious claim. Basically dishonest people who aren’t interested in critical thinking (or doing any research, but I digress), such as the odious Michael Hartwell, have tried to spin my statement in a way where in order to prove it I would have to explicitly know the minds of every single Republican. Under his requirements, we could never surmise why anyone becomes anything if the group we’re discussing is sufficiently large. (This is interesting, too, since he has gone the racist route of claiming that blacks vote for Democrats because they benefit from and like handouts.)

At any rate, I think this is all quite obvious: Most people who become Republican are first fundamentally religious, soon recognizing that there is a political party which reflects their religiosity. The re-affirmation of the GOP’s opposite to marriage equality is a perfect example of this because there are no good (or even honest) secular arguments against allowing same-sex couples their constitutionally guaranteed right to marriage. That is, it is the base Christianity that underlies the Republican party that has caused this vote and view; we don’t live in some backwards world where people became bigoted Republicans all on their own, later noticing that a particular cultural religion happens to exactly reflect their positions.

Don’t be shy

People shy from frank and aggressive language in a lot of instances, but I think that’s sometimes inappropriate. For example, there’s this desire to engage in some sort of ‘respectful’ conversation with those who support ‘traditional’ marriage*, as if they deserve equal time and opportunity – despite overtly advocating to deny basic equalities and opportunities to gay people. I disagree with that desire. These people are blatant bigots and should be called as much.

Affording undue respect to scummy people like this is exactly the same as affording undue respect to a member of the KKK or some other racist organization. You lend validity to a view when you say it deserves a fair shake and a good listen. Don’t do that shit.

*I, of course, mean marriage as defined between one man and one woman in relatively recent times by, mostly, Western culture. I am not referring to marriage where dowries and goats are involved, as happened early on before our invention of particular gods.

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